In a recent Main Street Pulse Report published by OnDeck, 86 percent of small business owners identified time management as a critical component of running a successful business; 61 percent of them said: “…they constantly feel like they are racing against the clock.” If this describes you, I think it’s safe to say you’re not alone.
It’s not uncommon for business owners to make personal sacrifices for their businesses. Respondents identified sacrifices in personal time (49%), time with friends (18%), time with family (15%), and sacrifices to their health (10%).
Although 86 percent of survey respondents identified time management as a critical component of business success, I was surprised at how many, when asked about the tools they used to manage their time, answered, “None.”
Suggestions to "take back" your time are captured in the eBook, Small Business Owners: Take Back Your Time, here's a few:
- Shorten Meetings: Most hour-long meetings could probably be shortened to 30 minutes. Doing this might seem easier said than done, but creating an agenda before the meeting starts, sharing the agenda before the meeting, and keeping to that agenda will help. It’s sometimes easy to get sidetracked from the stated purpose of a meeting, but an agenda will help keep everyone on task and focused on why they’re there.
- Schedule Everything: Use an online calendar to track meetings and appointments as well as schedule time to get things done. The real value of doing this is that it helps you focus on what you want to accomplish rather than the myriad distractions that seem to come up every day. By scheduling the time to accomplish tasks that you’ve identified as important, they don’t get lost in the shuffle of reacting to the events of the day.
- Be Proactive: Anticipate things that might cause future issues. Thinking ahead saves time when compared to reacting to problems. Many small business owners don’t take enough time to think about their business and anticipate future events. Ideally, this would be time away from distractions like the phone or email. An hour or two every week to just think about your business might feel like a luxury of time you just don’t have, but can be an invaluable help to being proactive.
- Take Virtual Notes: Take and organize notes with an online tool like Evernote, or the Notes app on your phone. This allows you to record important information and quickly recall it when needed, wherever you are. Sticky notes or random pieces of paper can get lost, misplaced, or forgotten. Using a technology solution that allows you to have instant access to notes on your computer, your tablet, and your phone make it possible for you bring them up whenever they’re needed because they sync with all your devices—regardless of where you are.
- Step Away as Needed: Recognize when your productivity is slipping. When this happens step away from whatever you are doing—take a walk, switch tasks, grab coffee—then come back later when you are re-focused. If you’ve never thought of stepping away as a productivity tool, you should. Running a business requires a lot of creative problem-solving, and you need a fresh mind to do it. It’s been said that stepping away from your work every 75 minutes is good for your brain. You might be surprised at what a five- or 10-minute break could do for your creativity.
- Delegate: One of the first things a small business owner has to do is delegate. Now, this may not mean hiring employees. Getting help from a virtual assistant, short-term contractor, or a service provider like an accountant can help keep you on track to achieve your goals while still ensuring you get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. It’s OK to ask for help.