Entrepreneurs are some of the most time-pressed people on the planet. If you’re running your own business, you’re likely familiar with the feeling of not having enough hours in the day. And if you’re reading this, chances are you’re looking for time management tips that you can apply to your work life.
Perhaps you are swamped with admin work and can’t find the time for strategy and growth. Or maybe business is thriving, but you are overbooked are struggling with fitting everyone in.
Whatever the case, you are not alone. Research has shown that 72% of small business owners feel overwhelmed and 60% of them would like to have more time over less work.
If that sounds like you, keep reading. In this post, we’ll dive into some tried and tested time management tips to free up more hours in your day.
What is time management?
What’s the definition of time management? Simply put, it’s the art of using your time effectively. It’s all about planning and allocating hours or days with the goal of maximizing your efforts and resources.
Time management is similar to just about any type of activity that involves budgeting. In the same way that you budget money and assign where every dollar goes, you can budget your time so that your minutes, hours, and days are spent are the best possible ways.
The importance of time management
Why is time management important? Because time is a limited resource. Once spent, you can never get it back. That’s why it is critical to ensure that you are allocating your time properly. Managing it well leads to more important stuff getting done, which results in a healthier business overall.
Time management tips for small businesses
Now that we’ve established what it means to manage time and why it is important, let’s dive into some productivity and time management tips you can apply to your business.
1. Think in terms of outcomes, not just to-dos
The first step to taking control of your time is to go from being task-driven to outcome-driven. Focus first on the outcome you want to achieve and create your to-do list from there. This is one of the top time management tips we can give you.
Let’s say you’re the owner of a brand new salon, and you’re looking to ramp up your bookings. Some of your to-dos might include:
- Clean your shop
- Provide services to your clients
- Publish marketing content
- Take photos of your clients for social media
- Ask for referrals or reviews
- Edit your marketing videos
- Train your team
- Do your bookkeeping
- Set up your Instagram booking buttons
- Set up your website
Someone using a task-driven approach would simply go through the list and do tasks as they come up. But if you’re taking an outcome-driven approach, you would think about your objectives first and then prioritize your list based on which tasks would bring you closer to your desired objectives.
So if your goal is to gain more bookings, then you would start with tasks like setting up booking buttons, publishing marketing content, and providing services to your clients to increase customer retention and referrals.
As you can see, being more outcome-oriented lets you zero-in on the tasks that matter the most. It also pushes you to decide on the jobs that you should tackle personally, versus the ones that should be delegated. This, in turn, allows you to make better use of your time, so you can spend your days on the jobs that count.
2. Use the Eisenhower Matrix
Another time management tip? Use proper tools. Getting clear on your outcomes should give you a better idea of which tasks you should be doing and which ones to accomplish first.
But if you need even more clarity into this, you can use a tool called the Eisenhower Matrix (sometimes referred to as the Urgent-Important Matrix). Developed by former United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower, this tool was designed to help you set tasks based on their importance and urgency
Here’s how it works: you put your tasks into one of these four categories:
a. Urgent and important – Jobs that fall under this category are the ones that directly affect your key outcomes and are due soon. Tasks that only you could do also fall into this category. An example could be taking care of VIP clients or heading to a speaking engagement to boost your salon’s profile.
Course of action: Do these tasks first.
b. Important but not urgent – Jobs that fall into this category have a direct impact on your key outcomes but they’re not due immediately. Examples could be creating marketing content for the future, conducting employee evaluations, etc.
Course of action: Schedule these tasks.
c. Urgent but unimportant – These are tasks that you need to do, but they don’t directly affect your outcomes or goals. They can also be done by someone else. Examples include editing your posts or videos and legal obligations like doing your taxes.
Course of action: Delegate to someone else.
d. Unimportant and not urgent – Tasks that fall into this category aren’t due any time soon, nor do they directly affect your key outcomes or long-term goals. Examples would be watching Netflix and mindless social media browsing.
Course of action: Postpone or eliminate from your to-do list.
Tasks under the first category should be placed in the upper left quadrant of the matrix, while those under category #2 would be in the upper right quadrant. Meanwhile, #3 and #4 would be in the lower left and lower right quadrants respectively.
Here’s an example of the matrix in action:
As you can see getting more things done isn’t just about time management tips. Adopting the right tools is also essential. The Eisenhower Method serves as a visual tool that lets you determine how tasks should be handled, so you can spend less time “thinking” about what to do and more time actually crossing things off your list.
3. Be data-driven with time management
Knowing what you need to do is essential, but determining when or what time to do them can be just as important.
And the best way to figure that out is to use data. Start with your personal productivity levels. Track your energy and efficiency throughout the day and take note of any patterns or trends. When do you typically have the most energy? At what point during the day do you usually get more things done?
Monitoring these things will enable you to optimize your schedule. If you’re a morning person, for instance, then you can plan to accomplish your most important and pressing tasks earlier in the day, and then schedule low-level tasks in the afternoon.
You should also look at your business scheduling data. What are your peak days and hours? When do most people book their appointments? Being aware of your shop’s slowest and business times will not only help you plan your own day, it also enables you to set your team’s shifts and schedules more effectively.
Look at your booking calendar or if you’re using an appointment scheduler, see if you can generate reports of the numbers booking per day.
From there, determine your peak hours and set your schedule accordingly. For instance, if you know that Wednesdays are the slowest, then you can plan to do more admin work that day. On the flip side, if your business is a lot busier on the weekends, then make it a point to clear your schedule for client work or ask more team members to come in.
4. Put everything in your calendar
If you’re running a service-based business, then you’re likely already scheduling client appointments in your calendar. But we’d encourage you to take things a step further and put all your other tasks in your calendar.
Doing so makes each task more real and increases the likelihood of you completing it. From a more practical perspective, having your to-dos on a schedule keeps them top of mind, allowing you to stay focused on what you need to accomplish.
And if your calendar is visible to your other team members, it also signals them to not interrupt you during certain times, thus minimizing disruptions in your day.
5. Batch tasks
One of the most effective time management tips you’ll get is to batch your tasks. Batching is all about doing similar tasks in the same block of time rather than spreading them out throughout the day or week.
For example, you could try batching all your social media tasks for the week into one day by spending a few hours every Monday creating content and scheduling posts. Or, if you need to handle lots of financial or bookkeeping tasks, you could assign a specific day — like “Finance Friday” — on which you pay all your bills and reconcile your accounts.
Why is batching so effective? Simple: it reduces the need to “switch gears” with your to-do list. It takes both physical and mental energy to move from one task to the next, and the act of recalibrating yourself when you do something new can eat up your time.
When you batch similar tasks together, you won’t have to switch gears too often, which then leads to higher levels of productivity.
6. Be purposeful with how you train and delegate
When done right, delegation can save you time and help you keep your sanity. On the other hand, if you don’t do it properly, you waste more time by having to put out fires or re-doing the work that you assigned.
So how can you make sure that your employees do their jobs right? Start by investing in staff training and development. Educate them on how to do things in your business. Document your processes and see to it that they have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs.
Investing that time and effort up front will pay dividends in the long run. Well-trained employees are more efficient and are less likely to eat up your time.
You also want to be purposeful with how you delegate. Don’t just assign tasks to random people; see to it that the jobs you give them play to their strengths so they can be more effective at them.
7. Automate cumbersome jobs
The best way to free up your time from having to take care of too many tasks is to not do them yourself. You can accomplish that through delegation as mentioned above, but another approach is to automate low-level tasks.
Jobs that require lots of manual work using pen and paper are primed for automation. A good example is appointment scheduling. Rather than manually coordinating with clients and writing down appointments, you could use an online booking solution that lets your customers schedule online. Whenever a client books a service, their appointment details are automatically synced with your calendar.
Most appointment scheduling systems can also send automatic reminders and follow-ups, so you and your team can worry less about calling customers and spend more time serving them.
8. Schedule time for yourself
Getting yourself some “me time” is probably one of the counter-intuitive time management tips in this post. When you’re running a business, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and just move from one task to the next without pausing to take care of yourself. But being too deep in work for extended periods of time can cause burnout and stress.
Prevent that by scheduling some time for yourself. Incorporate breaks and unstructured time into your daily activities, so you can free up headspace to relax and do things for yourself. Also, make it a point to get ample sleep — schedule it in if you need to.
Taking these steps will ensure that you can bring your best self to work, which in turn leads to you being more efficient and productive with your time.
Go beyond time management tips
Managing your time can take… well, time — at least in the beginning, but the effort is more than worth it. If you adopt the right approach, learn to delegate properly, and use reliable systems in your business, you’ll find that you’ll have more hours in the day to delight your clients, grow your business, or simply enjoy yourself. Hopefully, the time management tips we shared in this post points you in the right direction!