5 Time Management Strategies for Small Business Owners
As a small business owner, you’re already constrained by scarce resources. Limited budgets, low market share, and a small workforce make it difficult for you to compete with larger organisations.
There is one resource, however, that you have just as much of: Time. And luckily, it is the most important one. Knowing how to effectively allocate time to the right tasks is the key to scaling your business and winning in competitive markets.
This article will show you how to use your greatest asset — time — as a solopreneur.
Here are our top five time management strategies for small business owners:
- Automate business processes
- Delegate tasks
- Use a task management tool
- Practice time blocking
- Take fewer meetings
Next read: If you’re looking for more ways to level up your business, consider implementing a skills matrix.
Time Management Tips
1. Automate business processes
More than 50% of respondents in WorkMarket’s 2020 In(Sight) Report said that automating tasks could help them save up to 240 hours a year.
By freeing up the time that would have otherwise been spent on routine tasks like payroll management, small businesses can focus on strategic activities — like lead generation and customer acquisition — that actually move the needle.
Up to 70% of business tasks can be automated, but most small businesses need help figuring out where to start. Don’t try to automate everything at once — start with simple, repetitive tasks like payroll and time tracking before setting up complex automation workflows for business operations and employee training and assessment.
Choosing the right automation solution is equally important. Regardless of the specific use case, your automation tool must check three boxes: Simplicity, affordability and multi-functionality.
- Simplicity means that the tool is easy to use. You’re not spending the time you would have otherwise used for the manual task execution to figure out how the tool works.
- Affordability means the tool is budget-friendly. Go for automation tools that offer the most value for the lowest prices.
- Multifunctionality means the tool can perform more than one task — like a collaboration tool that does task planning and time tracking. Multifunctionality makes automation efficient and cost-friendly because you can do more with fewer tools.
2. Delegate Tasks
Trying to own all of the tasks in your business is like cooking three meals on a single stove simultaneously. The dishes will not cook evenly — some might not even get burnt — and you’ll spend more time and energy cooking. In business terms, this translates to costly mistakes, lower productivity, and stalled growth.
Task delegation is a smarter way to run your business. It frees up time and mental space for you to focus on high-level activities — like fine-tuning operations and defining your business direction to accelerate growth.
Trust is the most crucial ingredient for successful task delegation. You need to trust that others can execute specific tasks as well as or even better than you. Next, organise your existing tasks into three categories:
- Tasks you enjoy
- Tasks you enjoy but take too much time
- Tasks you do not enjoy or have the expertise for
Delegate the tasks you do not enjoy or have the expertise for. To reduce overhead costs, consider hiring a part-time employee to take on these tasks or outsourcing them to a freelancer.
Here’s an example. Say a business owner places three tasks in the following categories:
- Tasks I enjoy: Speaking with customers
- Tasks I enjoy but take time: Managing leads
- Tasks I do not enjoy or have the expertise for: Bookkeeping and taxes
Delegating the third task is the intelligent thing to do. In that case, one might hire a part-time accountant to handle all things bookkeeping and taxes or bring in a freelance accountant during tax season to manage their books.
It’s hard to let go of certain reins of your business but doing this is a crucial part of scaling as a solopreneur.
3. Use a to-do list
As a small business owner, you wear lots of hats simultaneously — you’re the accountant, sales rep, customer service executive, and the like.
With so much to do, it’s easy for important tasks to get lost in the shuffle. Making a to-do list can help you prioritise your tasks effectively, stay organised, and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Think about this: How often has your day seemed overwhelming because you had so many things to accomplish, but after listing your tasks, you could structure your workday more efficiently? Pretty often!
Creating a to-do list is simple. You can go traditional with a pen or paper or opt for productivity and collaboration apps like Asana, Notion and Trello.
The benefit of the latter is that these tools have many features, like the ability to assign tasks to people within and outside your organisation, automatic reminders, and multiple task views, including kanban boards — all of which make task management seamless.
Once you’ve chosen a medium for creating your to-do list, follow these steps:
- First, list all the tasks you need to complete in a specific period — like a day or week.
- Next, arrange these tasks according to priority — from the most pressing to the least urgent task.
- Set deadlines. Assign due dates to each task to help you stay on track and motivate you to finish the task in time.
- Break down tasks into smaller steps. Outline what steps need to be taken to complete each task, so it is easier to manage them.
- Add the tasks to your to-do list. Your list should not have more than five tasks per workday.
4. Practice time blocking
Time blocking means breaking your work day into chunks and dedicating each chunk to a specific task — for example, dividing your work into four two-hour sessions and dedicating each session to a particular task.
Besides helping you work more efficiently, time blocking reduces decision fatigue which can be a massive problem for small business openers.
Decision fatigue is the decline in one’s mental capacity to make decisions after making many decisions in a short period. Say you have ten tasks on your to-do list; the quality of task execution starts to slip after you’ve completed half of them. However, if you keep your tasks to just a handful per day, you can focus on one task at a time, reducing the amount of decision-making you must do throughout your day.
So how do you practise time blocking effectively?
- Break your work hours into realistic chunks — like 3–5 work sessions.
- Prioritise the most important tasks and assign them to a specific block of time that works for you. For example, you can schedule high-level tasks that require a lot of mental energy for the morning hours and routine tasks for the evening.
- Break down large tasks into smaller tasks to make progress at a steady pace.
- Group similar activities, such as emails and paperwork, to focus on a single task in a given time block.
- Schedule breaks. Allow yourself some time to take your mind off work, take a walk or have a snack. This time is necessary to recharge and stay motivated.
- Add the time blocks and tasks to your calendar to stay accountable.
5. Take fewer meetings
Meetings are one of the biggest time wasters for businesses. A survey by Atlassian found that businesses spend up to 31 hours a month on unproductive meetings — that’s more than three working days!
If you’re looking to save time, your calendar is the best place to start. Generally, you should spend less than 4 hours on meetings every week — anything else and you’re wasting productive time.
Instead of meetings, try:
- Sharing a video response to questions
- Sending weekly updates via email or Slack
- Using a project management tool — like Asana or Notion — to track task status asynchronously
- Creating FAQ documents for repeated questions
If you need to schedule a meeting, set and share a clear agenda with participants, so they can brainstorm ideas and solutions ahead of time. The last thing you need is people trying to figure out what the meeting is about when they are already on the call.
Wrapping Up: Eliminate time wasters and distractions
The key to effective time management is planning.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, take some time to study your business operations, identify time-consuming tasks and find ways to optimise them. This could mean automating routine administrative tasks, hiring team members and freelancers, or reorganising your business’s workflow entirely.
Say you’re spending lots of time manually coordinating employee training and assessment; you can switch to a more efficient training software like Cloud Assess to manage this process seamlessly.
If you want to learn more about improving your small business practices, check out the following articles next:
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