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Time Management Tips for Small Business Owners

Time Management Tips for Small Business Owners

Small business owners work hard to make their companies successful. As chief decision makers and wearers of many hats, they often find that there simply are not enough hours in a day, and so they work overtime: nights, weekends — some even hesitate to leave their businesses to take vacations.

If this description hits a little too close to home, then you know this isn’t a sustainable model. Working overtime all the time can cause stress, burnout, and physical and emotional symptoms. But don’t worry: What follows may offer you relief. These time management tips are designed to help you reduce your stress, boost your productivity and performance, meet every deadline and enjoy your work like never before.

Put first things first

Keeping a running list of tasks you need to accomplish is smart, but it’s just the start of efficient time management. Prioritization is also key. Stephen R. Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” introduced a time management matrix that may help you get a better sense of where your time can be most valuable to your organization. The matrix helps you divide your tasks into four quadrants:

  • Quadrant 1 - important and urgent (pressing issues, emergency meetings, unforeseen events, etc.)
  • Quadrant 2 - important but not urgent (planning, creative thinking, relationship building, etc.)
  • Quadrant 3 - not important but urgent (interruptions and distractions)
  • Quadrant 4 - neither important nor urgent (time wasters)

Once all of your tasks have been prioritized, you can make Quadrant 1 tasks your top priority, schedule tasks in Quadrant 2 to ensure they get done, eliminate the tasks in Quadrant 4, and delegate or postpone tasks in Quadrant 3.

Take breaks throughout the workday

Recognizing that the human mind and body aren’t designed to work relentlessly for hours on end is key to effective time management. Working in short, focused time blocks with intermittent breaks enables us to give each task our best, by keeping our minds sharp throughout its duration. It also allows us to complete tasks without exhausting ourselves. A variety of models have been established to structure work schedules to maximize productivity. Here are two popular ones:

  • The Pomodoro Technique recommends working a 25- to 30-minute block of time, followed by a three- to five-minute break, and then another 25- to 30-minute work session followed by another short break. After four work sessions, you earn a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Another model is based on our ultradian rhythms, which, like circadian rhythms, guide our internal clocks. Our Basic Rest-Activity Cycle ultradian rhythm says that our minds work at their peak for 90 minutes and then require a 20-minute break to recover and rejuvenate. So the work blocks are longer than with the Pomodoro Technique — 90 minutes versus 30 — but the longer breaks provide more of an opportunity to refresh and prepare for the next work cycle.

Whether you find you work best with 30 minutes on and five minutes off, 90 minutes on and 20 minutes off, or some other ratio, having that established pattern of concentrated work blocks followed by brief breaks should boost your daily productivity considerably.

Don’t let email interrupt your day

A recent study by Microsoft found that office workers spend as much as 8.8 hours a week —almost two hours a day — checking and responding to email. Other research may put that number higher or lower, but this approximation may be helpful as you think about your own email usage and the potential time savings of better email management.

Of course, email communication is essential; however, over-checking your inbox can waste time that could be put to better use. Productivity firm Zarvana suggests turning off email notifications and checking email just once an hour, scheduling five to eight minutes to read and respond during each check-in, which keeps your email time to an hour or less. Depending on the volume and urgency of your email inflow, you may find that you can check even less often and reallocate that precious time to higher priorities.

Give yourself weekends and vacations

There’s a reason “work-life balance” has been one of the hottest buzzwords related to employment over the past decade: People really do perform better when they’re well-rested and content. You’ve probably recognized that in your employees; now see it in yourself! Weekends and vacations with your family or friends, or chilling solo, aren’t just well-deserved rewards for working so hard on your business; they also restore your energy so you can come back ready to perform at full capacity.

Here’s how you can prepare for some extended time off without feeling guilt or anxiety:

  • Time your vacation with your company’s seasonal ups and downs in mind. It’s much safer to be away at a time when you anticipate that business will be quieter.
  • Prepare yourself, your team and, if appropriate, your clients as far ahead as possible. Make sure your team is well-informed about what’s happening with the business and what circumstances may arise while you’re gone. Answer any questions they have. Clearly communicate your expectations and the procedures they should follow in your absence.
  • Make vacation time an important part of your company culture. When employees have opportunities to enjoy time off, they recognize how important it is to everyone, including the boss. With all of you regularly taking time off, company-wide productivity will improve so that burning that midnight oil can become a thing of the past.

This article is for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting or financial advice. Any reliance on the information herein is solely and exclusively at your own risk and you are urged to do your own independent research. To the extent information herein references an outside resource or Internet site, Dollar Bank is not responsible for information, products or services obtained from outside sources and Dollar Bank will not be liable for any damages that may result from your access to outside resources. As always, please consult your own counsel, accountant, or other advisor regarding your specific situation.

Posted: March 05, 2024