When you are running your own business, it’s needless to say, you have a lot to do. As organized as you try to be, there are things pulling your attention in a million different directions. So how do you make sure you are staying on top of everything and using your time wisely? How do you build a system that keeps you on task, on goal, and is easy to keep up with when life gets crazy? The answers to these questions will vary from person-to-person, but there are a few tips we can offer that are simple to implement and can be mixed and matched to suit your needs.
Write Everything Down
There is too much going on to remember everything. One big thing that helps with memory retention is writing things down. Whether you carry around a notebook, use your phone, or even a stack of index cards, if it’s important, immediately jot it down.
Many entrepreneurs find the Bullet Journal system to be useful so they can add tasks, notes, and appointments to one place, and there is an index to help them find things later. The one downside of the Bullet Journal is it takes time to set up and maintain a successful Bullet Journal. For some people, they find this process to be meditative and even a welcome part of their routine. If that is something you are going to take the time to do or stick with, then there are other options. A simple small notebook and pen can be equally useful if you are more likely to use it.
Another option is using a notes app on your smartphone. You can easily pull it up, your phone is always with you, and you can generally share it in an email or text, add links to important websites or documents, and create events from it.
No matter what you use to capture your thoughts, the important aspect is to be prepared wherever you go to write down someone’s information, the stray brilliant idea, or that important meeting you just set up.
Keep a Schedule
As much as you can, plan your day. From when you are going to talk to people to when you are going to run your expense report, put it on the calendar, preferably a digital one. Estimate how long each task will take you, and set aside that time as a busy block. This will help in a few ways.
- You will be able to see how long things actually take versus the estimate, which will help you with future planning.
- It will provide you with built-in reminders to take a break as well as deadlines to work toward.
- It gives you permission to shut off distractions. If you know you only have 45 minutes to do the expense report and then you are going to take 15 minutes to check your email, walk around the office, and use the facilities, then it’s not so big a deal to shut off your email and put your phone on silent. Nearly everything in life can wait 45 minutes, and if it can’t wait, the right people probably know how to reach you in a true emergency.
- It helps with prioritization. When you layout the hours you are willing to work and then pile the tasks, you will naturally prioritize them. If you are willing at 7 a.m. to take an hour onto the end of your day to fit something in, chances are it’s worth it. If you don’t schedule everything out, it’s easy to hit that same item at 6 p.m. and panic in the moment to get it done and work later than you meant to.
Just Spend Two Minutes
We have all sat down to a task, and then spent a half an hour playing solitaire, checking our email, or doing anything but working on the item in front of us. One easy way to combat this is to commit to spending just two minutes on the task. Set a timer if you need one, we suggest using a sand timer or a silent timer on your phone. The idea is that once you commit to getting started and do something on the project, the rest will follow. With a silent timer, if you do find yourself in a groove you won’t be distracted by the timer ending. The first action is always the hardest and by telling your brain you are only going to spend two minutes, you trick it into action and can then ride the momentum.
Set Boundaries – For Yourself
Life is full of unexpected events, especially when you’re an entrepreneur. It’s easy to get swept up in the surprise phone call, sudden hurdle, or employee’s sick day. This is why it is important to set boundaries you can stick to. If it’s not on your calendar, don’t let it waste your time. If someone calls you out of the blue, don’t ignore the call, but try to keep it to under five minutes and set an appointment with them for a better time. Keep planned meetings to a set maximum time.
Automate and Delegate
Technology has come a long way. Virtual assistants can take care of tasks like bookkeeping, data entry, appointment management, setting up presentations, and a lot of other little things that can free up your time to concentrate on things that actually make you money. You can also save a lot of time through automations like automatic payments, initial responses to new leads, appointment reminders, follow up messages to clients, and so much more.
Have Clear Goals for Each Task
If your task has no definable end, you will never be done. By laying out in your mind or on paper a clear end point, it’s going to be easier to get started, and you are more likely to finish with a feeling of satisfaction. When you know where something is going, then you are going to know when you have arrived at your destination.
Our last tip is possibly the most universal: make sure you are getting enough rest. Plan that rest in. Overworking your brain is just as bad as overworking your muscles. If your mind isn’t getting enough rest, it is going to be harder to concentrate and make well thought out decisions. This can lead to a lot more wasted time than shutting down for 10 minutes to have a power nap or shutting the computer down to get a full eight hours of sleep. If you push too hard, you may find yourself getting sick more often, spending more time staring into space, or oversleeping and missing important meetings as your brain tries to force you to turn off and unplug.
Overall, the key to time management is consistency and prioritization. There are a lot of different methods to manage your time, and it is important to find what works best for you. We would love to hear more from you about tips and tricks you love to use! If you are feeling burnt out or overwhelmed by your work, we have resources in the mental health section of our blog to help. Check out Getting Started with Mindfulness and Meditation to learn some tips to help you focus and regroup when you’re feeling overwhelmed.