Time is money, as the saying goes, and small business owners can testify to the truth of it. When you’re running your own small business, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number and variety of tasks ahead of you. You may well need to serve as Chief Marketing Officer, Head of Product, CEO, HR manager, and more, all at the same time.
The only way to succeed is to make more efficient use of your time. No one can create more than 24 hours in a day, but you can find ways to get more done in the same amount of time.
With the help of the right tools and some smart tactics, SMB owners can get organized, get more done, and even reclaim their work-life balance with more efficient time management.
Some years ago, a study at the University of California, Irvine researched the impact of interruptions, and found that it takes 23 minutes and 19 seconds, on average, for someone to focus again after an interruption.
“Interruptions” don’t only refer to checking Instagram. They also include swapping from one task to another, like interrupting your design work to reply to an email. You can get a lot more done when you group tasks together and batch process them, like setting aside 30 minutes to reply to emails, blocking off an hour for making calls, or ring-fencing 45 minutes for high-level strategy brainstorming.
It might sound like a contradiction in terms, but planning flexibly is crucial for success. You need to plan on both a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, so that you can meet your deadlines and ensure that nothing urgent falls by the wayside. For example, if you have a big project that’s due by Tuesday, break it down into smaller tasks, then prepare a work schedule that ensures you and your employees can complete everything in time.
But while you plan, acknowledge the unexpected. Be ready to rearrange your timing if something more urgent crops up, or a key employee calls in sick. Platforms like online notes are great for this kind of flexible planning. You can place each task on a separate note, drag them into order, and rearrange them quickly when things change.
It’s common for SMB owners to resist using advanced technology. Sometimes that’s because they feel their business is small enough that they can manage without it, or they’re nervous that automated tools could be too expensive. But the SaaS revolution brought even cutting edge tools within the reach of every small business, so why not take advantage of it?
SaaS tools can take over many of the most time-consuming tasks that SMB owners grapple with, like preparing estimates, invoices, and receipts, calculating business expenses, or managing payroll. Then there are advanced marketing platforms that help automate email and SMS marketing campaigns, and speed up the process of creating marketing assets or landing pages.
Embracing the help of automated tools means you gain more time for tasks that can’t be automated.
When you have to hunt around for files, notes, or other business resources, you’re wasting valuable time. It might not take long when you’re just starting out, but as your business grows, you’ll find that more and more of your time gets absorbed by finding things.
Moving to the cloud can change all that. Cloud-based platforms and tools are accessible from anywhere, for you and your employees. Instead of repeatedly sending files and emails to different workers or freelancers, you can upload them to the cloud for secure storage and easy access for everyone. It’ll also save you interruptions from people asking you to resend a document.
Another advantage is that cloud documents update in real time, so you always see the most recent version of any document; a blessing for anyone who’s ever tried to work out which version of a Word doc is the most recent.
It’s a mistake to try to force yourself to follow any artificial work schedule, even if it’s what the most wildly successful entrepreneur claims powered them to riches. Everyone has different times of the day, and sometimes different times of the week, when they’re more productive.
Discover your most productive times and then plan your work schedule accordingly. For example, some people are most focused in the morning, while others find their concentration peaks only in the afternoon, or late at night. Attack the tasks that demand creativity and focus, like brainstorming new products, coming up with new marketing campaigns, or developing your business strategy, at the times when your energy and attention levels are high. Other jobs that need less input, like replying to emails or processing bills, can be left for your lower-focus times. And when you’re really out of energy, take a break instead of forcing yourself to work anyway. Working on empty is really a waste of time. Everything takes longer, you’ll be unproductive, and you won’t be able to recharge for the future.
Running an SMB can suck up all your energy and time, but when you manage your time more efficiently you can achieve more with the same resources. By automating as much as possible, using cloud-based tools, completing tasks in batches, listening to your own abilities, and expecting the unexpected, you can be more productive and power more business growth.