Time management is a difficult skill to master, especially for busy entrepreneurs.
Running a business can easily sap your energy if you don't take control of your schedule and manage it properly, leading to lower overall output and burnout.
So how can you protect yourself? How can you ensure that your time is being spent wisely?
We've put together 11 essential tips for schedule management as a business owner. These time management strategies will work for just about anyone, and they are all very easily to implement.
Try just implementing one of these time management tips for a week or two, and then add another one after that. Before long you will feel more in control, less stressed and more productive than ever!
1: Record how you spend your time
Sometimes the best strategy to alter how you manage your time is to simply get a better idea of how your time is currently being spent.
There are many tools online that allow you to track what you are spending your time on, what websites you spend the most time on, and identify where you are wasting the most time.
Software like RescueTime helps you to understand how you are using your time already, and identify what changes you can make in order to work more efficiently.
|Rescue Time provides a detailed analysis of how your time is spent, and when you are most productive.|
2: Schedule the most important items first
Schedule management can be likened to filling a container with rocks and sand. If you fill the container with the smaller things first (sand), you won’t have much room for larger, more important things (rocks).
Instead of prioritizing tasks as they come and filling space however you can, figure out what the most important tasks are for the day and schedule those first. Once you have the ‘rocks’ in your container, you can fill the spaces in between the rocks with the smaller, more trivial tasks.
3: Use time management tools
This one is kind of a no-brainer.
If you need to manage your time, use time management software. If you need to schedule shift times for a team, consider services like Your Next Seven.
If you’re only working on managing your own schedule, try using tools like Google Calendar or a day planner (if you’re old fashioned like that).
4: Take 30 minutes each morning or each night to schedule important tasks
|Take some time to write down what you need to get|
done. It will keep you focused throughout the day and
help ensure that the most important tasks get done first.
Simply taking a few minutes each morning or each evening to write down the most important tasks for the day will make a massive difference.
Author and efficiency aficionado Tim Ferriss recommends writing down just three to five important items that you absolutely must get done before 11 am. By accomplishing the most important items first, you put yourself in a better mindset to be more productive throughout the day. You also get more accomplished faster, so even if you were to quite at noon you would still have accomplished your essential tasks for the day.
5: Set definite start and end times for all meetings
Meetings that drag on for hours are the death of all productivity.
If you have to schedule meetings, make sure that you schedule definite end times. At a minimum, figure out a way to politely excuse yourself from the meeting at a set time so that you can continue getting things accomplished that day.
6: Set definite goals for each meeting with your team
The only thing worse than a never-ending meeting is a meeting that has no clear purpose.
In a group planning scenario it can be easy to drift from one topic to another, contentedly arguing about nothing in particular and ultimately getting very little done.
Avoid this scenario whenever possible by setting clearly defined goals for any meeting. Figure out the top three or four problems that must be resolved, and end the meeting as soon as they have been figured out.
7: Only respond to calls and emails at specific times
In today’s interconnected world, we obsessively check our phones for emails, texts and notifications. Although each time you check your phone only wastes a couple of seconds (usually), those seconds really add up.
Use a tool like RescueTime for a few days and you’ll realize just how much time you waste on email.
Turn off the notification for emails on your phone, and only check email once or twice per day. If you’re uncomfortable being unavailable like this, set up an autoresponder that let’s people know that you will get to their message as soon as possible and, if the matter is urgent, they can reach you by phone.
8: Create a routine in your schedule
Having a routine creates a scalable framework for time management.
If you aimlessly drift through your day without any consistent routine, you will find it hard to really focus on work when it is time to buckle down and get things done.
Having a regular routine in your work day helps you to get into ‘the zone’ for getting things done. You essentially signal to your brain that it is time to block out distractions and start knocking things off of your to-do list.
If you can’t follow your routine to the letter each and every day, don’t worry about it. The idea is not to create a second to-do list, but to give yourself a reliable and consistent framework for getting into ‘work mode’ and getting some of the essential things done.
9: ‘Theme’ each day’s schedule
A popular method among some top executives is to not only block out chunks of their day for a type of task, but to block out entire days for each type of task.
For example, you might spend Mondays catching up on any memos or important updates from your team. On Tuesdays, you might focus on marketing and reaching out to local businesses to build your professional network, or building better relationships with people already in your network.
Creating a ‘theme’ for each day helps provide a consistent guide for what needs to be accomplished on each day of the week. This can help you to focus more consistently on that day’s tasks, and give you the peace of mind knowing that everything will be cared for on it’s designated day.
10: Schedule time for non-work activities
Work / life balance is one of the most difficult things to deal with when working on your managing your schedule.
|Scheduling time for non-work activities will help you to|
recharge and make the most of your regular work time.
Additionally, setting defined end times for your work life can have the same effect as scheduling end times for your meetings. By setting a time to stop work, you know how long you have to accomplish the tasks on your to-do list and are less likely to put them off until later in the day.
11: Take ownership of your calendar
Sometimes the best way to manage your time is to learn how to say ‘no.’
If you find that your schedule is swamped with nonessential tasks and meetings, start turning some invitations or assignments down. This all comes back to prioritizing the big things first. If you allow smaller items to get scheduled, you won’t have any room in your calendar for the more important tasks.
Learn to say ‘no.’
We want to hear from you!
What is the biggest obstacle you face in time management? What ideas do you plan to use first from this post and why?
For some additional tips, check out this video from Entrepreneur!