As we officially enter into the year 2019, it is the perfect time for small business owners—and all people for that matter—to think about ways to improve their lives. But while many people find it easy to list all of the things that they want to do this year, they have a much more difficult time figuring out how they are actually going to do them. This is one of the many reasons why, statistically, 80% of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by February.
One of the best ways you can take your dreams and turn them into realities is by finding ways to utilize your time more effectively. By working smarter—in addition to working harder—you will be able to get more things done in a day and move closer to achieving both your professional and personal goals.
In this article, we will briefly discuss some of the many ways that small business owners can better manage their time. Though the strategies that are best for you will obviously depend on your personal preferences and the state of your business, these time-tested strategies are often among the most effective.
Active Calendar Management
One of the reasons why small business owners often find themselves feeling overwhelmed is that their to-do list seems bottomless with no end in sight. Though this may be true to an extent, it is important to recognize that there really are only so many things you can do in a day.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may also want to allow for plenty of “flex time.” By making an effort at the beginning of the week (or Sunday night, if you prefer) to distribute a reasonable amount of tasks each day, you will find yourself much less overwhelmed while simultaneously being able to feel good at the end of each day.
Recognize which Tasks are Actually the Most Important
Because your time is limited, you will inevitably need to determine the relative urgency and importance of each task at hand. This will make it much easier to decide which tasks need to be done this week and which pending tasks can be pushed to a later date.
There are many different ways to organize importance including profitability, LIFO (last in, first out), the longevity or size of each client (or whoever the task assigner might be), and various others. Regardless of what method is most important to you, separating the urgent tasks from the non-urgent tasks will help you have much more productive weeks.
If you are like many small business owners, you probably frequently find yourself needing to memorize large amounts of information in a short amount of time. This may include anything ranging from presentation notes to industry protocols to everything in between.
“Chunking” is a term that is used by business people, college students, and anyone else who is pressed to memorize something. This technique essentially involves breaking down large amounts of information into smaller chunks. This will not only help you memorize relevant information, but it will also make your to-do lists significantly more manageable. For example, you could “chunk” a list of ten phone calls or e-mails into a single to-do item that you refer to as “contacts”.
Developing Healthy Work-Break Cycles
Assuming that you are not a robot (or even if you are a robot with limited bandwidth), it is unlikely that you will be able to truly work from 9 to 5 without interruptions. If you are being honest with yourself, your days likely truly consist of periods of high productivity and periods of time that can be used more efficiently.
Many small business owners have found that “cycling” between working and taking a break can yield the greatest amounts of output per hour. For example, the Pomodoro method involves 25 minutes of intense focus followed by a brief 5 minute break (repeated as needed). The 52-17 method, as the name implies, involves 52 minutes of working followed by a 17 minute break. It may be worth your time to experiment with multiple different types of cycles and see which ones actually work for you.
Delegating & Outsourcing when Possible
If you only have 480 minutes (8 hours) you hope to dedicate to working in a given day, then you should do everything you can to make that time as productive as possible. Because there are some tasks that, as the owner of your small business, you are likely able to specialize in, these are the tasks that you should consider to be the most important.
Some tasks, such as marketing, website management, accounts payables, and various others are necessary, yet, are still ineffective uses of your time. For example, suppose that when you are engaged in your area of specialization, you can earn your business $80 per hour. If it costs $40 per hour to delegate or outsource a task to someone else, you are effectively choosing to lose money by doing these duties yourself (excluding various bottlenecks). Though you may be reluctant to give up control over some elements of your business, this will inevitably need to occur if you hope for your business to actually grow.
Even if you already find yourself overwhelmed with your tasks for the new year, your long-term objectives are still well within your reach. Implementing even just one—or multiple—of these productivity strategies can help you have your most productive year yet.