Every person’s got their own “secret to success.” You know, the habit they swear by. Entrepreneurs have them, too. And more than likely, they’re all different tidbits of advice. Eat right, take a day off, get your eight hours of sleep, wake up at the crack of dawn, etc.
Confusing to know which one is really the secret when they’re all so different, right? Actually, no. Most habits of successful entrepreneurs all require the same exact thing: Time management. Look a little deeper at the above “secrets” of eating right, taking a day off, etc. The key ingredient is managing your time.
So when it comes to successful business ownership, time management is something all entrepreneurs must learn to master. Are you up to the challenge?
Time management: Who cares?
As an entrepreneur, you must manage your time appropriately to hit deadlines, grow your business and ensure quality work. But, time management goes beyond your work life. It’s also key to reaching your optimal work-life balance (even if that balance looks different for entrepreneurs than employees!).
Through effective time management, you can set yourself up for successful entrepreneurial habits such as:
- Getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep.
- Exercising and eating well (not just living off quick and easy chip bags).
- Taking time off to pursue hobbies.
- Spending time with loved ones.
Time management can also help you actively work to limit burnout. And according to one Harvard Business Review study, entrepreneurs are especially susceptible to burnout. Again, successful entrepreneurship is all about balance, and time management can help you get there.
Improving your time management skills 101
Like most things, managing your time takes practice, dedication, patience and a few tips to get started.
To help you improve your time management skills, you can:
- Create a schedule.
- Stay organized.
- Kick procrastination to the curb.
- Skip the multitasking.
- Delegate tasks.
- Automate manual tasks.
1. Create a schedule.
At the beginning of the day, what do you do? Grab a cup of coffee, sit down and dive in? Or, do you map out your day with a list of tasks you want to accomplish? Planning out a daily and weekly schedule may help you improve your time management skills.
You can create a daily or weekly list of things to do using:
- Post-it notes.
- Calendar software (e.g., Google Calendar).
- Project management tools (e.g., Trello).
You can jot down to-dos as they come to you, but be sure to prioritize your list. Some people prefer doing a snowball effect, knocking out little tasks first before taking on larger, more difficult ones. Others want to crank out the most difficult tasks first. See what works best for you and your time, then, go for it.
With so much going on throughout your day, making a to-do list can help you stay on task and prioritize projects.
2. Stay organized.
Nothing throws a wrench in your ability to manage time like forgetting about a meeting or misplacing a document. To help you optimize your time, stay organized when it comes to files, meetings and deadlines.
Some office design ideas to help you stay organized and productive include:
- Separating your workspace.
- Using desks with drawers, filing cabinets, or other organizers.
- Clearing clutter off your desk or workspace.
3. Kick procrastination to the curb.
How often do you procrastinate things you need to get done? Maybe you put it off a few hours, which turns into a few days … and then a few weeks. Suddenly, Task XYZ is due in 10 minutes. Cue stress, burnout and a recipe for errors.
One in five people are chronic procrastinators in their work, personal, financial and/or social lives. And if you are in at least one of these areas, you may consider taking steps to actively limit procrastination.
Some ways to help you stop procrastinating include many of the tips in this article for better time management (e.g., staying organized, sticking to a schedule, etc.).
4. Skip the multitasking.
Multitasking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If you swear by multitasking, consider the following multitasking-related facts:
- Only 2.5% of people can effectively multitask.
- Multitasking requires you to continually shift your attention between tasks, which can lead to mistakes and lost time.
- Chronic multitasking can lead to chronic stress thanks to information overload
Whether you multitask in your business, free time or both, you may want to reassess. Multitasking can increase stress, mistakes and the time you spend on tasks. And that means your time management takes a dip.
For better time management, avoid multitasking. Stay on one task at a time. You can try turning off notifications (e.g., Slack) to help limit distractions and the risk of multitasking. Not only can cutting out multitasking help prevent burnout and stress, but it may also boost your ability to learn information.
5. Delegate tasks.
Delegating tasks can help you save time, true or false? True! But according to one common excuse, most people refuse to delegate because they say they’re too busy. So in reality, you’re probably too busy because you’re not delegating.
You hired your employees for a reason. Don’t be scared to delegate tasks to them to free up your time, encourage autonomy and grow leaders.
By delegating tasks, you save time and energy for responsibilities you can’t delegate (e.g., meeting with investors). And that way, you can cut down on your daily to-do list and save yourself unnecessary stress.
Yes, letting go can be hard. Your business is your baby, after all. But by delegating, you can boost your time management skills and give yourself more time for high-level tasks.
6. Automate manual tasks.
More than 40% of workers spend at least 25% of their workweek on manual, repetitive tasks. Do you? And if you do, have you considered the time you could be saving through automation?
The following are just some of the manual, repetitive tasks you may have:
- Data entry.
- Payroll processing.
- Email marketing.
- Invoicing customers.
To streamline these tasks and help you better manage your time, you might consider using software (e.g., accounting software, payroll software, email marketing software). For example, with the right software, you might reduce your manual payroll processing time to under three minutes.
What’s the one habit you swear by?
So now, let’s turn the tables. Consider the one habit you have in your work life, personal life or both that you swear by for success.
Does time management have anything to do with it? And if not, can better time management give your go-to habit for success a boost in any way?