Time Management Skills: A Business Owner’s Best Friend
Imagine you’re having a conversation with a stranger, and they ask you what you do for a living. If you are a small business owner, it’s not likely that you are able to give a very straightforward answer. After all, answering honestly might frighten your audience, as most of us would end up saying something like:
“I am an accountant, project manager, marketing strategist, data analyst, writer, bookkeeper, public relations specialist, and barista.”
Okay, so maybe that last one doesn’t count if we’re just talking about the numerous cups of coffee all company owners need to make themselves get through the day. But the point stands that if folks who run a business or businesses are required to wear many different hats in order to make sure that everything that needs to get done will get done.
No matter what your particular hats are, there is no doubt that being able to handle such a high amount of juggling requires an impressive degree of efficiency. And at the heart of this efficiency is everyone’s favourite skill: time management.
Benefits of time management
We could endlessly wax poetic about the benefits of managing your time effectively, but we believe it is more compelling if we provide you with some concrete examples. By taking a mindful approach to time, i.e. providing yourself with a map of which tasks need to be done and when they need to be done, you are giving yourself the ability to save time, improve performance, refine your work-life balance, and boost your focus. While it may be tempting for many business owners to “take things as they come,” there are many benefits to account for their time in advance. Honing in on your time management skills will allow you to:
Improve your performance
Businesses don’t materialize out of anywhere—they are the result of hard work and dedication. However, small business owners and large business owners alike will tell you that hard work is not the only form that effort can take. Strategizing and planning are just as important of a skill to master. While this includes matters like financial planning and learning how to advertise effectively, learning about managing your time is of equal importance, even if it is less tangible.
Produce better work
It seems like basic logic to say that the better you are at scheduling, the better work you will produce. There’s a catch to this, though—you need to be realistic about how much time it takes you to complete tasks. Leaving yourself enough time to complete a task allows you to work with the goal of producing quality work instead of the goal of producing work within an unrealistic time frame.
Deliver work on time
When you provide yourself with adequate time blocks to complete your work tasks, the benefits are twofold: not only do you produce better work, but you will also increase your and your team members’ ability to stick to deadlines.
If deadlines are a problem for you and your team, there are some common reasons for this. Are you overpromising things to clients? Are you taking on too many clients or projects at once? Are you making use of productivity best practices? We know the answer isn’t that you are not capable, so it’s likely that at least one of these factors is at play.
Reduce your stress level
Reducing your stressors is not only good news for you but also for the people around you. It has often been reported that employees that report lower stress levels are on average more valuable to their organizations than employees who are stretched thin—one such study showed somewhat unsurprisingly that high work stress levels are identified with low job satisfaction. There is no way around it: well-managed workplaces make better workplaces, and this is true even if you are your only employee. And at the heart of good management is good time management, and you should ensure that your company has a good plan for time management in place before you begin to hire employees.
Boost your confidence
If you are leaving yourself enough time to do the things that you need to do, you are going to feel like you are getting more done by providing yourself with a clear timeline of what needs to be done and when then you are giving yourself more visibility and a greater sense of control. If you feel like things with your company are going well, then you are more likely to feel good about yourself and more powerful in your abilities.
Become more efficient
We know it sounds like a buzzword, but the importance of optimizing your workflow for efficiency cannot be understated. It is not always possible to adjust the responsibilities of work or life. But it is within our power to take an unfiltered look at the way we approach our everyday duties and determine if there is a way that we can free up time by approaching them differently.
Time management strategies for business owners and entrepreneurs
If you’re reading this, you didn’t just come here to hear about the benefits of managing their time wisely. You probably also want tips and resources too! Allow us to provide you with exactly that.
Heads up: we’re not here to tell you that the solution to all of your time management problems is to multitask. That would be an oversimplification of a rather complicated topic that is best addressed by taking a holistic look at what helps employees succeed. Remember, improving your relationship with something as integral as time is not going to happen overnight!
Plan your days ahead
The more time that we spend thinking about our time, the more likely we are to save time. While this may seem like reserve logic on the surface, if you have ever worked for a company of any size, it is likely that at least some of your day was reserved for planning.
Some of the most common types of planning have their roots in project management theories such as agile (including the ever-popular sprint planning), waterfall, and a hybrid system. It’s up to you and your team to decide whether you work best when planning on a bi-weekly, weekly, or even monthly basis. Different time frames will work for different people.
Break down your activities into smaller tasks
One of the most interesting studies to come out of the world of time management in recent years has been the studies around why certain tasks just seem so hard to do. You know the feeling—when you can’t bring yourself to make a simple phone call or respond to an email even though you know you know realistically it shouldn’t require a large amount of your time.
Sometimes, we feel this resistance if it’s not just about completing a simple task but about the larger picture problem that this task is related to. Some people may find it helpful to break their big picture problems into simple tasks so that they can cross smaller things off of their to-do list and encourage momentum in their day-to-day work.
Create a prioritization system
In a perfect world, we would be given the luxury of focusing on one project at a time. However, anybody who has been involved in a modern-day workplace knows that this idea hardly ever crosses over from the realm of fantasy.
While we can’t make a large number of our tasks disappear into thin air, we can provide ourselves with proverbial “blinders” that allow us to take turns focusing on the goals that require our presence of mind.
Create a long-term roadmap
Just as it is important to plan small sections of work, whether you choose to do it in sprints, weeks, or what works best for you, having sight of the big picture is also valuable. For many who run a business, this will take the place of a long-term roadmap that outlines where the company sees itself at the end of the quarter as well as the year.
If you are an employer, a long-term roadmap will also help your employees be aware of their role within the organization and can help them determine whether or not their career goals align with the future of the company. A long-term roadmap may sometimes be called a company plan or a business plan.
Just as a car cannot run continuously without being filled up with gas, the human body simply cannot work indefinitely. It is something that we all understand on a basic level—in the sense that everybody understands that they sometimes need to sleep—but if you are someone who is always excited about new projects that you’re working on, it can feel very unnatural to reach for an “off” switch. But you must.
Failing to do so, after all, can come at quite a cost. And it’s a cost that is burdened not only by your mind and body but also your work. Even the most successful business folk are the first to admit that of equal importance to hard work is rest.
Applying effective time management
Our list ends with a warning. This guidance is only as powerful as you make it. In order to fully feel the benefits of good time management, you need to make a commitment to improving best practices—and despite what you have heard, it may take more than 21 days to form a habit, which is okay. You are getting there on your own (well-managed) time.
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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.