How To Manage Time More Effectively - 9 Tips for Entrepreneurs
We all have the same 24 hours in a day to utilize. However, you may have noticed that other entrepreneurs seem to accomplish so much more than you feel is humanly possible. No, they do not have the miraculous power to slow time. Rather, successful business owners have learned how to manage time more effectively, making better use of each day.
As an entrepreneur, maximizing your company's time may seem like a daunting task. After all, time is one of the most important, yet least controllable resources. However, you can conquer this responsibility and learn how to manage your precious time in a more productive way. Implement these nine, simple solutions to successfully complete more tasks in less time than ever before.
How To Manage Time More Effectively
- Perform a Time Audit
- Prioritize and Delegate Tasks
- Plan Ahead
- Schedule Everything
- Allow Daily Personal Time
- Automate and Batch Responsibilities
- "Eat The Frog" First
- Implement the Two-Minute Rule
- Manage Your Attention
1. Perform A Time Audit
The first step to making better use of your time is to pinpoint where your time is actually spent. Discerning wasted versus productive time can help you realize what tasks or distractions are filling your day. For example, you may think you only spend 30 minutes per day checking and responding to emails when, in reality, it takes a lot longer.
To conduct a time audit, track each activity you perform, and honestly record it in a ledger or spreadsheet. Organize the document with categories such as task name, estimated task time, time actually spent on the task, and task importance level. Include everything you do in a day, even things like checking your cell phone, browsing the web, or talking to coworkers. You can also use an automated program, such as RescueTime, Toggl or Calendar. These applications will track your activity and prepare a report, indicating exactly what tasks are stealing your precious time.
The more accurately you record and track where your time goes each day, the greater the chance you have to improve it. Utilize the information you acquire to implement the next tips more effectively and eliminate time-wasting activities altogether.
2. Prioritize and Delegate Tasks
At first, many entrepreneurs find it difficult to delegate significant company responsibilities. However, prioritizing critical tasks and saying "no" to less important ones allows you to better utilize your time and more effectively accomplish your activities. Further, hiring and training employees to handle semi-important tasks is an investment well worth the time and effort you expend doing so.
Once you have compiled a list of your most time-consuming tasks, organize the items based on importance. Identify critical and urgent tasks, semi-important urgent tasks, and non-important non-urgent tasks. Choose only a few of these most crucial tasks as your responsibility. Then, delegate the appropriate semi-important and non-important tasks to others.
If you find that you are spending too much time simply delegating responsibilities, consider hiring an assistant to assign the tasks for you. This way, you eliminate unnecessary distractions and can remain focused on only the most important tasks.
3. Plan Ahead
If you wake up in the morning without a plan of action for the day, you may find yourself working aimlessly, completing trivial tasks, simply because they manifest in front of you. For that reason, to increase morning productivity and better use your time, create a plan in advance.
At the end of your workday, reorganize your workspace. To avoid setting yourself up for distraction the next morning, tidy your desk and office. Then, create a list of three or four highly-important tasks that require completion. Use a sticky note, electronic reminder, white-board message, or anything else that will capture your immediate attention. You can even take a few minutes to locate any paperwork, supplies, or items necessary to the completion of the tasks. That way, you can come into your office the next day, sit down, and get right to work on the most important activities, without wasting any time.
4. Schedule Everything
Creating a schedule fosters an increased sense of obligation, even if it is just between you and your calendar. However, this heightened accountability drastically reduces the wasting of time on frivolous tasks. In fact, creating and sticking to a time frame for each activity elicits a competitive mindest; subconsciously trying to "beat the clock," will help you avoid procrastinating. Plus, jotting down responsibilities ensures perfect recall, and eliminates the possibility of misremembering important details, further increasing productivity and effectiveness.
To derive the most benefit from a schedule, utilize any form of organization you prefer. Many entrepreneurs find that an electronic scheduler, like Google Calendar, contains exceptionally helpful features. However, if you function more effectively organizing your day on a hard-copy, feel free to utilize a day-planner or appointment book.
When scheduling tasks of substantial size, break them down into simpler steps to keep organized and focused. In this way, checking items off of a list increases your motivation to accomplish the full project. Plus, when inevitable distractions arise, you can easily refocus by pinpointing where to pick back up, better managing and utilizing your time.
Take caution when scheduling tasks directly after one another. This often leads to burnout and frustration. Moreover, responsibilities that run over-schedule can cause you to miss calls or appointments. To avoid this irritation, schedule "buffer" time in between each task. This can range from 10-30 minutes, depending on the task itself. Doing so allows some flexibility in your day so you remain focused, calm, and relaxed. Plus, if you don't need to utilize this scheduled "buffer" time, you can always gain a headstart on your next task!
5. Allow Daily Personal Time
Scheduling "me time" within your hectic schedule may seem counterintuitive. However, a few minutes of scheduled downtime leads to increased productivity later on. After all, our minds need time to recharge. Entrepreneurs who expend themselves beyond normal limits often waste more time with frustration, headaches, boredom, and lethargy.
On the other hand, allocating a small amount of personal time each day helps to refresh your imagination, reduce distractions, and decrease stress. Taking a few minutes from your busy workload to stretch your muscles, go on a walk, or have a short phone call with a friend increases your energy and helps you refocus afterward. That way, you can go back to your work with renewed vigor and motivation.
Along these lines, attempt to take some time to eat lunch away from your work desk whenever possible. Even if it is only a ten-minute break, letting your mind rest, away from your work, while you refuel helps to avoid that four-in-the-afternoon slump! Thus, in order to manage your company's time more effectively, it is crucial to schedule some personal time, too.
6. Automate and Batch Responsibilities
While researching how to manage time, likely you have stumbled across the phrase, "work smarter, not harder." The term is said to have been coined in the 1930s by Allen Morgenstern while attempting a work simplification program for his company. Thankfully, almost a century has passed, and we have ample technological resources available to do just that: simplify business.
Instead of spending hours manually laboring over tedious tasks (or paying others to do them) use technology to your advantage. Carefully review your company's functions and determine what processes require large amounts of effort and time. (You can utilize your time audit from step one for this!)
Then, conduct some research to see what programs are available to automate these tasks. Consider applications that handle organizational matters, analytics, streamlining of interoffice activities, workflow systems, or data storage programs. You may need to do some investigating to find appropriate applications, but the time spent doing so is trivial compared to what you will save after automating these time-consuming processes.
For tasks unable to automate, consider reorganizing your schedule to batch similar responsibilities together, instead of spreading them throughout your day. After all, different tasks require different ways of thinking. Your focus shifts from task to task, depending on the requirement of it. For example, instead of taking calls and responding to emails as you receive them, set aside a half-hour at the beginning and end of your day to address them. By batching tasks together, you save time otherwise spent on refocusing and getting back "in the zone."
Plus, adding a level of automation and eliminating the refocusing time for manual tasks greatly reduces issues resulting from human error. That way, you have fewer problems to mend, saving additional time that you can spend elsewhere.
7. "Eat The Frog" First
Mark Twain once stated, "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And, if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first." Slightly gross, yet very illustrative, Mr. Twain's point is clear: tackle your largest, most-challenging tasks first.
How exactly does this method help you manage time better? For starters, most people typically have higher energy levels in the morning. Further, your focus is stronger when you have a fresh mind and a clear head, which, typically, doesn't result from sitting at your desk all day long. Therefore, by attempting your most daunting task first thing in the morning, you will complete it more effectively and in less time than waiting until the end of the day to do so.
Then, once you have completed a large task, the feeling of accomplishment will encourage you to continue working hard throughout your day. After concluding your most important activity, the rest of your "to-do" list will seem simpler in comparison. This means that you will spend less time procrastinating tasks and have more time to effectively spend elsewhere.
8. Implement The Two-Minute Rule
One of the most significant causes of wasted time is procrastination. Sometimes, this is attributed to distractions or unrealistic timeline views. However, more often than not, procrastination is caused simply by the lack of desire or direction to begin a task. To combat procrastination once and for all and make better use of your time, implement this simple two-minute rule.
When you feel you are delaying a task, or have no clue where to begin, set a timer for two minutes and devote that short time to the project. It doesn't matter where you begin; jump right to the middle or start at the end first. Whatever you do, just spend those two minutes diving into this task. More often than not, this brief time-period helps you overcome your hesitation and opens the way for you to begin working. You will be surprised at just how quickly those two minutes go, and how much you can accomplish without delay.
Remember that this short period isn't for the completion of the whole task, of course. Rather, the two-minute rule helps you overcome procrastination and reinvigorates your interest in the project. You don't need to waste any more time figuring out where to start; simply set your timer and get down to business.
9. Manage Your Attention
Though learning how to better manage your time is a good start to increased productivity, do not overlook the power of managing your attention, too. In fact, the implementation of beneficial time management skills requires a proactive change in attitude. This positive transformation of more effectively controlling your attention directly increases focus when completing daily tasks. Think of it this way: the more intentionally you act enhances the quality of your work, saving you the time of having to fix or update things later on.
These days, one of the largest strains on concentration is the availability of media to petition for our attention at all times. This often results in a phenomenon considered "half-working," such as checking your cell phone while in a meeting, listening to an online video while composing a document, or perusing through your email inbox while on a call with a client. When multitasking, you are unable to give your full engagement to either task, so both end up taking longer than they should. Strive to eliminate distractions and train your mind to focus intentionally on just one task at a time.
How To Manage Time More Effectively
As an entrepreneur, you have the amazing ability to make a real difference in the world. However, to be successful, you have to make the best use of your resources - especially your time.
Despite the many sources vying for your attention each day, it is possible to effectively use your time and tackle every task on your to-do list. You don't need more hours in a day, you just need to implement the nine steps above to manage your time successfully. Once you make the necessary changes, you can accomplish tasks more effectively, and have additional time to spend where it really matters.