At some point in our existence, we all arrive at the same big question: What’s the meaning of life? Regardless of your answer (if you’re lucky enough to have one), there’s something that you will always need if you want to provide your life with a meaningful experience: Time!
If you never thought about time in these terms, maybe you should. Having the ability to control your time is what is going to allow you to fulfill your life. In fact, “the degree to which you feel in control of your time and your life is a major determinant of your level of inner peace, harmony and mental well-being,” argues the self-development author Brian Tracy in his book Time Management.
Time management is something that touches all corners of our lives including, of course, our professional arena. In this context, time management is probably the single most important factor for running a smart business. But how can you implement effective time management within your organization?
We have come up with a list of 25 time management tips for small businesses that are sure to inspire. Before we jump in, though, let’s discuss what time management is and why it matters.
Time management can be both an ability and a process. In terms of ability, time management is the capacity we have to plan, organize and control our time. In terms of process, we can understand time management as the set of tasks and actions we implement to gain complete control over how we spend our time.
When it comes to running your business, good time management is what empowers you and your employees to get more things done in less time, focusing on a higher degree of quality and efficiency. In other words, time management not only helps you to save time but also enables you to be more productive and focus on the things that matter most.
But what does time management involve at the business level? According to Deanna Ritchie, editor-in-chief at calendar.com, time management includes the following:
Planning for the future
Monitoring where your time actually goes
Delegating responsibilities to others
Ensuring that you don’t waste any precious time on unproductive activities
These are the things that go to the core of time management. However, as we will see, there are many more factors to consider in order to become an excellent time manager.
Do you care about your productivity? Do you dream of a well-balanced life? Do you care about your personal fulfillment and happiness? Do you want to run a smart business? If the answer is yes, then you certainly care about time management. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits you can enjoy when you optimize time management.
Productivity and time management go hand in hand. If you are able to manage and use your time in a smart way, you can master productivity. This is a straightforward cause-effect relation that is as simple as it sounds. Do you want to be more productive? Then it’s time to start focusing on how you spend your time.
Missing deadlines creates lots of stress. If you are able to manage your time well, you will be able to eliminate a degree of stress from your life while investing valuable time in yourself and your well-being. Achieving a good work-life balance is one of the best perks you can earn from effective time management.
As we mentioned before, time management is something that affects every aspect of our lives. As Brian Tracy states, it is important to “remember that time management is really life management. Good time management and personal productivity begins by valuing your life, and every minute of that life.”
When you organize your time, you are able to manage your tasks more effectively. Creating to-do lists, prioritizing and planning ahead are some of the things that solid time management encompasses. Because of that, good time management is the best way to improve the way you organize your tasks.
Only when you are focused and using your highest level of energy in whatever you are doing, can you deliver your best work. A good time management strategy that eliminates distractions and unnecessary stress will go a long way in providing you with that unique combination of focus and energy that you need to increase the quality of your work.
Do you want to run a more efficient business? From setting SMART goals to optimizing your schedule, the following are the time management tips for small businesses that will help you optimize the most important tasks and processes of your organization.
It is simply impossible to conceive a management strategy without goals. However, having goals such as “making money” or “growing your business,” is the same as having no goals at all. For this reason, you need to set SMART goals, which means goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Asking the following questions for each one of these variables will help you to set these kinds of goals:
Specific: What exactly do I want to accomplish? Who is going to be involved? Which resources are in place to achieve this goal? Can I provide a number I want to reach?
Measurable: How many or how much? How much time is it going to take? How do I know if I achieved the goal? How can I measure my progress? Can I set milestones?
Attainable: Do I have the necessary resources to achieve this goal? Do I have enough time to achieve this goal? Do I know other people who have achieved this goal before?
Relevant: Why is this goal important? Is it worth making an investment in this goal?
Time-bound: Do I have a specific deadline for achieving this goal?
If you are able to provide specific answers for these questions, you will be able to focus on the tasks that will help your organization flourish. Setting SMART goals is definitely one of the most important time management tips for running an efficient business.
We are living in an era defined by apps, remote work and globalization. Because of this mobile-focused dynamic, having time management software is no longer an extra or trendy asset but rather a must-have tool to optimize the most important processes of your business.
There are many things you can accomplish if you provide your organization with a good time tracking system. First of all, you will be able to have a clear picture of how your employees are spending their time and where they are most productive. You will also be able to efficiently manage your workloads, budgets and, of course, your time!
In other words, a good time management software will allow you to improve your overall business intelligence. If your organization doesn’t have one yet, it should definitely be added to the to-do list.
As we mentioned before, time management and productivity go hand in hand, and there’s nothing more harmful to productivity than disconnected, disengaged, unhappy or stressed employees. If you’re seeing that type of behavior within your business, try not to focus on blaming the employees. Instead, it’s a great moment for internal reflection and a chance to look at your current work culture and environment.
If you want to improve time management across your organization, happy employees are key. This means that a workplace promoting employee well-being is key. Listening and empowering your employees is the perfect recipe for bolstering engagement and happiness within your organization. If you consider that “workers are 13 percent more productive when happy,” building a healthy work environment represents a big step towards great overall time management.
Planning is one of the key elements of any time management strategy, and a to-do list is the most vivid representation of that. Even though creating to-do lists takes time, when done correctly, they provide clarity, direction and a sense of organization, which is why we encourage you to invest the time and effort.
While doing that, it is important that you distribute your tasks according to their importance so you can prioritize effectively and set reasonable deadlines. Creating to-do lists is one of the most important things you can do to improve time management across your organization.
For a lot of people, the word deadline equates to stress. The reason for that is, of course, poor time management. In fact, one of the first things you need to do in order to optimize your time is set reasonable deadlines. If the deadlines you set are appropriate, they should be a guiding force to help you accomplish tasks, not a scary date you hope to avoid.
Furthermore, setting deadlines for yourself (even if nobody has imposed a deadline on you) is another great way to effectively manage your time. This allows you to focus and organize your most important tasks while avoiding procrastination.
We all have different levels of energy throughout the day. Because of this, it is important that you invest your best energy level on your MITs (Most Important Tasks). In other words, it is very important that you take care of the most important things on your to-do list first.
Generally speaking, our best energy level is ready to unfold in the morning, so we encourage you to tackle your MITs during this time of the day. If you are able to accomplish your most important tasks first, your productivity will skyrocket, and your sources of stress will be reduced to a minimum.
There was a time when multitasking was considered a must-have skill. Accomplishing several things simultaneously was considered a great way to optimize your time. Makes sense, right? Well, not anymore.
Because tasks are completed slower when you are working on multiple things at the same time, multitasking simply slows you down. This is important to keep in mind especially when designating tasks to your team and leading projects.
Mindless distraction such as scrolling through social media or watching silly cat videos is a legitimate choice when we need a break. But there are certainly wiser ways to use our free time.
What about finding a little bit of inspiration related to time management? There are plenty of resources to choose from, such as motivational books, TED Talks and fantastic podcasts. Even if it sounds redundant, investing time in learning about time management is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Considering how mobile and connected we are, an online calendar is an excellent tool to keep you up to date on all the important things and events coming up on your schedule. Simply put, an online calendar is a very useful tool for planning and keeping track of your most important deadlines and meetings. In today’s world, there’s no excuse for not having one.
Task batching is an ideal time management strategy for those who jump like frogs from task to task without finishing anything. If you have this kind of problem, try grouping similar tasks together before you get distracted with something completely different.
For example, if you have three tasks on your to-do list related to email and one task related to social media, it would be a good idea to take care of all your email-related tasks before moving onto social media. Ultimately, this time management strategy is about harnessing your energy while boosting your focus and productivity.
The best time managers out there know how to delegate and outsource. In fact, this is one the best time management tips you should embrace for your own productivity and mental health. If you are a control freak or you simply don’t trust others to take care of tasks, you are probably not very effective when it comes to time management.
Delegating is a key ingredient of good time management, and we encourage you to ask the questions that Ben Richardson proposes in his article about Time Management: The Art of Delegation:
Do you have time to complete everything?
Is the quality going to be of a high standard if you do?
Is it necessary that you personally complete the tasks?
Who on your team could complete a task?
How will it benefit them/you?
What support can you give them?
Answering these questions will likely make you feel much better about delegating tasks. And in doing so, you’ll be opening the door to focusing on the more important tasks and decisions your role demands.
Believe it or not, tracking your time is one of the most empowering things you can do in the workplace. In fact, there are quite a few benefits to consider. Let’s take a look at the ones that Chris Bailey, writer and productivity consultant, listed in a recent post on How to Track Your Time:
You can see how many hours you ‘actually‘ work.
You can separate from the stories you tell yourself.
You discover what your priorities actually are.
Time feels richer.
A time log can lead to real change.
Considering all of the above, you can think of tracking your time as one of the best actions you can take to boost your time management.
Planning relates to productivity just as prioritization relates to time management. When you prioritize effectively, you can expect your time management to excel, too. Once you get into the habit of creating to-do lists that allows you to identify and take care of your MITs first, effective prioritization will unfold naturally.
If you need help organizing your priorities, you can use The Eisenhower Matrix, a simple chart that lets you group and distribute your tasks easily:
This simple table allows you to distribute your tasks in different quadrants according to their importance and urgency:
A: Important and urgent - These are your most important tasks. You should take care of these tasks first!
B: Important but not urgent - These are important tasks but you have time to deal with them. Set deadlines accordingly.
C: Not important but urgent - These are distractions. You should either delegate or postpone these.
D: Non important and non-urgent - These are the kinds of tasks you need to delete from your to-do list.
Once you put this together, you will be able to prioritize effectively. In fact, one of the most revealing things about prioritization is that it makes you realize that not everything you are supposed to do is actually important.
Good time management allows you to work smarter rather than harder or quicker, and knowing what’s ahead of you sets you up for success. Because of that, planning your day ahead is an excellent way to boost your ability to deal with the tasks you need to complete.
Once you have created your to-do list and prioritized your most important tasks, plan ahead so you know exactly how you’re going to tackle your tasks. This strategy helps you avoid jumping from task to task without really completing anything.
“Learning when and how to say no is a way of valuing and managing our time,” states Frances Booth, a journalist and author of the book The Distraction Trap: How to Focus in a Digital World. In fact, saying yes all the time is one of the worst things you can do in terms of time management.
Have you ever said ‘yes’ to someone and then regretted it almost immediately? This is one of the most common mistakes we make in our daily lives. Saying yes too often can be reflected in your online calendar and schedule, and that translates directly to your stress levels. “We’re quick to say yes, giving away our time, then we wonder why we have no time left for what we want,” argues Frances Booth.
Apart from that, when you say ‘no’ you will find yourself with the right time to invest in yourself or in the most important projects of your professional life. Taking this into consideration, we invite you to take this advice as one of the best time management tips you can implement for yourself and your business.
Avoiding distractions is one of the most important things you need to do if you truly want to improve your time management skills. Do you remember those tasks we mentioned in the quadrant D of The Eisenhower Matrix above? The first distractions you need to eliminate are precisely those tasks that are neither important nor urgent.
Regardless of the tasks you need to accomplish in a day, you need to first eliminate things that disrupt your focus and concentration. Presenteeism—the idea of being at work but not really working—is a very real issue in today’s world and affects productivity levels directly. To fight presenteeism, remember to rest when sick rather than trudging through your work day, and to take breaks when you need them.
The following are some more ideas to help you avoid distractions at work:
Put your phone away.
Forget about your email.
Isolate yourself, and let people know that you are not available. Find a comfortable/private place if you can.
Start early on your work so time doesn’t become a distraction.
Similarly, plan your work in advance in order to avoid deadline anxiety, which can become a distraction on its own.
Stay away from social media.
Take regular breaks that allow you to keep your focus in place.
These are just a few ideas for removing daily distractions that get in the way of great time management.
Life is much more than work, and good time management should provide you with the opportunity to balance your professional and personal life in a positive way. That’s why it’s important to invest time in your interests, hobbies and overall well-being.
Are you happy with the hard work you put into that important project? Why don’t you treat yourself to a nice weekend outdoors or a relaxing experience in an irresistible spa? Taking time for yourself is essential in finding the perfect work-life balance, and is also key for staying happy, motivated and productive.
If you haven’t read that newsletter you subscribed to some time ago (you know, the one they deliver on a weekly basis without fail), you don’t need it! Furthermore, if you are the kind of person who gets anxious when the inbox gets out of control, you absolutely need to unsubscribe from anything not adding value to your workday.
Besides cleaning up your subscriptions list, it is very important that you track the time you spend on emails. Why? The answer is very simple: Emails kill productivity. In fact, “checking your inbox while doing another task can kill 20% of your productive time,” which means that having your inbox open during a regular 8-hour day will make you waste an hour and half daily.
Because of that, it is crucial that you understand how much time you are spending on emails. There are lots of apps out there that can help you with this, so we highly advise you to use one. By doing that, you’ll get a great snapshot of the impact emails have on your productivity. Apart from that, we also recommend tackling your inbox when your energy level is low so you can allocate your full strength and focus to more important tasks.
Let’s admit it—we’ve all been a meeting that very well could have been an email or quick note. Useless meetings are time-sucks and productivity killers, all the more reason to make sure that your meetings have purpose and structure.
A recent study concluded that more than $37 billion is spent on unproductive meetings every year in the US. Taking that into account, it’s important to handle meetings efficiently. One tip to consider is setting a specific time and day for recurring meetings, so you always know what to expect and when. More important, however, is to make sure your meetings provide value to your organization and everyone else involved.
This may seem obvious but believe it or not, many managers and employees don’t keep track of the tasks they have completed. If you think that your memory can take care of everything that you have done, think again! Failing to check off completed tasks is a perfect recipe for chaos, confusion and of course, wasting time.
The 20/80 rule is a statistical principle that has been used for all kinds of scenarios. When it comes to business, the main idea is that 80% of your results come from 20% of causes. In sales, for example, it is often believed that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers.
If you are wondering how this rule fits into time management, you need to think about organization and focus. In fact, if you are aware of the tasks that are responsible for providing your company with the best results, you will have the chance to focus and organize your work around the most productive activities for your business.
Time management is about productivity, and productivity is about reducing the time you and your team waste. For this reason, it is important that you identify those tasks and areas where time is wasted. Keeping track of time wasters is one of the most effective ways to optimize your productivity and thus your time management.
People are like rechargeable batteries whose concentration and focus fade away after about two hours (or even less). For this reason, taking regular breaks while working is one of the best ways to recharge yourself and maintain a good level of energy during your most demanding tasks.
Besides being great for productivity and time management, regular breaks are an important part of your health and ergonomic needs in the workplace. That’s exactly why it’s important to encourage your employees to take regular breaks, so they can also recharge and stay productive. This kind of attitude also helps forge a healthy work environment, which we’ve already mentioned as a key element for happy, productive employees.
Organizing schedules is another important piece of time management. However, that doesn’t mean everyone’s schedule has to be fixed. In fact, you should be able to adjust your schedule in order to make it more efficient.
For example, if your schedule says that you need two hours to deal with your email, but you realize that it only takes you an hour and a half to run through your inbox, that’s a great opportunity to adjust it and place that extra half an hour somewhere else.
As you can see, there are lots of things you can do to improve and optimize the time management processes within your organization. We encourage you to implement the tips we have mentioned throughout this article so you can focus on working smarter, rather than harder or quicker.
Finally, please remember that you and the people you work with are human beings. Time management is not about becoming a robot or a machine that only knows how to perfectly deliver tasks. Instead, time management is a process that should be humanized because it is aimed at providing you with better control and balance of your professional and personal life.
Do you agree with this list of time management tips for small businesses? Is there anything we didn’t mention in this article? Please, feel free to leave your comments below, and let’s keep this meaningful conversation going. Happy time management!
This blog was authored by: Carlos Quintana.
Carlos Quintana is an experienced web editor and writer turned freelance B2B content creator who specializes in finance, tech and SaaS. If he's not writing, you'll most likely find him watching football or enjoying a cultural walk around Rome.