Time management for the small business owner

Your time is a resource, just like your bank balance. You budget your cash and, in all likelihood, put a lot of effort into making sure it is being spent effectively. You should place the same emphasis on ensuring that your time is well managed.

Following these simple tips should help you to stop working against the clock, and start making your time work for you.

Prioritise

Running a business can be like trying to hold on to a hundred balloons. You try to grab too many of the strings, and eventually lose hold of them all. One of the most important aspects of time management is prioritising your tasks to ensure that you hold onto the right strings.

You might begin by listing the tasks that require your attention, and sorting them in a number of ways. Listing them in order of importance is an obvious first step, but you should also consider sorting them according to deadline, location, and so on. You may find that what appear to be less important tasks are actually more time sensitive than the items you would instinctively place at the top of your agenda. This process should also give you a better idea of how much time each task will require, allowing you to put together a ‘budget’ showing how much time you will ultimately have available.

Set a schedule - and stick to it

Having prioritised your tasks, you should set a schedule accordingly. This need not be complex; it might be as basic as a plan for your day, outlining emails that need to be sent or administrative tasks that must be completed. If relevant, you should make sure you factor in time for travel.

The frequency with which you prioritise and schedule will depend on the nature of your business and how disciplined you are. Many people write a simple task list and schedule at the beginning of each day; it need not take longer than a few minutes, and will give you a clear idea of what you need to be doing. Alternatively, you may be able to effectively schedule on a weekly or monthly basis.

Regardless of frequency, once you have made your schedule it is vital that you stick to it. Adding this sort of structure will result in a more productive day, and failing to stick to your agenda is likely to be more wasteful than not making it in the first place.

Prevent interruptions

Even a thirty second distraction can be irritatingly adept at destroying your productivity. If you run a business from home as many small business owners do, you will be familiar with the problems of endless interruptions. Whether it is the phone, the kids or the front door, it can seem impossible to concentrate entirely on your work.

Of course, these problems are still encountered even in an office. You must do all you can to minimise potential distractions and interruptions. If you have an office, this might involve shutting the door and making clear that you are not to be disturbed. If at all possible, keep your mobile phone switched off and just check your messages periodically.

If you work from home, you may have trouble explaining to others that you are still running a business, and must be allowed to operate accordingly. It is all too common to be landed with a shopping list when you should really be doing your accounts. You should make sure that everyone concerned understands that your deadlines and responsibilities are just as serious as they would be if you were working in an office.

Quantify and delegate

As has been mentioned, time is a resource and should be treated as such. You should place a value on this resource. If you were performing a task that directly generates revenue, how much would you expect to make per hour? This figure will of course differ depending on the nature of your business.

Valuing your time is important because it allows you to determine whether you would be better off paying someone else to revamp your website or administer your payroll. If, according to the value you have attributed to your time, you are losing more doing these non-revenue generating jobs yourself than you would spend on outsourcing, you should pay someone else to do them. This will allow you to get back to what you are good at. However, you should remember that outsourcing is only beneficial if you spend the time that you have saved wisely - on activities that generate revenue.

Effective time management can sometimes seem like another of the administrative tasks that are dragging you away from your core business. However, learning some simple tricks to get the most from your work day will ultimately make you more productive and more successful - and might even let you take a bit of time off.

Now, wouldn’t that be nice?