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The business owner’s guide to time management

This guide will help you understand the benefits of managing your time well, introduce time management tips and techniques, and create a time management strategy to guide you through your to-do list efficiently. 

Business owner working on time management

Day to day, we all inevitably learn that time is a finite resource. However, as a business owner, your to-do list may seem unending. With so much to do on the road to building a successful business, it’s sometimes challenging to know what should take priority and how to divide the time in each day to complete as much as possible. 

Time management is as much an art as it is a skill. Through learning, experimentation, and experience, you can uncover a time management strategy built specifically for your unique challenges as you run your business. 

In this article, you’ll gain insight into just how beneficial time management is, some tips and techniques for effective time management, and ways to begin the journey of creating your own time management strategy. 

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The benefits of managing your time well

On average, U.S. companies lose $1.7 million annually per 100 employees due to wasted time. As the saying goes, time is money. 

Of course, developing good time management skills not only prevents you from losing out on revenue but also offers the following benefits:

  • Reduced Stress: Poor time management often leads to stress due to missed deadlines, rushed work, and constant feelings of being overwhelmed. By managing your time effectively, you can reduce stress and enjoy control over your workload.
  • Improved Work-Life Balance: Good time management skills allow you to allocate time for both work and your personal life, helping you spend more time with your family and pursuing personally fulfilling hobbies and self-care. 
  • Increased Productivity: When you allocate your time wisely, you can accomplish more in less time by becoming more focused and efficient. 
  • Higher Quality Work: When you manage your time well and end up with more time for each task, you can produce better work that reflects positively on your business and builds your reputation for excellence.
  • Enhanced Creativity: Time management techniques often include scheduled breaks to clear and rejuvenate your mind. In fact, giving yourself a break to take a walk is scientifically proven to enhance creativity

Beyond these benefits, you’ll likely unearth some advantages that are unique to your own situation when you begin making proper time management part of your daily habit. 

Tips for effective time management

Whether you do so to increase business productivity, reduce stress, or strike a healthier work-life balance, begin with these tips to get the ball rolling and develop good time management skills.

Set SMART goals

You likely already know that you have to set goals to achieve them, but did you know there’s a system to help you organize how you set goals? It’s called the SMART method, and it focuses your goal-setting by ensuring that each goal is:

  • Specific: Define exactly what you want to achieve.
  • Measurable: Make sure you can track and quantify your progress.
  • Achievable: Make sure your goal is realistic and attainable.
  • Relevant: Create a goal that aligns with your broader objectives.
  • Time-bound: Set a clear deadline for achieving your goal.

Stop multitasking

Trying to answer an email on your phone while browsing an article about the economy and half-heartedly paying attention in a meeting isn’t helping anyone—especially you. Even if you feel like you’re an excellent multitasker, neuroscience says otherwise. In fact, it finds that multitaskers are wasting time by multitasking because their brain isn’t truthfully doing multiple things at once. Instead, it’s switching between the individually juggled tasks and wasting time by going back and forth. 

To truly become a master of your time, you have to fight the urge to multitask and stay focused on the task in front of you before moving on to the next. 

Use time-tracking apps

To know how to manage your time better, you have to know where it’s already going. Begin your time management journey by learning to track your time. This will help you audit your time usage and will also be useful when developing a more accurate billing and invoicing method. 

Time-tracking tools encompass more than just the start and stop buttons on your stopwatch. The best time-tracking apps are usable on multiple devices, integrate with your invoice software, and have business management tools built in, offering additional services designed for business owners. 

Schedule breaks

It’s not difficult to find research online that says your brain benefits from taking breaks. Whether you’re studying or working, taking a break from your current task and returning to it increases your energy, productivity, and focus. 

However, before you grab your phone for a social media scrolling break, know that research shows that scrolling doesn’t actually give you the mental break you need. Instead, consider:

  • Going for a walk or engaging in another form of moderate exercise
  • Meditating
  • Standing outside and just breathing
  • Stretching
  • Playing with your pet

Like your body, your brain works best when rested, so you should schedule breaks to let your mind rejuvenate.

Delegate when necessary

You don’t have to do everything yourself. In one established time management technique below, you’ll learn that certain tasks are better to delegate when possible. Perhaps you have team members to help you or can outsource some tasks like administrative work, general customer service, or scheduling. However you do it, outsourcing tasks takes work off your plate so that you can focus on the most important work that requires your attention. 

Set time boundaries

Just like allowing your brain to have a break to work more effectively, setting time boundaries for when to stop work helps ensure you’re rested for the next day. 

Setting time boundaries doesn’t just mean going home on time, though: It also means demonstrating accountability during individual and group work. This means not going overtime in meetings or during focused work. If you’re not disciplined with your time budget, then you’ll end up cutting time spent completing other tasks or getting burnt out from overwork. 

Think of sticking to time boundaries like committing to a budget. If you go over budget, you go into debt, making everything more difficult. 

Do regular time audits

Golden time—also known as golden hours—is the period when you’re most productive. If you have a vital task that requires your full capacity, you likely want to do it when you’re most productive. Knowing when your golden hours are will help you improve productivity and determine when you may need a little more motivation.

Regularly auditing how you spend your time also offers insights into which time management and productivity techniques are working for you and which aren’t. This is valuable knowledge when adjusting your time management strategy to make it as effective as possible. 

Time management techniques for increased productivity

Finding the right time management technique can sometimes be a trial-and-error endeavor, but it’s worth it. Start with these popular time management techniques, and you’ll soon better understand what type of technique can help you stay focused. 

The Eisenhower Matrix

Business leaders need to know how to prioritize tasks. There’s simply too much to do at any given moment. So, how do you decide what to do first and what to save for later? The Eisenhower Matrix divides tasks into four quadrants based on urgency and importance. It looks like this:

Urgent and important:
*Do now
– Attending to a major client complaint or issue
– Meeting a tight deadline that affects your company’s reputation
– Handling legal compliance issues
Important but not urgent:
*Schedule for later
– Strategic planning and goal setting for the future
– Initiating a proactive marketing campaign to reach a new target audience
– Researching and exploring new opportunities for business growth
Urgent but not important:
– Responding to non-essential emails
– Handling routine administrative tasks
– Dealing with minor customer inquiries
Neither urgent nor important:
– Scrolling through social media
– Browsing online retailers
– Sorting through old emails that have no current relevance

The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique technique involves breaking a chosen task into 25-minute blocks of focused work time, each followed by a five-minute break. After five rounds of this, you take a longer break—typically 15 to 30 minutes. This technique is effective because it provides a sense of urgency, a clear framework for managing your time, and helps you overcome procrastination.

The Pomodoro Technique is recognized for its effectiveness in creating increased productivity. In fact, you can find some great online timers to help you implement this technique, including YouTube videos that play in the background while tracking time for you and playing music to help you focus. 

Pareto analysis

Also known as the 80/20 rule, Pareto analysis is a decision-making tool based on the observation that roughly 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. This means 20% of your work produces 80% of your results. The trick here is identifying the 20% that you need to focus on. 

Start by evaluating your tasks in terms of their impact on your goals or outcomes. Consider both quantitative and qualitative measures, such as performance metrics, feedback, and personal judgment. Look for tasks that consistently contribute the most to your desired results. Prioritize these tasks and give them the majority of your resources.

Block scheduling

Block scheduling is a planner’s dream. It divides your workday into specific blocks of time, with each block dedicated to a particular task or activity. Here’s what that might look like:

9:00 – 9:30Do focus meditation and set today’s goals.
9:30 – 10:00Answer urgent correspondence.
10:00 – 12:00Complete and proofread permits and papers for afternoon delivery.
12:00 – 1:00Lunch
1:00 – 2:00Update those at a meeting about current delegated projects.
2:00 – 4:30Client meetings
4:30 – 5:00Answer any leftover emails.

Eat the frog

Don’t eat an actual frog, of course. The Eat the Frog technique is built on the premise that tackling the most challenging or unpleasant task at the start of your day can increase productivity and reduce procrastination. 

Invented by Brian Tracy—a motivational speaker and author of over 80 books—this technique involves identifying the task you’re dreading the most, the “frog,” and making it your first order of business in the morning. By addressing the most formidable task when your energy and focus are at their peak, you gain a sense of accomplishment, set a positive tone for the day, and reduce the temptation to procrastinate. Additionally, eating the “frog” clears up considerable mental space for other tasks and enables you to approach them without a major distraction.

Building a unique time management strategy for your business

So, how do you take all of these time management tips and techniques that someone else developed and turn them into something that works for you?

Begin with a self-assessment to lay the groundwork for a system uniquely tailored to your needs. After you’ve tried some of these tips and techniques, be honest with yourself about what worked and what didn’t. 

From there, you can continue experimenting by combining some of the things you’ve learned today. For example:

  • Use the Eisenhower Matrix to determine how you’ll block schedule your week.
  • Use Pareto analysis to determine your most fruitful tasks and then combine time-tracking apps and the Pomodoro Technique to hone your focus on these tasks for a week.
  • Try eating the frog daily and see if it makes the rest of your block schedule a little easier to swallow.

No one can tell you how to utilize this information best. You simply have to take what you’ve learned, experiment, adjust, and reflect on the effectiveness of each time management system you try. That’s how you will develop good time management skills. 

Find the right tools to reach your time management goals

A lot of business owners use tools to supplement their time management systems. A platform that offers time tracking integrated with automations and project management can help manage client touchpoints and eliminate tedious work that takes up time you could spend more productively. 

HoneyBook is just such a tool, a clientflow platform that helps you manage every client touchpoint—from communication to appointment setting, contract signing, invoicing, and even collecting payments. 

More time for fun

Automate your repetitive tasks and admin work with HoneyBook automations.

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