When you’re a small business owner, you always have a million and one things on your mind. You’re trying to ensure that everything’s in order, that your customers are happy, and that you have one eye on the future.
All these things take time, and before you know it, the day is over, and you’ve barely got through any of the things you wanted to achieve! But fear not, because you probably have more time than you realise.
How do you manage your time effectively as a small business owner? How do you stop time sinks? Below, we take a look at how you can get time back on your side and maximise the time you have.
Where’s the time going?
Before you begin the process of claiming your time back, you need to find out exactly where it’s going in the first place.
Most people - not just business owners - have a faulty understanding of how they actually spend their days.
You might have thought you put in a twelve-hour shift, but when it comes to closer inspection, you realise that actually a big part of your day was stuck in traffic, waiting for meetings to begin, getting a coffee, and so on.
You won’t be able to do away with all these time wasters (everyone needs their coffee!), but you might find places where you can hurry things along.
Make an old school plan
Having a schedule that you actually stick to is a vastly underrated way to control your time. They were all the rage back in the day, but people don’t seem to give them the same levels of attention anymore - or if they do use them, it’s a digital calendar or an online content calendar.
While there’s nothing wrong with having your to-do list on your phone or laptop, it will make it more likely that you get distracted by other online things.
There’s not much to distract you when you just have a piece of paper and a pen in your hand.
The key is not to be too ambitious, and to prioritise all the things you want to achieve on any given day.
Learn to delegate
It’s your business, so it's understandable that you’re going to take a pretty hands-on approach. But do you think there’s a chance you might be too hands on? As in, trying to do everything?
If you have staff, then there’ll be a reason that you hired them - to help you! So let them help you. If you don’t trust them to take your business forward, then it’s likely that there’s something wrong with your hiring policy.
In any case, by leaving your staff to get on with their work, you’ll be able to focus on the skills that the company’s success needs you to bring to the table. If you don't have staff then consider outsourcing tasks or hiring virtual help like a virtual assistant.
Bring in outside help
There are going to be things that you can’t entrust your staff with, such as when the task involves handling sensitive information or are too complex for a general worker to do to the standard required. For those types of tasks, look at outsourcing the work to an outside company.
You can bring on board a business that specialises in bookkeeping and accountancy services to handle your accounts, tax, pension schemes and other important business administration duties.
You can also hire an SEO expert, which will mean you won’t have to learn all the confusing - and ever-changing - dimensions to becoming highly ranked on the search engines.
Do these things, and you’ll be able to focus on the other crucial aspects of your business, full in the knowledge that the important details have been taken care of.
Consider using a business mentor
Running a small business can be a tough gig, and let's face it - sometimes you just feel stuck. That's where a business mentor can be a lifesaver.
By working with a mentor, you can benefit from their experience and perspective, and get the advice and insights you need to make better decisions and save time.
A business mentor can help you:
- Figure out what's most important and focus on that
- Develop a clear plan to grow your business
- Identify potential obstacles and find ways to overcome them
- Learn from their experiences (and mistakes!)
- Gain confidence in your abilities as a leader and business owner
Working with a mentor can help you avoid common pitfalls and speed up your progress towards your goals. You'll save time by getting the support you need from someone who's been there and done that.
If you're feeling stuck or overwhelmed, consider reaching out to a business mentor like Ross Boardman. With his guidance and support, you can conquer your time issues and take your business to the next level.
Studies have shown that society is having a harder time focusing on tasks than in the past.
Think about it for a second, and it makes perfect sense!
We’re constantly distracted by the buzzing of our phones, the flashing of advertisements, and the like: how could we be anything other than distracted?
Once you’ve recognised that you’re struggling to stay focused, you can begin the journey to blocking out the distractions and becoming more productive with your time. It’s not all that difficult once you’ve trained your brain to be skeptical of those time wasters!
In an ideal world, everything that you do for your business would be perfect and unimprovable. But this is the real world, remember, and that means that you can’t have everything exactly as you want it.
There are going to be times when “good enough” is going to have to be, well, good enough.
If you’re endlessly striving for perfection, then you’re going to be wasting time that you don’t have just to make what is, in the grand scheme of things, not all that important.
Consider an assistant
We’ve already established that you’re a pretty busy person.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you had someone running your life behind the scenes, always ensuring that your schedule is in order and that you’re always where you need to be?
It’s not a pipe dream - hire an assistant (either virtual or in real life), and you’ll have exactly that.
They’re more affordable than you might think, and if they enable you to work harder and boost your company’s profits, then they’ll turn out to be excellent value for money.
Know your productive hours
Humans have got into the habit of working the traditional 9-5 shift, but we’re slowly moving away from that, for one simple reason: it might not be all that effective.
If you’re someone that doesn’t really get into the groove of the day until after lunch, then there’ll be little point trying to get all your important duties taken care of the second you get into the office.
Learn when you are at your brilliant best, and make sure you’re completing all the most important tasks during those hours, leaving your sluggish hours for the boring, mindless tasks.
Remember that one of the best ways to get more time in your professional life is by saying no!
You’re going to have thousands of requests throughout a year. Learn how to politely turn them down, and you’ll find that you have much more time in your life.
Use technology to your advantage
Technology can be a major time-saver for small business owners. There are countless tools and apps available that can help you automate and streamline various aspects of your business.
For example, you could use project management software to keep track of tasks and deadlines, or social media scheduling tools to save time on marketing. It's worth exploring what's out there to see what could work for you.
It might sound counterintuitive, but taking breaks can actually help you be more productive in the long run. If you're constantly working without giving yourself time to rest and recharge, you're more likely to burn out or make mistakes.
Make sure you take regular breaks throughout the day, and try to get away from your desk and do something completely different for a few minutes.
Being disorganised can waste a lot of time. If you're constantly searching for files, struggling to find important information, or forgetting appointments, it's time to get organised.
Set up systems and processes that help you stay on top of things, whether that's using a filing system for paperwork or setting up a digital calendar to keep track of appointments.
Learn to say "yes" strategically
While saying "no" is important, there will also be times when saying "yes" can benefit your business. The key is to be strategic about it - don't say yes to every request that comes your way.
Consider whether the opportunity aligns with your goals and whether you have the time and resources to take it on.
Saying "yes" strategically can help you grow your business and build valuable relationships.
Running a small business can be stressful, and it's important to prioritise self-care to avoid burnout.
Make time for activities that help you relax and recharge, whether that's exercise, spending time with loved ones, or pursuing a hobby. Taking care of yourself will help you be more productive and focused in your business.
In conclusion, time management is a crucial skill for any small business owner. By implementing some of the strategies outlined in this article and developing a strong sense of discipline, you can reclaim your time and take control of your business.
Remember to prioritise self-care and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. With hard work and dedication, you can overcome any time issues and achieve the success you deserve.
Best of luck on your journey!
- Find out where your time is going
- Make a plan and stick to it
- Delegate tasks to others (or outsource)
- Bring in outside help when necessary
- Stay focused by avoiding distractions
- Aim for "good enough" instead of perfection
- Consider hiring an assistant
- Know your most productive hours and prioritise important tasks during those times
- Say "no" strategically
- Use technology to save time
- Take regular breaks to avoid burnout
- Get organised to save time and reduce stress
- Prioritise self-care to stay healthy and focused.