How to Manage Your Time Effectively as an Entrepreneur
Time – it is the only thing you really own in life. It is your single true asset, and the one thing that you cannot get back once it is gone. As such, managing it effectively is absolutely critical for entrepreneurs. We touched on time management in my post on how to achieve success, as well as in my post on cutting out time-wasters from your life. However, we need to dig a bit deeper into the topic to really shed light on the problem, as well as unearth tips and techniques to help you really manage your time correctly.
Why Manage Your Time in the First Place?
Before we explore the tactics, tips, and techniques out there for managing time, we need to understand why it is important in the first place. Can’t you just wing it? Flying by the seat of your pants can be exciting, but it doesn’t work when it comes to handling the responsibilities of a business owner. You need structure here, and that only happens when you can manage your time.
Failure to manage your time can lead to a number of serious problems, too. You could miss important meetings. You could lack the time needed to complete a vital project. You could fall behind on business-critical tasks. You could leave yourself open to being exploited by your competitors.
In the end, effective, successful business owners control their time. They manage it just as they would any other resource. They know the value of their time and they realize that issues arising from a failure to manage their time correctly are their sole responsibility. The same thing applies to you. Your business success (or failure) is totally on your shoulders, and it usually comes down to your ability to manage your time.
How to Manage Your Time: Tools, Techniques, and Tips
Now that we have established just how vital it is that you manage your time, we need to look at the tools, techniques, and tips that will allow you to do that.
Define Your Most Important Tasks and Do Them First: We often have a tendency to put off big tasks. They’re daunting, and we rationalize our actions by telling ourselves that we need to free up time for the big task by getting smaller ones done. That’s not a great idea. If you have a big task, it needs to be done first up. It’s the most important thing in your day, so get on it. Don’t put it off or push it back.
Track Your Time
It can help to determine just how you’re currently using (or not using) your time. To do this, you will need to conduct a time audit. This is more easily accomplished than it might sound. Really, it just boils down to tracking where and how you spend your time for a full week. Write it down. Log it on a note-taking app on your phone. Whatever method you use, make sure that you track the task and how long you spent doing it. At the end of the week, add it all up. How much time did you spend on particular tasks and activities? How many of those were business critical? How many were actual time-wasters? Use this information to help you cut the fat and waste less time on unimportant things.
The 80/20 Rule
The Pareto Principle, also called the 80/20 rule, says that 80% of your results stem from just 20% of your efforts. By tracking your time as I mentioned above, you can determine which efforts are driving those results and then scale them up. This will allow you to become more and more productive, with less and less wasted time.
Learn How to Prioritize
Most of us like to think we’re pretty good at prioritizing. Sadly, most of us are wrong. Let’s say you had two tasks that needed to be done. One was a large project with moderate urgency, but you’re behind on it. The other is a smaller task with greater urgency. Your first instinct is likely to take care of the small but urgent task and then get back to the other one later. That’s wrong. The larger, less urgent task is actually a higher priority because you are behind on it. The smaller more urgent task will have to wait.
Learn How to Delegate
Too many business owners fall into the trap of trying to do everything themselves. See my example above for a good reference to this. Using that example once more, you could delegate and make sure that both tasks were taken care of. Sadly, many of us are not particularly skilled at delegating. We’re control freaks. We’re micromanagers. We’re convinced that we are the only ones who could possibly do the task, or that only our way is the right way. You need to let go of those notions. Build a team that you can trust, and then delegate responsibilities to team members so that you are able to stay on track and on target.
Break Big Projects into Smaller Tasks
Often, our inability to manage our time effectively comes not from putting things off or not prioritizing them correctly, but from being unable to make progress because a task is just so big. It can be paralyzing. There is a way around this issue, though. You just need to break bigger projects into smaller, more manageable chunks. Each chunk should add to the other ones completed, pushing you forward and toward the completion of the larger project. Smaller tasks are more manageable, require less time, and can be delegated to others more easily, and this process makes tracking your overall progress much simpler.
Create a Schedule
Humans are creatures of habit. We perform better when we have a regular routine. Sure, routine can become draining, but when it comes to time management, you’ll find that following a regular schedule can have some pretty important benefits. Get up around the same time each day. Go to bed around the same time each night. Check your email once in the morning and then once more in the afternoon. Make sure that every hour of your day is accounted for, even if that time is set aside for rest and recovery.
Create To-Do Lists
Sure, making lists seems pretty pedantic. However, there is no denying the effectiveness offered. Create a to-do list for every single day and then follow it to completion. List your tasks in descending order of priority. And, remember, priority does not always equal urgency. A higher priority but lower urgency task should always take precedence over a lower priority, higher urgency task. Value to your business should be the key factor in determining priority.
Clean It Up
Yes, there is value to be had from not tidying up in an effort to move your business forward. However, clutter eventually becomes overwhelming. Some people can function just fine in an environment where clutter is the rule, but many of us cannot. It becomes distracting. It becomes hard to find tools, files, and necessary items. Whether you’re running an online business from a home office, or you’re selling physical products from a cash-wrap, cleaning things up and avoiding the mess can help you manage your time more effectively. This applies not just to your physical workspace, but also to your digital space – messy desktops covered up in random files don’t lend themselves to productivity.
Put the Phone Down
Another important tip here is to put down your phone. Yes, those red notification dots are just begging to be cleared, but the second you open Facebook or Twitter, you’ll be sucked in and you’ll lose time. Schedule time to check social media, email and other time-wasters so that you can keep the bulk of your day for productive tasks.
This tip will not be something that all entrepreneurs can make use of, but many of you can. Automation is a powerful solution to the time-crunch we all face, and modern tools have made it possible to automate a wide range of tasks. Is your social media marketing sucking up too much of your time? Automate some of it. Is performance information extraction taking too much time? Automate it. You get the idea. Automation is a good solution for many things (but not all!) and it can help you free up time that would be better used doing something else.
Are you one of those people who looks at their day like a cold swimming pool – you just can’t seem to force yourself in? If that’s the case, take a tip from actual swimmers. Just jump in. Yes, it will take a minute or two to acclimate, but, ultimately, the water is just fine.
When everything is said and done, time is your only real asset. It is the only thing that you really own in this life. Once it is spent, it is gone forever. Managing your time effectively is vital for growing your business, as well as for living a fulfilling life. If you want to learn more about becoming a successful entrepreneur, I recommend you sign up for my 'Six Figure Sunday' course (click here to sign up), where I teach how to earn a six-figure income while working just one day a week. Click the button below to get started.