12 ways to better manage your time
As a small-business owner, it seems that there's a never-ending list of items to cross off your to-do list. But since you can't add more hours to the day, maybe the answer is to make better use of the time you have. Try these ideas to increase your productivity.
- Track your activities. At first, it can seem counterintuitive. Why would you want to add another task — time tracking — when you already have too much to do? But documenting how you spend your time for a week can help you identify where changes in your work habits could help you be more productive. Try time-tracking software, a day planner or calendar.
- Prioritize ruthlessly. At the start of each day, identify the most important tasks that need to be done. Work on the two or three most crucial ones first. Plan to spend at least half your time on activities that produce the most results.
- Sharpen your focus. Concentrate on whatever you're working on at present. Minimize distractions by closing other browser windows, silencing alerts from phones and email, staying off social media and asking staff not to disturb you except in an emergency.
- Schedule time for interruptions. In order to set aside time to work without interruptions, you need to schedule time when you're available to be pulled away. Build time into your calendar to answer email and return phone calls.
- Set time constraints for projects. Instead of deciding to work on a project until it's done, set a specific amount of time to work on it. The time constraint will push you to be more focused and efficient.
- Get organized. The amount of data pouring in seems to increase all the time. In order to make use of it, you need to be able to find it when you need it. If you waste time looking for files, whether electronic or on paper, reorganize your filing system so it works for you.
- Put lost time to work. Spending time waiting for other people is inevitable, whether it's a client who's delayed or your chronically tardy dentist. But your laptop, tablet or smartphone makes it easy to work wherever you are, so read a report, check a spreadsheet or answer email while you wait.
- Delegate. Be careful to hire people you can trust, train them thoroughly, then give them responsibility for handling issues that arise.
- Schedule downtime. If you're like most people, you won't function at optimal productivity unless you've had seven to eight hours of sleep. Similarly, small-business owners who don't take periodic vacations are prone to burnout. Stepping back for a break can refresh and re-energize you.
- Automate routine tasks. Make tedious tasks such as expense tracking and timesheets more efficient by introducing automation.
- Stay up to date with local news. Schedule email notifications from favorite news sites to stay on top of news that could affect you.
- Use tools and calculators. Online calculators can help you easily determine the cash flow your business generates, calculate financial ratios to help you evaluate your business's solvency, liquidity, operational efficiency and profitability, and much more.
Putting your time to better use is just one way you can help your business succeed. Visit California Bank & Trust's Business Resource Center for additional ideas to inform and inspire you.