Time management is one of the bigger obstacles small business owners have to deal with. It can be difficult to know how to strike the idea work/life balance, especially in the early days of the business. In this article we will explore a variety of ways to make it a lot easier for you, and hopefully reducing stress and increasing your quality of life, and work.
There are many ways you can achieve an ideal work/life balance, and what works for one person, may not work for another. You have to analyse the options and see which works best for your lifestyle and your circumstances, then apply them.
Simple time keeping is a great place to start, of course that’s always easier said than done. Perhaps you’re a paper person, or a technology lover, either way you can play this to your advantage. If you prefer to work with paper, consider investing a diary or a Filofax, keep regular notes on what you have to do and when. If you’re a technology lover, consider a spreadsheet with multiple tabs to keep your life organised – this is my preferred method of organisation. I have several tabs: General to do, the schedule for the week, work tasks, home tasks, calendar, and much more.
This method allows you to keep a track of different aspects of your life, ensuring you don’t overwhelm yourself with tasks. It also enables you to break down tasks to make them more manageable, and provides a quick place for you to glance at when you have a few moments free to complete a task.
Another method worth considering is time blocking. Time blocking enables you to allocate all your available time to tasks, knowing exactly what you’re doing when. This method can be particularly useful for those who have a lot of commitments, or those who have children and need a regimented routine. It may not work so well for people who like to live a carefree relaxed lifestyle.
For example, if you get up at 7am, you have an hour between then and getting the kids to school in which you have to get them and yourself ready. Time block how long every single action takes, it’s wise to overestimate slightly so you don’t find yourself running behind all day if something takes longer than expected. You may find you have a spare 15 minutes here or there, in which you can add in some smaller tasks such as replying to emails or the likes.
When it comes to work, time blocking is a brilliant way to make sure you don’t take on more work than you can handle. If you know that you only have 5 disposable hours in the day to work on specific tasks, you won’t agree to take on anymore work which will leave you out of time.
Time blocking is also great for productivity. If you know you only have X amount of time to spend on a certain task, you’re less likely to procrastinate doing other things. Another benefit to time blocking is that it helps you know when to stop. It’s very easy to keep working late into the night, which can often mean neglecting your social life, or household chores; you can prevent that by time blocking free time too. Even if you just label it “free time” or “chores”, you will know it’s time to stop; this will stop you burning out, and enrich your personal life.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
When you’ve nailed time management, the next step is to implement techniques and strategies to make yourself more productive in the time you’ve got. These strategies will make the most of your time and get things ticked off quicker.
Organising your tasks into batches can keep you in the zone and make it easier to stay focused – meaning you get more done in a more efficient way.
Make sure you use lists to manage your tasks, not only will it reduce the overwhelm on your brain, it makes it easier to keep organised and not forget anything. If you group your tasks into “types”, it ties into the batch tasking and keeps your list tidy too!
Prioritise! It’s really easy to fall into the habit of doing the easiest tasks first, but these easy tasks can multiply and before you know it you’ve spent all day on bitty tasks instead of anything substantial. Allocate yourself a set amount of time per day to work on bitty tasks, and dedicate the rest of your time to meaningful tasks. This will make sure your priorities are in order and everything is achieved when it should be.
Whilst it’s important to prioritise, it’s also important not to postpone tasks repeatedly. If you find yourself doing that, ask yourself if it deserves to be on the list at all. If it does, can you dedicate specific time to get it done, or delegate it to get it handled by someone else.
Work Hard, Play Hard
It’s so obvious but easy to forget, the more relaxed and happy you are, the better you will perform in your business life. If you’ve spent the weekend playing in the park, or having a relaxing time with your spouse, you’re much likely to be more focused during working hours. In contrast, if you’ve spent the weekend rushing around catching up on things you didn’t have time to do in the week, you’ll start work again feeling like you’ve not had a break. This leads to one burnt out, strung up, stressed business person, and that helps nobody – especially you!
The most important thing you can do for your time management is learning how to say no and taking time off. If somebody asks you to do something, but you know you don’t have the time or resources, then say no. A lot of people lack the assertiveness needed and often end up overcompensating and spending a lot of time doing things they don’t want to do, which leads to a pile up in other areas of life. Obviously prioritise, if it must be done, then you must do it. But don’t be afraid to say no to further work, postpone it if you have to.
Taking time off is a must. Take weekends or alternate weekends off, or whatever works for your schedule. Make sure you take regular holidays, such as Christmas and a week or so during the summer.
Don’t Carry The Load
The final thing you can do to improve time management is to delegate. Rather than cram all the admin work you hate into a day when you could be spent doing the things you love, delegate to a virtual assistant to give you more time. Many people ask for more hours in a day, and a virtual assistant can give you them!
It’s fine to work hard, but you must play equally hard otherwise you won’t be able to give your business everything it deserves!
Do you have any top tips for time management?
Sound off in the comments!