One of the most common complaints I get from entrepreneurs and small business owners is that they don’t have enough time to deal with their daily tasks. With daily routines like answering calls, responding to emails, meeting with clients, dealing with suppliers and managing projects, your day can easily pass by with you feeling that you have not accomplished anything you set out to accomplish in that day.
If you always feel behind and pressured for time, it’s time to sort out your time management skills, you’d be surprised how much you can accomplish in a day when you organize yourself and your daily tasks.
Here are 7 practical tips you can use today to better manage your most valuable asset, your time.
1. Invest in your time management skills
I put this one first because of its importance. While this article has tips that will help you organize your time and reduce clutter one way or another, it is by no means a complete or elaborate resource on time management. On the long run, you should invest in a good time management book, audio book or seminar, whatever you feel more comfortable with.
As an entrepreneur, your time is truly your most valuable asset. How you manage that time and monetize it, will greatly influence the amount of work you can get done and consequently, how successful you can be in your line of business. If you need to improve your time management skills, get out there and get the help you need.
2. Organize your workspace
It’s very difficult to get organized if you have stuff all over the place. We’ve all been there, the client calls and you write important notes on a piece of paper while you’re on the phone. Next day you need to write a proposal and spend half an hour looking for that piece of paper, you can’t find it with all the other papers scattered on your desk or in the drawer. How embarrassing would it be to call the client again and ask for the same information he just gave you a day ago.
The key to get organized and reduce time wasted on finding little things is to always have your workspace organized and neat. Your mind is cluttered if you sit around clutter all day.
3. Create a system to prioritize tasks
One of the best time management tips I came across is prioritizing tasks. Many of us spend most of our day doing small tasks that are neither important nor urgent. Start your day with listing down all the tasks you need to accomplish or start on that day. Now rate each task based on two key factors, importance and urgency. Create a grid with four quadrants:
Important and urgent tasks: These are the tasks you need to work on. These are things like finishing a project on a deadline. Unless you are finished with all these tasks, don’t start any other task that falls in any other category.
Important but not urgent tasks: After following this system for a while, your aim is to minimize the tasks in the first quadrant (important and urgent) and find time to do important tasks before they become urgent. For the time being, if you have important tasks, make a note of it and clear some time in your schedule to do them.
Urgent but not important tasks: Try to delegate these tasks whenever possible. These are unimportant things that if not done, can cause problems later on, things like paying the phone bill.
Neither important nor urgent tasks: If a task is neither important nor urgent, you can just delete it from your list, there is no point doing it.
4. Know your energy levels
Different people peak at different times of the day. If you take me for example, I am most productive and creative later in the day, I’m writing this article and it is 11 pm at night. For others, they get to their peak productivity level early in the morning, or around noon. Whatever your peak time is, try to schedule your important tasks around that time so you can give it your best effort.
5. Reduce time spent on emails
With the amount of emails we get every day, they can completely disrupt our daily routine and take our attention from important tasks that need to be done on time. For this reason alone, I decided to write a completely separate article on this one, but a simple tip on email management is to schedule specific times of the day to read and respond to emails, so they don’t interrupt your line of thought throughout the day.
A good system is to read and respond emails first thing in the morning, then once by the end of the day.
6. Don’t commit to a meeting unless you have a clear agenda
People just love to have meetings for some reason. However, meetings are one of the biggest time wasters, especially if you have to commute to get to that meeting. A good rule of thumb is to never schedule or agree to a meeting unless it is clear to you what you need to accomplish in that meeting and that the meeting itself is needed. If the purpose of the meeting can be dealt with on the phone or via email, do it over the phone or email instead.
7. Capitalize on your down time
By down time, I mean those times in the day where can’t normally do your tasks, like when you are in a taxi or the metro, or in the line for a coffee. If you get email on your phone, use this time to read and answer short emails, read a few pages of that book you’ve been wanting to read or listen to an audio book. Just because you’re not in your office doesn’t mean you can’t get things done.
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