8 Time Management Tips for Small Business Owners: Boost Your Productivity
Small business owners are often tasked with playing many roles within their company (if not all the roles). You’re the CEO, human resources manager, customer support professional, IT coordinator…the list never ends. That’s why time management is so important—not just to ensure the business keeps humming but also to allow room for small business growth.
How can you best manage all the duties and distractions that occur daily and still maintain a positive work-life balance? Here are some tips to consider.
Secrets for Creating More Time (and Productivity) in Your Business Day
1) Beware of the multitasking myth.
Research says true multitasking is impossible and takes more time than if a person is focused solely on one task at a time. According to some experts, multitasking is the antithesis of time management. Neuropsychologist Cynthia Kubu, PhD, of the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, says humans are designed to be “monotaskers” and that trying to do too many things at once reduces productivity, efficiency, and our ability to learn.
It also raises the risk of making mistakes. In business, that’s never a good place to find yourself. In my early days of composing and deploying email marketing campaigns, there were times when I wasn’t intently focused on a particular element of the email (copy, email list, day/time). The culprit? Multitasking. Thankfully, I typically caught the mistake during the email marketing test review. Yet, you can see how that process suddenly took nearly twice as long. I regretted losing the precious time I could not recoup.
Today, I’ve learned to be better about attempting to multitask, and it’s made a significant difference in time management and productivity. It’s not always easy, especially when a really critical sporting event is on the TV in the background. We all know the “Big Game” is coming up, and it’s been a tough distraction for me to endure throughout the last weeks of the NFL season and during the playoffs. (Don’t even get me started on Dodgers baseball…)
Here’s my advice: If you want to watch a game-changing portion of your favorite event, take a moment of quiet to recenter, or actually sit down to eat lunch—give yourself a gift, put your work aside, and do it!
2) Consider implementing a project management tool.
There are many free project management (PM) tools available. Some popular ones include monday.com, Notion, Airtable, and Teamwork. Each has its own “best for” application for time management, per a Forbes summary. For example, the Forbes article says Teamwork is best for milestones while monday.com is better suited for brainstorming. These tools can be helpful for organizing your day/week/month, offering a structured portal for to-do lists, communication between team members, and small business goals.
The one piece of advice I would offer is to be cautious about how much time such a tool will ultimately take out of your day. That is, will it really be a “time management” promoter? If you’re not a PM-tool kind of person, and it will incur more work than it’s worth, it may not be the best route for you. Project management solutions are often best utilized in a multi-departmental company where there are multiple teams/team members working on different projects across the company’s services. For a solopreneur, paper and pen task tracking might be the right choice!
3) Explore any processes that could be automated—or at least reduced.
The thought of “automation” can be both tempting and frightening. You want to be able to offload some work, but there’s always the chance the automation mechanism will fail. The good news is, the technology and processes behind automated marketing and business tools have improved dramatically over the past few years.
For instance, email marketing platforms/providers allow you to set up emails and schedule for future deployment (e.g., MailChimp, Constant Contact). There are social media tools that allow you to do the same (Sprout, Later, Hootsuite, Hubspot). Set aside a chunk of time (no multitasking!) and create a bundle of emails or social media posts and then get them loaded and scheduled to deploy/post at a later time or date. By dedicating a truly-focused period of time to this activity, you free up hours to focus on other small business operations.
If you have the bandwidth—and the need for timely customer support—there are also automated customer service options. Of course, you’ll want to thoroughly vet any vendor in this regard as your customers are the foundation of your business. A poor customer service experience can leave you with one or more lost patrons.
4) Think about outsourcing certain tasks that don’t need a lot of micro-managing.
Again, it’s sometimes unsettling to think about giving up control of portions of small business operations. You are, after all, the visionary who has put in the blood, sweat, and tears to make your company a success.
Yet, there are certain time-consuming tasks that could be weighing you down and preventing your business from growing. Think about this: Would it take 30 minutes to update a teeny-tiny thing on your website because you need to be tech-savvy? Someone who is adept at this could do it in a sixth of that time. Or, do you wrestle with financial reports because you’re a right-brained creative? Hiring a bookkeeper or accountant may free up an invaluable amount of time.
Sites like Upwork and Fiverr offer affordable options, but you can always lean into word-of-mouth recommendations from colleagues who have had excellent experiences with the professionals they have outsourced to.
5) Don’t be afraid to silence your notifications.
It’s okay to hit pause! We don’t always have to be “on” or available. Often, that ding of an instant messaging notification or new email gets you off track—whether you’re working on marketing efforts or any other task.
Certainly, there are times when you want to be keeping an eye on notifications—particularly if it’s something timely. Maybe you’re facing a deadline or you’re expecting to hear from a high-profile client.
My (personal) recommendation is to learn to set expectations. If you condition clients/customers that you will be available 24/7, it’s difficult to break that pattern. If one of your employees comes to assume you’ll be answering an email at midnight, that’s also hard to reverse. By establishing those expectations and boundaries up front, you’ll help avoid unfulfilled expectations down the road. Plus, you’ll preserve that ever-important work-life balance.
6) Only create “to-do” lists if they work for you.
Sometimes, looking at a running list that has nothing fully completed causes more stress. I can attest to this! I’m a pen-to-paper kind of gal, and I always have my notebook within reach. At times, it provides structure to my day and week. Other times, it serves as a reminder that I have not been as productive as I should have been—which generates anxiety and stress.
I’ll admit, I’ve written tasks down that I have already completed, just so I can cross them off my list. In the moment, doing so provides a sense of accomplishment (and neurologically, a rush of dopamine). In the long term, that strategy isn’t sustainable. Research reported on by Harvard Business Review notes, “…not completing tasks occupies your mind: You seem unable to forget tasks you’ve started but haven’t completed, so you have a hard time devoting your full attention to other activities.”
Ultimately, if a to-do list is a great time management tool for you, use it! Just be aware of the potential detrimental effects it could have on your productivity.
7) Plan ahead as much as you can.
I really should have put this one up top, because “strategy” is one of our biggest focuses at Crackerjack Marketing. Too often, small business owners are playing catch-up. The social media post that was supposed to go up on Monday is only now just getting approved on Wednesday. It’s easy to see how the catch-up game can spin out of control.
What would it look like to have some breathing room, because you’ve strategized far in advance? This doesn’t take a lot of time and effort, once you learn some real-time, viable strategy tools to put (and keep) in your marketing toolkit. It’s one of the key components of our Business Marketing Blueprint program, which aids small business owners like coaches, consultants, and service providers in both creating an actionable marketing plan and then executing it. A plan without follow-through becomes just a plan collecting dust.
8) Be kind to yourself.
This advice is easy to dish out to others, but it can sometimes be hard to accept ourselves. We’re business owners! We need to get things done! Deadlines won’t wait!
Still, your mental and emotional health is absolutely necessary for you to be able to be the business owner you know you can be. We all go through events in life—whether good, bad, or neutral—that require us to step back and give ourselves some time to breathe, mourn, and celebrate. A family member’s illness, a personal injury, a best friend’s wedding, a child’s graduation, a Big Game win… As a small business owner, a great deal of your life revolves around business. But, you have to take care of yourself, too. Otherwise, what is it all for?
Time Management = A Boost to Your Bottom Line
Time management is, in concept, about “time.” Yet, its benefits expand beyond providing you with more hours in your day. When you can strategically prioritize your time, it allows you to progress in various aspects of your small business.
For example, innovation. You will finally have the mental capacity to truly bring your ideas to life—not just theorize them in your mind. Also, it gives you the time you need to market your business to customers and prospects. You can have the most genius product or service on the planet, but those offerings remain hidden unless people know who you are and what you do.
At Crackerjack, we often see gaps where our clients don’t. Some of them do involve time management—but there are other areas in which we provide expert guidance. If you’re feeling a little underwater, or aren’t quite sure what might be holding you back, we’re happy to help. Connect with us today and we’ll brainstorm some solutions.
In the meantime, go watch the Big Game—we hope your favorite team wins!
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