Time Management Strategies to Grow Your Business
With so many tasks, meetings, and deadlines on the go, not to mention constant distractions, it can be a challenge to manage your time and be productive. Whether you’re a freelancer, a new entrepreneur, or maintaining a side hustle, time management strategies can be a great way to stay on track and stay productive. Good time management skills can make growing your business a more efficient process and help you achieve your business goals, often without costing a dime. Instead, you’ll need diligence and commitment to practices that will save you money and, most valuable of all, your time.
So, what does solid time management look like, and how can you master it? We’ve compiled a list of time management techniques for side hustlers, freelancers, and business owners. Though many of these strategies will work for anyone, we’ve selected the best ones for each type of entrepreneur so you can grow your business and thrive without burning out.
Time management strategies for side hustlers
As a side hustler, you’re likely working a lot of extra hours as you grow your business outside of your full-time job, and may find it challenging to get things done. Cultivate great time management skills as a side hustler with these tips:
Set an intention for each day
When it comes to time management as a side hustler, it’s important to start your day with a clear focus. Though it can be difficult to predict exactly how your day is going to turn out, it helps to set an intention so you have something to work towards. You can say this intention aloud, or write it down in a journal or a day planner at the beginning of your day or at night before you go to bed. For example, you might set a daily intention of getting an upcoming project completed or of contacting one or two new clients for potential work.
Try to keep your intention achievable and reasonable, keeping in mind that you’re also committed to a full-time gig in addition to your side hustle. Making an intention that is short-term enough to complete within the time you have for that day will ensure you don’t feel too overwhelmed.
Also remember that it’s completely fine if you don’t fully achieve your intention, as challenges come up and you’re often pulled in many different directions as a side hustler. Accept that you’re not perfect and not in control of every detail of the day, and just try not to lose sight of your daily intention as you go through your tasks for the day.
Plan around your most productive times of day
Are you an early riser, up and ready to go in the morning? Or are you more of a night owl, working away once the sun goes down? Identify what your most productive time of day is and plan your tasks around these times so you’re more likely to get them done. Schedule high-value activities for your most productive times, and less important tasks for later in the day, or early in the morning when you have less focus. This way, you’re setting yourself up for success and have the brain power needed to do deep work.
Also keep in mind that with some practice, it is possible to train your brain to be more productive in the morning or in the evening, particularly if these times work better for your schedule. If you find yourself burned out from late nights or too busy for early mornings, consider trying to switch up your most productive time of day.
Try using a timer to stay on task
Though it might seem old fashioned, a timer can be a great time management strategy, helping you stay on task throughout your day. Pull up the timer on your phone and set aside 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour to work on a task on your to-do list. Use the timer to focus on one specific task for a set amount of time, and aim to get it done before the timer goes off. This time management strategy is particularly valuable if you are juggling a lot of tasks and are prone to procrastination.
You can also use a timer to set breaks during the day where you stretch, walk around, or have a snack. This way, you can avoid getting too far into a task and mismanaging your time throughout the day.
Time management strategies for freelancers
One of the benefits of being a freelancer is you work on your own time and schedule, free from the 9 to 5 grind. But that means you might struggle with staying on task, especially when faced with deadlines and a long to-do list. We’ve got freelancers covered with these time management strategies:
Create a dynamic task list with high-value activities
A dynamic task list is a one that you update frequently throughout the day. Having a dynamic task list, rather than a static one, will ensure you keep your productivity top of mind and also gives you an opportunity to adapt to any challenges as they come up. Once you make your daily task list, revisit it often and adjust it as needed, putting high-value activities further up on the list.
High-value activities are important tasks you need to get done. Though it might be tempting to put easy, nice-to-have tasks higher on your list, try to complete those high-value activities first. This is key to practicing good time management.
For example, you might have a task list with a high-value activity like preparing for an important meeting with a new client, along with other less time-sensitive items. Before you know it, you find yourself pulled into a discussion with a supplier about a different project or get a text about going for lunch with a work friend. To maintain good time management, rework your task list to accommodate these changes, keeping the high-value activity of preparing for your meeting at the top so it gets done.
Invest in time management tools
When it comes to making to-do lists and task lists, you might struggle with writing everything down or juggling too many notes in your day planner. You might also be stumped on how to keep up with your many projects and practice good time management day-to-day. Enter digital time management tools like computer programs and smartphone apps that make organizing your calendar much easier. Adding one of these options to your toolkit can save you hours of time, and streamline your task lists to make them more manageable.
There are several free project management programs you can download to your computer or smartphone, including Toggl and Airtable. The free versions of these programs give you access to a smart calendar and customizable task lists, which you can update on the go, making it easier for you to track your projects and your to-do list.
If you’re juggling a lot of clients or a high number of projects, you may decide to invest in a project management tool with a monthly fee, like Asana, Trello, or HoneyBook, to help you stay organized and manage your time better. These tools have features custom made for freelancers.
Limit distractions and interruptions
Tuning out distractions is a key time management skill, especially these days. With distractions like social media, email, and the internet, it’s easy to spend a lot of time not tackling your to-do list. To limit distractions, consider putting your phone on silent or do not disturb. You could also leave it in a drawer or in another room so you can focus on the task at hand.
If you work from home or in a co-working space, you may also struggle to limit interruptions when you work, such as meetings or casual chats by the coffee machine. To address these interruptions, close your office door at home or put on headphones to let others know you are focused on work. You can also set aside time in your shared calendar for focus time so colleagues or coworkers know when you are unavailable.
Get comfortable with saying “no”
Often in the business world we think we have to always say “yes” to everything, especially as a freelancer trying to get a career off the ground. But it’s just as valuable to get comfortable with saying “no” to projects you don’t have time to take on or tasks that aren’t part of your job. Rather than be the “yes” person, embrace being the person that sometimes says “no” to tasks that you are too overwhelmed or busy to commit to.
This can help you be more efficient with your time and focus on completing the tasks you’ve already committed to. It will also open up a world of possibilities, as it can free you up to take on other tasks or projects you do want to do, when you are available.
Time management tips for business owners
As a business owner, you have to wear multiple hats and juggle a lot of different tasks at once. Be more productive as a business owner with these time management tips:
Rank your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks
Start by listing all of the tasks related to your business, from administrative work to branding to client meetings. Then, group these tasks into daily tasks, weekly tasks, and monthly tasks. Think about which tasks you do once a day versus once a week or once a month, and place them into three different lists. This way, you can prioritize your tasks based on their frequency and manage your time to ensure you complete your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.
Breaking down your tasks this way can help you feel less overwhelmed and boost your productivity on a consistent basis. If you have a day planner or a digital calendar you use, add these tasks in so you remember to complete them.
Break large projects into manageable pieces
Have a large project that seems impossible or too much to handle at once? Sit down and break it up into smaller pieces that are easier for you to manage and complete. Set milestones for each small piece so you can work one piece at a time. This way, you can address the big picture at a manageable pace, and get things done.
For example, you may have a major project for your business that involves travel, budgets, meetings, and a large promotional event. Break the project up into smaller tasks and tackle them one at a time, in order of priority. If you’re using a project management tool, you could even create a project plan that includes every piece of the project that you have to complete so it is easier to manage.
Though you might feel like you’re being pulled in every direction at once as a business owner, try to avoid taking on many different tasks at the same time. Being a multitasker may seem productive, but you often end up doing a mediocre job at a lot of tasks, or worse, become so overwhelmed you never complete any of them. Instead, tackle one task at a time, working solely on that one task until it is completed. Working task by task actually allows you to manage your time better and smarter, with a focus on seeing each thing through to completion.
Don’t fall into the trap of multitasking when you practice time management. Go for a task to task approach instead. Your to-do list (and your brain) will thank you.
Delegate work to others when possible
Though you might be used to doing everything yourself as a business owner, sometimes it’s worthwhile to step back and realize when you’re overwhelmed to the point where you need some help. If you have colleagues, employees, or other supportive folks around you, don’t be shy about delegating work you don’t have capacity for to them. Ask them if they would be willing to take on tasks that you feel comfortable passing off or that better fit their skill set.
Delegating tasks to others does not make you seem disorganized or unprepared— it actually shows your strength as a leader and as an entrepreneur. And most importantly, delegating helps you to get tasks done and better manage your time.
Review and recharge regularly
Once you have adopted a few of these time management strategies, review their effectiveness and adjust them as needed. Check in at the end of the day to determine which time management techniques are working for you and improving your productivity. Review your approach to time management regularly so you can grow as an entrepreneur, and get the most out of your day.
And don’t forget to recharge by taking a break from your workflow to avoid burnout and become overwhelmed. After all, recharging is part of good time management: you can’t get much of anything done if you’re working too hard with no breaks and wearing yourself out.
With this list of time management strategies, you’re hopefully more equipped to be productive and to grow your business as a side hustler, a freelancer, or a business owner––able to work smarter and better to achieve your business goals.
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