It’s essential to have good time management skills to be a successful business owner.
Let’s be honest, there are a thousand and one tasks that need to be accomplished to set up your business (and keep it running). And you know as well as I do that you can’t possibly get them all done without a little bit of strategy and planning.
That’s why I want to help you out with some time management hacks that will make that list less daunting, and you more productive. Otherwise you’ll spend all your time stressing over what you should be getting done, and your productivity will drop off. That’s the opposite of what you need.
Instead, let’s get your mind right about the tasks you’ll focus on, and plan ahead for those distractions that inevitably pop up.
1. Make Lists and Edit Them
There aren’t many time management systems that don’t involve making and using lists, because you can’t keep all the tasks that you need to complete in your head. Things get lost that way.
But it’s important that you don’t write a list of to-dos that’s so long, it overwhelms you and shuts you down. Instead, you need to be ruthless in your list-making and keep things manageable.
Every morning, I write a list of all the things I need to accomplish that day, and then I choose the three most important to focus on.
Yes, only three.
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I pick the items that will fit the best and make the biggest difference in my to-do list, and I focus on only those three things until they’re done.
Only if I finish them all and still have time left in my day do I move onto something else on my list. And if I don’t finish all three, the one left gets moved to the top of the list for the next day. No exceptions.
2. Put Everything in Your Calendar
Having a calendar or planner you can refer to every hour to check what you’re supposed to be working on can make a huge difference in the way you work.
When you give things a timeframe, and commit to completing them within that timeframe, you limit your brain’s ability to distract you with unimportant things.
I use Google Calendar, and every task on my to-do list gets entered into my day.
In the morning, once I’ve completed my day’s list and chosen the 3 things I’m going to focus on, I add them to my calendar. I estimate exactly how long each task or project will take, and then I give it that block of time within my calendar.
The next thing I do is set alarms for everything in my calendar. That way, when time is up on the previous task, I get an alarm notification and know it’s time to move onto the next task — even if I haven’t completed the last one. This keeps me on track, and it also ensures that I’m staying focused on each task while it’s happening, because I know that once the timer goes off and that next alarm sounds, I have to move on.
3. Don’t Instantly Give People Your Attention
One of the biggest distractions there is to a business owner are the people who make demands on your time.
I don’t mean these people aren’t important — they are. And responding to them is important.
But it doesn’t serve you or your productivity to drop everything to reply instantly to every demand.
Start practicing not answering the phone just because it’s ringing. Stop reading your emails the moment they show up. Disconnect instant messaging and stop giving people your immediate attention unless the matter is critical to your business and needs a human response.
Instead, begin scheduling a time during your day to answer phone calls and respond to emails.
I typically check emails and voicemails twice per day: in the morning before I dig into my work for the day, and in the afternoon once my meetings are finished.
Anything that comes in between has to wait until the next time I check my email or phone.
I’m protecting myself and the integrity of my clients by doing this, because if I let myself get distracted by every request or inquiry that comes in, it would take me three times as long to finish my work.
4. Schedule Time for Interruptions
Every day, block off time in your schedule for interruptions.
No matter how hard you try, you will always have to deal with disruption through the course of your day. Block out time to account for it.
I prefer to leave an hour of free time in my day for this exact purpose, and I schedule it at the end of the workday. This way, if something comes up right away in the morning, I can push my to-do list tasks back without having to work late.
The beauty of this is, on the rare occasion when nothing comes up, I have an extra hour to dedicate to something else that didn’t make the cut for the day.
My Best Time Management Tips
All four of the tips above are methods I actually use in my daily life. Since I’ve implemented them, I’ve completely changed the way I work.
I get twice or three times as much work done every day, and I don’t feel stressed about the things I don’t accomplish — at all.
It has been a total game changer for me.
If you’re still struggling with time management and can’t figure out how to push yourself into higher productivity, definitely start with these four things and see how much it changes in your business.