10 Time Management Tips for Entrepreneurs
When it comes to starting a business, to-do lists can be exhaustive. With so much to consider in getting a business off the ground, entrepreneurs have a tendency to burn the candle at both ends. It’s no wonder that your new business’s success depends in large part on good time management on the part of the entrepreneur.
The millions of successful small businesses around us are proof that it is possible to get a business off the ground successfully, with a healthy mix of time management and prioritization. With only 24-hours in a day, it’s important to plan for the unexpected, the interruption, or the delay of not knowing an answer. With these time management tips, you can make the most of your day:
Have a Small Business Strategy
- Know your small business strategy:
Oftentimes, entrepreneurs have a clear idea of their business model and a thousand ideas of what needs to happen to make it work. What’s lacking, though, is the clear connection between day-to-day tasks and how they’ll help accomplish a goal. Before setting a to do list, make sure you know the main pillars of your business strategy. With a set small business strategy, you can prioritize your time and streamline your decision-making.
- Set milestones and goals
Now that you have your small business strategy, your next step should be to set a plan. Break down the success of your business into measurable goals and progressive milestones. Using the SMART goal-setting framework, you should be focusing on 3 goals at a time, leaving all others to the side. When you’ve completed one goal, or even if you’ve failed to meet it, you can easily move on to the next.
Set the Right Expectations with To-Do Lists
- Use a daily to do list
It’s no secret that your mind runs a mile a minute and you’ve got big-ticket items on your to-do list. Instead of putting mammoth tasks on your plate every day, though, break them into doable sub-tasks. Each day, limit your to-do list to a specific number of tasks or (if you’re analog) to a specific size of paper. Giving yourself a manageable workload lets you leave work behind at the end of the day, setting you up for success when you return in the morning.
- Table your ideas
Not every idea that you think of needs to be done today… or tomorrow. When an idea or worry pops into your mind, take a moment to write it down in a “parking space”. (Make sure that you give yourself enough detail to remember it when you return.) At the end of the week or on Monday morning when planning out your week, revisit your parking space and consider adding these items to your plan.
- Say “no” to good ideas
Only focus on great ideas. You’re tempted to try everything you can to get your business off the ground, but don’t fall into the trap of trying every idea that occurs to you. Think critically about the difference between a “good” and a “great” idea, and only focus your efforts on the ones that are likely to work.
Use the Right Technology and Productivity Tools
- Use the right tools
Whether you’re using a pen and paper, your smart phone, or a laptop to manage your time, make sure it suits your working style (and the working style of your team). Often, a mix of project management software, an old-fashioned paper to do list, and some automation tools for tasks that are time-consuming will do the trick. Don’t be afraid to invest significant time in getting organized; it will continue to reward you later on.
- Use timers to focus your efforts
Not every task is exciting. For those tasks that require an extra boost of motivation, set yourself a timer. A 30-minute timer requires you to focus on the task at hand and kick starts your work, and you’ll likely continue on once the time is up. Just make sure to limit distractions, table all other thoughts, and ignore phone calls.
Keep Your Motivation Up
- Outsource what you’re not good at
Nothing kills your productivity like not knowing how to get the job done. For some tasks, it makes sense to do some digging and teach yourself the necessary skills. For others, it doesn’t. Don’t hesitate to outsource business tasks to key partners or to rely on automation technologies to take the burden off of you.
- Recognize accomplishments & build momentum
It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to keep “completed” lists, highlighting everything that was accomplished in a day or a week. Although you’ll always have more on your plate, celebrate the work that you’ve completed and recognize yourself for the effort you’ve put in.
This can also be a great way to build confidence and focus on “off” days. Start with smaller, more manageable tasks. Once you’ve completed a few and built some confidence in your workflow for the day, use the momentum to move on to the more complicated or less exciting tasks.
- Take breaks
Reward yourself. It may feel like you need to work all day, every day in order to grow your business, but you don’t. A burnt-out entrepreneur never helped anybody, so be sure to pull back every now and then, get out of the office early, and give yourself a break.