As an entrepreneur, you have a lot on your plate every day. You need to do everything from keeping track of inventory to running marketing campaigns, finding new clients, and making sales.
Then there are the repetitive tasks that are part of your every day, like responding to emails, returning phone calls, or setting up appointments, that cannot be avoided. Such tasks have to get done on the same day, and this can make it hard to prioritize your tasks.
Yet, there are many entrepreneurs out there who are incredibly productive, managing what seems like a double workload.
You might be wondering: How do they do it?
A huge part of their success comes down to their ability to manage their time well and stay organized. Busy entrepreneurs know the value of using time management techniques to get the most out of their day.
If time management is a challenge for you, here are some of the best time management strategies for successful entrepreneurs you can use to help you achieve your business goals.
Sometimes the hardest part of a task is simply getting started. So start small to reduce procrastination and get yourself going.
If you set yourself up with too many do’s and don’ts right off the bat, you’ll start to feel stressed and not relieved about your schedule and how you spend your time. On top of that, you’ll find that you have not completed even the most basic of tasks at the end of the day.
Instead, figure out 1 or 2 simple routines that work for you and stick with them. For example, every morning, write down the 3 things you need to do that day and the times of day you’ll work on them. Then at night, write down what happened during the day and let yourself celebrate what went well and determine what didn’t so that the next goes even better.
Break Tasks Into Sub-tasks
One great tip for managing your time is breaking tasks into sub-tasks.
If you’re an entrepreneur with a busy schedule, it’s hard to keep up with all the tasks you have to do by yourself. You’re probably coming up with great ideas all the time too, and you want to get them out there as soon as possible. That takes time.
But if you break your tasks into smaller tasks, you can make more progress in less time, and that means you’ll have more energy for creative ideas. You’ll also progress through projects with a clear head and focused attention.
Keep a Time Journal
If you would like to see how much time you spend on any specific task, keep a journal of your time. Doing this allows you to track how you spend your time so that you can find areas where your work schedule may not be as productive as it could be.
To keep a time journal, all you need is a notebook and a pen or a note-taking app. Every hour, write down what you spent the last hour doing. No matter whether you spent 30 minutes managing individual tasks or 30 minutes scrolling through Instagram, write down anything you do.
After a week or so, look at your entries and see if there are any patterns that emerge, like spending too much time on social media or reading emails, for example. Once you’ve identified those patterns, try to think about how you might be able to change some habits to improve the way you spend your time and ensure you focus on what’s really important.
Making small changes can make a big difference in helping you improve your time management skills and feel more productive.
Put Everything in Your Calendar
One of the most effective ways to keep track of tasks and deadlines is to place them in an electronic calendar. For example, a Google calendar can be accessed from any computer or smartphone with Internet access. Once you input all your essential activities, the system will send you alerts so that you never miss an important event, task, or deadline again.
Try using your calendar to schedule simple tasks such as paying bills and ordering supplies (upcoming deadlines) and more complex events like meetings with clients as well as internal team meetings (fixed schedules). This will help you stay on top of everything without feeling overwhelmed.
Set Time Limits
We tend to take all of the time we have to complete tasks. So if we give ourselves two weeks, we take two weeks. If we give ourselves one week, we’ll complete it in one. Granted, you should make sure that you give yourself ample time to get your project done right. But anything beyond that prevents you from moving on to the next important task.
So how do you go about setting time limits?
Set a timer. Give yourself a time limit, say an hour, to complete a task. After that timer goes off, take a break and come back later if you need to. The point is, don’t spend your entire day on a single task when there are plenty more tasks waiting for your attention.
This doesn’t mean that you should set a ridiculously short deadline just to save time. If you know it’s going to take a month to accomplish something, then set a deadline for a month away, but don’t allow yourself any more than that.
Prioritize Your Tasks
One of the best ways to manage your time is to figure out what’s important and disregard the rest. Don’t waste your time on tasks that can be done by someone else or ones that don’t need your attention right away. In other words, become a master of setting priorities.
Sure, we all like to cross things off of our priority list. But if we’re tackling less important tasks or basic tasks just to accomplish that, we’re managing our time poorly.
To help you, follow the 80-20 rule ( also known as the Pareto Principle). The rule is based on the premise that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. In other words, a small handful of actions will bring in most of the results you want to achieve. This is particularly true when it comes to bringing in business (if you’re just starting out).
Plan Your Week
Planning your week in advance can be crucial to running a business and getting things done. If you don’t plan out your week, you’re likely to start scrambling last minute to do everything you’ve needed to do all week.
This can make it hard to be efficient and effective in your work since you’re rushing, trying to get everything done right before it needs to be done.
So how do you effectively plan your week? It depends on what works for you. Some people use planners with daily and weekly schedules, while others set up alerts on their phones or laptops.
It is up to you to determine and test what works for you. If you use a strategy or tool that you don’t find helpful, it won’t help you manage your time as effectively as possible or as you would like.
If you don’t plan your week, you’ll probably end up missing important meetings, forgetting crucial deadlines, and letting other people control your agenda, which can lead to stress, exhaustion, and failure to achieve your goals.
Leverage Tools and Technology
So many of the tasks that we once handled manually can now be simplified or altogether automated using technology. Take a good look at where you’re spending a lot of time, and look for tools that can take some of that effort off your plate.
Set your bills to pay automatically. Schedule social media posts a month in advance. Set appointments automatically using an online calendar. Send faxes on the go using a reliable fax app like Faxburner faxing app. Call your leads using power dialer software rather than dialing manually. Use team and project management software to keep everyone on the same page.
There are numerous tools that will take all the unimportant yet time-consuming tasks off your plate, ensuring you don’t spend time on those and focus on the essentials.
Hold Yourself Accountable
The buck stops with you.
Take responsibility for your productivity and time management skills and be honest with yourself when you are, or aren’t, succeeding.
Set goals for yourself in terms of accomplishing tasks, and hold yourself accountable when you come up short. Be sure to schedule some time for self-reflection so you can examine your progress and course-correct as needed.
However, if you find that you are struggling to hold yourself accountable and reach your goals, consider talking to a productivity consultant. A certified consultant will give you an objective and an unbiased view of your time management style and help you develop a plan that fits your needs.
Ask for Help When You Need It
Asking for help from others doesn’t make you weak. It gives you more time to focus on the most important tasks of your business. Especially when first starting out, we often try to do everything ourselves and end up getting burned out and overwhelmed. There are only so many hours in a day, and working 7 days a week is no way to live.
There’s no shame in asking coworkers and employees to take on some of your workload. In fact, it’s their job. You’ve hired them as experts in their fields, so let them do what they do best while you focus on what you do best. If you’re doing every single task yourself, from bookkeeping, marketing, scheduling meetings, customer service emails, etc., you’re going to run yourself into the ground pretty quickly.
Instead of having one person (you) do all these things at once, spread out your responsibility across multiple people who can each devote quality time towards completing their work goals (whether that’s weekly quotas or monthly campaigns).
We all want to get a lot done. But giving ourselves too much just makes us crazy and keeps our minds spinning in circles. Be realistic as to what you can accomplish, and you’ll find that you manage your time much more effectively.
Also, give yourself a little leeway when things don’t go as expected. We all get interrupted, and some tasks take longer than anticipated. Sometimes, we have unexpected fires to put out. And often, we just need a break. Even the best time managers have rough patches that keep them from completing tasks.
Reward yourself for being productive or for keeping to your time management routine, or for accomplishing a goal or task within the given time frame.
Rewarding yourself can include anything from taking a break to cross that task off your list and going for a walk to grabbing your favorite snack as soon as you’ve hit your deadline for the day.
The important thing is that it builds positive reinforcement so that you remember what it feels like when you accomplish something great and associate those feelings with being productive.
That way, next time you have a task you’re dreading, you’ll be excited instead of anxious because you’ll know how great it will feel once it’s done.
Effective time management is a critical skill for every successful entrepreneur. By working efficiently and ensuring time is spent only on the most important tasks, we increase the value of every hour of every day. Follow the time management tips above to stay focused, efficient, and sane when there is too much to get done.