Time, having enough of it, is a challenge for many small business owners. There just never seems to be enough time to get everything done, especially when you're wearing a lot of different hats and taking on many different roles in order to run your business. Not only is it frustrating, but it can be stressful to feel like you're bouncing from task to task and never really crossing things off your list.
While we can't change the number of hours in the day, we can change the way we use them in order to manage time better and become more productive. It's not easy, and it can take a great deal of commitment and discipline, but it's possible to make time an ally of your business, not an enemy. Here are a few time management and productivity tips to help you join forces with time and become more productive.
The foundation of good time management is knowing where you're going and how to get there, and goals can help you create a plan to do it. In fact, it's hard to accomplish anything without specific and measurable SMART goals. When it comes to time management and productivity, it's the small, short-term goals that matter most.
You can start by breaking down your long-term goals into monthly goals, then break them down even further into weekly and even daily goals. Your goals for each day will help you set a target and measure when you've hit it successfully.
Pick a System and Commit
There are many time management and productivity systems, including specific software, online apps and even overall philosophies. It really doesn't matter what system or approach you use, only that it's something that you buy into, understand fully and keep up with.
If you struggle finding an approach to time management that you can commit to fully, try combining the ideas of a few different philosophies to create the perfect time management and productivity tool for you.
Find Your Productivity Zone
Some people are most productive first thing in the morning, when their minds are fresh and before everyone else is awake. Some people prefer digging into important work mid-day when their momentum is full-throttle; and still others are night owls who leave the most important work for the end of the day when ideas and concepts have had time to settle.
You can cut down on the time it takes you to complete your work by identifying when you work best and are most productive, and planning your most important work for that time. You can boost your productivity even more if you're able to reduce distractions and interruptions during this focused work time.
Know Your Priorities
You may never get everything done, every day. If you do and find that it results in boredom, it may be time to expand your horizons and stretch yourself just a bit more. But for most of us, there will always be a few items leftover every day that we didn't get completed. The only time this is dangerous is when that leftover item is a high-priority item with a deadline attached. In order to avoid that from happening, take time to clarify what your priorities are and then schedule in the time to do your most important tasks when you are most productive.
Track Your Time ... All of It
Time tracking with a dedicated time tracking tool can be an excellent way to manage time, even when you don't need to track your time spent on client or billable work. Tracking your time across the board can help you increase productivity in two powerful ways. First, time tracking can keep you focused on the task you're working on right at that moment. After all, there's no better concentration reminder than a ticking clock.
Second, time tracking can give you a picture of exactly where your time is being spent, day in and day out, over the long term. This could be eye-opening, and can provide a valuable insight into how you want to spend your time, how you actually spend it, and what changes you may need to make to shift the balance.
Determine What to Delegate
When you have more on your plate than you can handle yourself, it's time to delegate. A good way to start with delegation is by determining what tasks are essential, but not necessarily essential for you to do yourself. Then, it's a matter of finding the right employees or subcontractors and creating a team built on trust, respect and shared goals. It's not always easy, but once you have a support team in place and can delegate effectively, your productivity and potential will skyrocket.
Go One Day at a Time
You can certainly plan out your week, month and even year in some respects so you have an idea of what you will be working on and when, but when it comes to real-life implementation, start with today. Not only do you not know exactly what tomorrow has in store for you, but focusing on the here and now can help you stay present and engaged. Take the lessons learned from each day, especially as they relate to productivity and time management, and apply them to tomorrow. You may even end up ahead of where you wanted to be when you move along day-by-day.