Time Management Tips For The Small Business Owner
1. Put a Price Tag on Your Time
Take the amount of money that you made last year and divide it by 2,000 (40 hours x 50 weeks). This is your hourly rate. Whenever you are doing something of questionable value, ask yourself if you would pay yourself to do that activity? If it’s not, either eliminate that activity because it’s not productive, or outsource it to someone at a lower rate. You can now focus on more valuable work.
2. Meetings are Time Management Killers
- Don’t schedule meetings if they aren't really necessary. I used to have a lot of scheduled weekly calls with some suppliers and other partners that we worked with. They would often be valuable at first but after several meetings, everyone felt obligated to join the meetings because they were valuable previously. Unfortunately, we spent the same amount of time in them and got less and less done. Maybe you can block off the time and meet only if someone really needs to that week. Better yet, don’t meet with them unless you have some specific business decision to make.
- Don’t schedule meetings for an hour if you need 15 minutes. If that is the time needed to cover something, schedule it for that amount of time.
- Have agendas for your meetings and stick to them. There really should only be 1 or 2 things that you need to talk about
- Meeting to talk about nothing specific is a waste of your time.
- Try to limit uncommitted conversations. In the business environment, it is perfectly natural to have small talk amongst people you work with on an every day basis. These are conversations about the weather or television shows you watched the previous night. It is important to have these conversations with others in order to connect with them and show you are a human being. However, too many of these kinds of conversations are wasteful of your valuable time . It takes hard work to know when you are doing it, catch yourself and get focused back on the business item at hand.
3. Limit Hypothesizing
A lot of smart people waste a lot of time hypothesizing an answer to something when they should just stop and go get the facts. Too much time can be spent guessing or speaking with feelings versus speaking with data and facts. It is perfectly acceptable to admit “I don’t know the answer” as long as you follow it up with “but I will find out and get back to you”.
4. Keep Your Workspace Clean and Organized
Keep your desk and computer clean and organized. I don’t have a permanent workspace or office (and never have in my young business career), so I treat every location I go into as a temporary workspace. At the end of the day, I pack everything up I need, put it in my briefcase and leave.
5. Use a “To-Do” list
Yes, one and only one list. I personally like to use Google calendar to keep my To-Do list but I know a lot of people who are proponents of taking it off the computer and away from e-mail so they aren’t tied so closely together. I might do that eventually.
Here are some other real important points around To-Do lists:
- Do not use your email inbox as a To Do list. Your email is a business tool used to communicate with others.
- Always make your To-Do list short enough that you can complete it the next day. Don’t have 20 things that you will never realistically be able to accomplish. I like to have 2 or 3 big things that I need to accomplish.
- Complete your “To Do” list for the next day before you close up shop for the night.
- Review your list and work to move things off it and always place new things on it.
- If you have your list in Outlook or Google Calendar, print it out and work off that paper.
- I read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People a couple of years ago and he had a great concept of placing your time in quadrants. He noted that highly effective people prioritized their time around important items and urged the notion that not everything is urgent all the time. So, I prioritize actions around these categories and try to spend most of my time in Quadrant 2 (Important Stuff but Not Urgent). There are enough unforeseen problems that pop-up and consume your attention each day. It is always okay to ask others when they want something back from you to gauge the importance and urgency.
6. Check Voicemail and E-mail Twice a Day
Check your voicemail and e-mail twice a day. Don’t check them first thing in the morning. I recommend checking it at 11 AM and 4 PM.
This means that you absolutely have to remove any new e-mail notifications from your computer so you’re not getting a notification whenever you receive your e-mail. I even turn off Outlook’s automatic Send/Receive so that I can get stuff in e-mail without checking out everything that was sent to me.
Best of Luck with these Time Management Tips
These time management tips are intended to be helpful. They work for me on most occasions. No one is perfect all the time and it takes great discipline to police yourself if you want to achieve higher levels of productivity and effectiveness.