Improving your time management

As a business owner, it can be easy to become caught up with the multitude of daily tasks and not dedicate enough focus on the larger strategic plans for the business. However, there are strategies to overcome this.

Too much to do and not enough time to do it. That is the life of any small business owner.

Once upon a time, there was a small business owner. She was so organised that everything in her life ran like clockwork. Her clients were always perfectly looked after, her people were content and she was on top of every last detail in her business. If only.

I have been spending time lately trying to get more organised. I’m getting there, slowly. And I have to say, it is worth the bother. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

1. Have all your to-do lists in one place

Now this might sound simple, but somehow, between the multiple notebooks, the sticky notes, whiteboard and the to-do app, it’s not as easy as it sounds. I’ve been trialing putting everything in an app called Remember the Milk. It’s available on your computer, iOS and Android. And at only $40 a year, it’s a steal. You can arrange tasks into groups – I have one called ‘sales’, one for ‘home’ and one for each project I’m working on. This allows me to easily see what I’ve got on my list at any one time.

2. Make sure you know where you need to focus in order to move your business forward, and then do those things.

I’ve been listening to The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz and he talks about senior executives in big businesses being almost entirely reactive. Things are thrown at them constantly and they become very good at dealing with it all.

In a small business though, it’s the opposite. Things don’t happen unless you make them happen. New ideas aren’t presented to you unless you actively go looking for them. If you’re making the transition from big business to small business, like I have, you have to get used to making things happen, which is a very different mindset. I spend a lot more time now thinking about what I would like the future to look like and how I’m going to get there.

3. Take the time each day to see what you’ve got on and remind yourself where you should be focusing.

Don’t just plunge into answering emails and dealing with all the small stuff, because the next time you look up, it will be lunch time and half the day will be gone. Make sure you allocate time in your day to spend on the big things that will move your business forward. I’ve heard it suggested that you turn email off and only look at it twice a day. I have to say, that’s a step too far for me. But you get the idea.

4. Try the Pomodoro Technique to help you really focus and take action on things that are just festering away in the corner.

The essence of the Pomodoro is simple – no tools and no training required. Choose something to focus on. Put a timer on for 25 minutes. Turn your email off. And get on with it.

By limiting yourself to just 25 minutes, you will:

a) Be surprised by how much you can get done and

b) Be even more surprised by how you are able to get through the mental blocks you have.

Those are my four tips for better time management. As I said, I’m a complete amateur. But it all helps. Feel free to share any of your favourites with me.

Sarah Penn is the director of Mayflower Consulting.

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