One of the biggest struggles for small business owners (especially those on the start of their business journey) is managing their tasks and prioritising time. As new entrepreneurs we wear many different hats, and too often you can feel like you are working nonstop only to get to the end of the day and find that you have not actually achieved anything.
It is something our advisors are hearing time and again, so we thought we would ask our team for their top time management hints, and the systems that work for them (because different systems work for different people, there is no one right way).
The Eisenhower Matrix
Developed by the 34th President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, this management system is based off his theory that “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important”.
What is urgency? Eisenhower determined that if it did not need to be done today, it is not urgent. This may not be true for you or your business, however any tasks that are time sensitive or deadline driven are considered urgent.
What is important? If the task can be completed by someone else, it is not important. Important tasks often contribute to long term goals, mission, and values.
Time blocking is the opposite to multitasking, which can often make you feel like you are juggling a million balls but never actually ticking anything off the to-do list.
This concept is based off the Pomodoro Technique, which involves working uninterrupted in 25minute intervals, before stopping for a 5minute break. After four rounds, you take a 30minute break.
Time blocking allows you to prioritise tasks, and makes you feel more in control of your day.
- Determine your tasks, and their priority
- Designated a time limit for each task
- Categorize tasks into time blocks. Be sure to recognise when you are most efficient and schedule accordingly. For example, you may hit your mid-afternoon slump after lunch and so the best use of your time may be to input invoices, rather than tackle a big decision-making task.
- Designate flex time. Tasks will go over their designated time block and that is OK, just make sure you schedule in a few free blocks to accommodate for this.
Time blocking works for your week too. For example, setting aside one afternoon a week for your marketing will be more efficient than trying to think of a social media post every day when you are mid-way though client proposals.
There are many online time management tools available, from apps to plug ins to specific software.
At Upland we use a platform called Monday.com. Among other things, Monday allows us to produce a master list of tasks, as well as daily running sheets. Lists can be shared among teams and tasks allocated to specific team members. Task lists can be sorted by due date, added to, and ticked off as they are completed. It is but one example of how you can utilise technology to manage your time and tasks.
You could also consider using time tracking tools. Even if you are working on non-billable tasks that you would not normally track, it can be useful as a business owner to see exactly where the hours of your day have been allocated, and to recognise if there are ways you can be more efficient.
There is nothing wrong with a good old fashion to-do list if you are a visual person who works better off a written list that sits on the desk in front of you (I personally love the satisfaction of putting a big line through completed tasks!).
Start your day by writing out your to-do list in order of priority. Avoid putting too many tasks in your urgent column and be OK with rolling some over to the next day to avoid overwhelm.
There were a few things that our whole team agreed on when it came to effective time management.
- Avoid multitasking. This is a sure-fire way to get to the end of the day without one fully completed task.
- Delegate where possible. As a business owner it can be tempting to want to pull all the levers, but it is not effective. Pass tasks on to staff members or outsource where possible to lighten your load.
- Automate wherever you can. Accounting programs such as Xero can simplify your bookkeeping tasks, scheduling apps such as Hootsuite allow you to batch create content making your time much more efficient.
- Eliminate distractions. Turn off your notifications (including email- no one expects a reply within 5minutes), close all the extra tabs open in your browser and set your workspace up for success so you are not up and down constantly.