5 Simple Time Management Tools for Small Business Owners
Running a small business can be quite a whirlwind! As business owners, we’re always on the go, working hard to achieve our goals, troubleshooting when things don’t go as planned, and juggling everything to keep our business sailing smoothly. That’s why it’s really important to acquire some simple time management tools.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to manage your time better?
I once heard a story of a guy who had been on the job hunt rollercoaster for what felt like eons.
Every application seemed to vanish into the job-seeking abyss, or he’d get that classic rejection email starting with the soul-crushing “Unfortunately…”
Frustrated, he was on the verge of throwing in the towel. He’d tried it all, even the good old ‘tarmacking’ by strolling from office to office.
Then, out of the blue, he got THE notification – an interview the next day! And not just any interview—it was with one of his dream companies. Game-changer…
Excitement levels through the roof, he jumped up, dusted off his best suit, and gave it an ironing session fit for royalty. He even prepped his favourite cologne for the occasion.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. As he was getting ready for bed, he hit a snag. You see, the guy had a soft spot for sleep. Getting out of bed was an Olympic-level challenge on any regular day. He wasn’t sure he would be able to wake up in good time for his interview.
After the royal ironing session, he slipped into his suit and hit the hay fully dressed. Genius move, right? That way, when the morning sun decided to play peek-a-boo, he wouldn’t have to fuss about showers or picking an outfit.
Ready-made success, all set to roll!
Simple Time Management Hacks
Unfortunately, the clever lad didn’t get the job. While he had gone the extra mile to make it to his interview in time, he still procrastinated and woke up late. He got to the interview in a rush. He ended up panicking, and couldn’t confidently articulate what he was trying to put across.
Proper time management can be a bridge between failure and success. It gives you clarity of mind and concentration to do the things that you need to do.
Every small business owner must master the art of time management to achieve their goals.
Here are 5 simple time management hacks:
- Audit Your Time
- Prioritise your Task List
- Eliminate Distractions
- Time Blocking/ Pomodoro Technique
- Automate, Automate, Automate!
Audit Your Time
Proper time management starts with awareness. Just like you would do with your money, you have to start by analysing where your time goes.
From the moment you start working to the time you finish, what do you spend time doing?
This exercise can help you to easily pick out places where you can spend less and more time, and therefore become more efficient with activities that actually align with what you do.
Here are two things you can do to audit your time:
Track Your Activities
Tracking your activities is largely dependent on the nature of your job, and how you keep up with tasks.
If you use an online default calendar like Google Calendar, you can easily check exactly how you spend your time.
If your job is all about sitting behind a computer, your internet history is probably a good place to start tracking your activities.
Use a journal, a time-tracking app, or even a simple spreadsheet to record what you do throughout the day. Be detailed and honest about how much time you spend on work, leisure, social media, and other activities.
Categorise and Analyse
Once you have a detailed report of how you spend your time, you can categorise the different things into brackets – work, social life, personal life etc.
Analyse and look for areas where you are spending too much time, or areas that would require more time in line with your priorities and goals.
2. Prioritise Your Task List
There are times when prioritising seems like a futile task because everything seems like a priority.
In business, this is a really common phenomenon.
To make things easier, the Eisenhower Matrix shows four different quadrants of urgent and important tasks.
The basis of the Eisenhower Matrix is on avoiding the urgency trap. It is a simple tool for considering the long-term outcomes of your daily tasks and focusing on what will make you most effective, not just most productive.
Here is a simple breakdown of each quadrant:
- Quadrant I – Urgent and Important
Urgent and important things are those that have set timelines, and implications or consequences of not doing them immediately. These tasks take first priority and need to be dealt with immediately.
Quadrant II – Important but Not Urgent
Tasks are important but not urgent when they need to be done, but there is no clear consequence for not doing them within a specified deadline.
These tasks take second priority because we tend to procrastinate them, yet if achieved they bring us closer to our goals. You can schedule them to be done at another time.
Quadrant III – Urgent but Not Important
Tasks in this quadrant need to be done within a specific time, but they don’t particularly have to be done by you.
They have a deadline, but the implications of not doing them are not that huge. These tasks can be delegated to other people in the organisation.
Quadrant IV: Not urgent and not Important
These are tasks that have few implications. Foregoing these tasks would not mean much for you. They sometimes serve as distractions, pushing you further from your goal. You can delete these tasks.
3. Eliminate Distractions
The essence of poor time management is distractions. In the case of our guy who slept in a suit to save time, oversleeping is a distraction.
Social media, people, and TV are other examples of distractions that stray us away from what we need to do.
Sometimes, a distraction can also masquerade as a task on our to-do list. Such tasks don’t propel the business forward, and whether you do them or not has no real implication. With a time audit, however, you are able to see clearly the distractions and eliminate them immediately.
Here are two tips to eliminate distractions from your business:
Designate Specific Work Zones
A large number of small business owners find it easier and cheaper to work from home. And this is true, by all means.
The price to pay for it, however, is sometimes, distractions.
Even if you choose to go the Work From Home route, you need a dedicated workspace that is free from distractions.
Whether it’s a designated office, a co-working space, or a quiet corner in a coffee shop, having a defined work area helps signal to yourself and others that you are in work mode.
Learn to Say No
A huge part of proper time management is setting boundaries with the people around you. In business, people pleasing can lengthen your to-do list and the compromise will always be your own work.
Learning to say no to your clients, your employees, and other stakeholders, can help you to manage your time better. You will find yourself focussing more on what matters, and putting aside the things that serve as distractions.
4. Time Blocking
Just as the name suggests, time blocking is setting aside chunks of time to perform certain tasks. It helps you to put all your time and effort into one thing at a time. It’s also an effective way of eliminating distractions and concentrating fully on one task per given time.
There are many different ways of time blocking, and it all depends on what works best for you. Whether you’re someone who prefers to write down actual to-do lists or use an online calendar, you can find ways to time block.
Here are two tips for this:
The Pomodoro Technique
If you find it hard to concentrate on your tasks, the Pomodoro Technique is going to change your life!
It’s easy to muster and extremely effective.
The reason why it works so well is because the whole concept addresses the fact that it’s hard to concentrate for too long. Breaks are necessary.
Here’s how it works. You pick a task, an set a 25-minute timer. You work on your task until this time is up, and then you can take a 5-minute break. After 4 Pomodoros, you get a longer 15-minute break. Then the cycle starts again.
You can download the app on your phone to get started and make it easier.
Use a Calendar or Planner
Using the traditional calendars or a planner can help you with time blocking, because you can easily allocate a time frame for each task.
Colour-coding or labelling different categories can make it easy to see your schedule at a glance. Tools like Google Calendar, Outlook, or time-blocking apps can be valuable for this purpose.
Remember to also allocate time for rest, as this will help you focus as you look forward to the reward.
5. Automate, Automate, Automate!
Big thanks to technology, our lives would not be the same without you!
For example, if it weren’t for automation, we would have to manually send out our Friday newsletter to 600+ people.
Someone would have to wake up at 5 am to ensure that the newsletter lands in people’s inboxes in good time. And there would be no way of making the newsletter go into everyone’s inbox at exactly 6 am.
Automation is a time saver and a game-changer.
You can automate your emails, invoicing, file management systems, sales, and so much more!
Here are two tips for making the most out of automation:
Choose the Right Tools
Automation will only work if it fulfils the objectives that your organisation needs. This could be improving efficiency, reducing costs, or enhancing customer experiences.
Having these in mind helps you to select the right tools that can complement your existing processes to make life easier.
Integration is all about seamless interconnection between different systems and applications. Your automation system should ensure that data flows smoothly across your tech stack, preventing silos and enhancing overall efficiency.
Our Summary – Five Simple Time Management Hacks
Hopefully after reading this blog, you’ve now got a great place to start with your time management habits. Remember, the reason why time management is so important is because it gives you the clarity of mind to chase after your goals.
If your time management hack causes you more stress than clarity, then it is not efficient. Just like the guy who thought he was saving time by wearing his suit the night before, you have to monitor your systems and make sure they are working for you and not against you.
In conclusion, here are five simple time management tools:
- Audit Your Time
- Prioritise Your Task List
- Eliminate Distractions
- Time Blocking
- Automate, Automate, Automate!
Thank you for getting to the end of this blog. We at Outside ideas are more than happy to help you with this, or any other challenges you face in business. We offer networking sessions, mastermind groups, and business coaching services, all tailored to help you grow. Reach out to us today, and let’s make your business better.