Managing a work calendar, for some entrepreneurs, is a full-time job. Small business owners have to be ready and willing to wear a lot of hats to grow their businesses. Being busy with projects, meetings, and deadlines means getting better about time management. If your time management skills are poor, you’ll become less productive. You’ll feel as though you are spinning your wheels rather than passionate about work, and eventually wind up with feelings of burnout.
Is there a “best” way to manage your time? Every entrepreneur will have a different answer to this question. There’s a wide variety of strategies you can employ to stay on track with the needs of your small business. Using these strategies may also allow you to create — dare I say it — spare time to work ahead. Let’s take a look at the most effective time management techniques.
1. Create A Physical To-Do List
There are more than a few apps that specialize in creating digital to-do lists. However, my personal preference is to create a hard copy version.
I draft to-do lists on Post-it Notes. Sticky notes are compact, allowing me to carry the list around anywhere I go, and stick it in prominent places like my computer or desk so I will not forget about it.
I organize my to-do list by listing priority items first and move towards lower priority assignments. As I accomplish each item on the list, I cross it off. Done! This physical act makes me feel like I have efficiently been able to accomplish the items on my agenda. By the end of the day, I can review everything that has been achieved and feel ready for what comes next.
2. Put Your Phone Away
No matter where you work or what you do, inevitably your attention span will be commanded by your smartphone. According to Deloitte’s Global Mobile Consumer Trends study, one-third of consumers worldwide check their phone within five minutes of waking up in the morning. This habit continues throughout the day — scrolling through Instagram and sending text messages when you should be concentrating on work.
Unless you plan to use it specifically for an important call that day, put your phone away. Try to limit its usage for breaks. It may take a little time for this behavior to become a habit. However, once it does it will allow you to spend more time focusing on your business.
3. Don’t Overschedule Yourself
A packed schedule has a bizarre way of looking good sometimes. Being busy makes it look like you are in demand.
That being said, opportunities can be lost along the way if you stretch yourself too thin. You may cancel a call with a potential client because you’re already “booked” for the day. An invitation to an event may be turned down because of existing commitments.
It’s perfectly fine to keep your existing plans, but try not to overschedule yourself back-to-back each day. Leave behind pockets of time where you’re free. Use this time however you feel would be most productive to you, like catching up on emails, getting a head start on an assignment, or planning ahead for future initiatives.
4. Remember To Focus On Yourself
The last person an entrepreneur pays attention to is their own self. Work comes first, and if there’s time leftover it can be used to rest and recharge. Maybe.
Work hard, and self-care even harder. Remember to focus on your health and wellness. Take a break if you’re feeling stressed out, and even when you aren’t stressed. Make it a point to exercise each day. Get at least eight hours of sleep — even if you’re running your own business — to better avoid feeling tired the next morning and relying heavily on coffee to wake you up. Eat well, and do meal prep each week to better save on time and money spent eating out. Stay hydrated, and maintain a mindset of gratitude.
Being an entrepreneur means you are pursuing your dream. Try not to forget the joy that comes with being in business for yourself.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com which provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent services, DBAs, and trademark and copyright filing services. You can find MyCorporation on Twitter at @MyCorporation.