They say it takes 21 days to build a habit. If time management is something you struggle with, then why not take the next three weeks to turn that all around? Use these effective time management strategies to make small changes, every day, that add up to big results! You’ll have better time management in your business in no time.
Even better? Each one of these effective time management strategies will take you just 10 or 20 minutes to accomplish, so regardless of how chaotic your day-to-day life is, you can absolutely carve out room for it. And by the end of the 21 days, you’ll realize you have more time than ever before when you’ve made a real, tangible difference to your time management abilities.
Let’s get started!
Effective time management strategies for your small business…
Day 1: Assess how you feel about your time management abilities right now.
Is time management something you excel at, or are you constantly struggling to keep up with everything in your life? If you feel as though you’re decent at time management but you also have a tough time keeping on top of everything, then, spoiler alert, that probably means you could improve your time management abilities.
Yes, that includes YOU. I see you there. You’re busy. Your situation is different than other people’s. You have a 9 to 5 job while also running your own business; you have a spouse with a health issue; you have children to take care of; you have volunteer commitments.
I have to play the tough love here and tell you that the truth is, we all experience those types of things. There’s always going to be something unusual going on in your life that threatens to derail things. We’re all busy!
The good news is that no matter how busy you are, and no matter how skilled you are at managing your time, there’s always room for improving our time management skills. Frankly, effective time management is my jam. It’s something I truly excel at. But that wasn’t always the case, and even though over the years I’ve learned effective time management strategies so as to be a rockstar at managing my time, I constantly continue to discover ways to improve my time management skills!
It all begins with doing a thorough, honest assessment of where your time management abilities are at, right at this particular moment in your life… judgment-free.
Day 2: Ask yourself why you’re prioritizing one thing over another.
Being “too busy for XYZ” isn’t something external that happens to you. It’s a choice that you make to prioritize one thing over another.
So if you’ve recently found yourself saying, “I just don’t have time to do XYZ,” then you might want to take a step back and ask yourself why you’re prioritizing something else instead… and whether you’re okay with the way you’re currently prioritizing things.
It’s okay to choose to prioritize one thing over something else! It’s okay if your business isn’t your #1 priority all the time. The crucial piece here is that you are the active participant in your own life: you need to decide what you want to prioritize in your life, and why you want to prioritize something over another.
That will help you have a more realistic idea of what types of goals you should set, and what you need to do (and how long it will take) to achieve those goals.
Day 3: Identify your #1 business priority.
What is the main thing you need to focus on in your business? Now is a good time to look at your business plan and do a little soul-searching with your business and business goals.
Day 4: What are 3 things you need to do to get closer to your #1 business priority?
For example, if your main priority right now is to get more clients for your freelance business, then 3 things could include a) getting business cards, b) attending networking events, and c) connecting with past clients to see if they have additional work for you or colleagues who might be in need of your services.
Day 5: Identify ONE thing in your life that you can let go of or cut back on to make more room for your business priorities.
I know how hard this can be, but I bet there’s at least one thing you can temporarily cut back on or reduce the amount of time you spend on it, which will free up that time to spend on your business instead. Letting something go will make effective time management that much more doable.
Day 6: Identify what mindless & mindful tasks you can combine.
Multitasking really is possible! It’s about combining mindful tasks with mindless ones, so that they don’t distract from one another and so that you can still produce quality work.
For example, I love listening to podcast episodes while cleaning the house. I also love outlining my tasks for the upcoming weeks/month while watching Netflix (the trick here is to have some kind of movie/TV show in the background that you’ve already seen before, so it doesn’t distract you).
If you work from home especially, this will help you to feel like you’re not missing out on something, or that you’re “neglecting” your duties.
“Effective multitasking is about combining mindful tasks with mindless ones, so that they don’t distract from one another and so that you can still produce quality work” – @Saganlives
Day 7: Spend money on something that will save you time.
There are fascinating studies illustrating that when you spend money on time-savers rather than on more *stuff*, it actually makes you happier. So… what can you treat yourself to that will save you time?
If you need help with getting clients for your freelance business, for example, then I recommend grabbing Pitching Clients 101 (available at an affordable rate for every business). It will save you tons of time in trying to figure out how to find and pitch clients effectively!
Ultimately, what you want to do here is find something that will save you time and reduce stress. Go on—treat yourself to something that will save you a ton of time (and hey, it’ll probably increase your happiness too!) in your business.
Day 8: Organize your tasks based on day of the week.
Take a look at the schedule of your life: are there certain commitments you need to attend to on specific days of the week? That’s okay! Block off any days that you need to.
Then, check which days you’re left with to work on your business. Can you specify certain days to work on certain parts of your business?
For example, I like reserving Monday—Thursday for client work, and saving Fridays to do business admin/organization tasks. I don’t have to think as much each day about what I should be working on when I know what types of tasks different days of the week are set aside for.
Day 9: Do planning for the upcoming week.
Block off time at the beginning of every single week to outline what you’ll work on over the coming week. Try to break it down into manageable tasks: one or two tasks to accomplish every single day. That’s going to give you a sense of accomplishment as you check each one off your list, and help you to stay motivated and inspired to keep moving forward with your business.
Planning ahead at the beginning of the week (I like to do this on Sundays so I get a headstart on the week) will make you feel much more organized and confident when you sit down to start your workday.
Day 10: Choose just one activity each day as your main priority.
Try to ignore everything else in your business so that you can complete that one item and cross it off your list. Focused energies are that which can give you greater results!
I recommend using a time management software like Toggl for time tracking purposes, which can also help you to pay attention to the task at hand and stay more focused on just one thing at a time.
If you find it difficult to narrow your focus, then that’s a sign you need to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Brain-dumping has enormous benefits for your business, and can help you when you’re feeling too overwhelmed.
Day 11: Organize your tasks based on time of day.
Once you’ve chosen broadly what to work on each day of the week, now you can narrow it down farther. For example, choose a specific timeframe (such as from 11am to 11:30am) every single day to respond to emails.
This takes the decision-making out of the process. We make so many little and big decisions every single day as business owners, so why not make life easier on yourself? When you know that certain times of the day are blocked off for client work, marketing, social media, emails, admin work, etc, then you won’t have to choose between one thing and another all the time (which can be paralyzing).
Day 12: Automate something in your business.
You know how we talked earlier about the importance of spending money to save yourself time? Well, you might want to consider spending money on some kind of automation.
For example, I love using MeetEdgar* as a social scheduler to schedule posts on Twitter and Facebook ahead of time. This leaves me with more time to do other things (including connecting with people on social media in real-time!).
Day 13: Determine what could theoretically be delegated to someone else, both in your personal life and in your business life.
You will want to delegate things that you don’t know how to do, don’t like doing, or will take too much time for you to do yourself. As with anything in business, it’s important to be strategic! Choosing what to delegate, who to delegate it to, and when to delegate, is no different.
Day 14: Delegate something in your personal life to someone else.
This will free up time to work on your business. For example, can a spouse, child, or roommate take on extra chores around the house for the next couple weeks while you get systems in place for your business? Even getting temporary assistance can help you get back on your feet.
Day 15: Delegate something in your business to someone else.
You can do this even if you are a solopreneur.
For example, could you hire a VA to do something that you don’t know how to do or don’t like doing? Pssst… you could even do a skill-swap with someone if you feel like you have $0 to spend on this.
What can you delegate in your business or your life to save time and energy for the things you love to do?
Day 16: Choose a system that works for you.
At various stages in my business, I’ve used different systems for managing tasks: colour-coded post-it notes on poster paper, Asana, Word document, spreadsheet, dry-erase to-do list, Trello… The point is, different systems will work for you at different points in your business.
Find what works for you, at this particular stage of your life and business.
Day 17: Assess what you can copy and paste in your business.
For example, you don’t necessarily need to find NEW clients—you might be able to reconnect with past clients and ask them if they have work for you. Or, you might be able to repurpose content from a blog post or email newsletter on your social media. Get creative!
Day 18: Implement what you assessed yesterday.
Follow up with a past client, or copy and paste blog post content into social media posts, for example. Recycling works just as well in business as it does with your kitchen’s recycling bin!
Day 19: Set timers for what you’ll be working on.
That way, you’ll be able to stay on track and get stuff done within a specified time slot. Time-tracking is incredible for helping you to keep on top of things in your business, and when you set a timer or an alarm to go off at a particular time, then you won’t have to worry about missing any crucial appointments.
In fact, you’ll be that much more focused on the task at hand and motivated to complete it.
Day 20: Set aside time to check in with yourself at the end of each week.
Earlier, we talked about doing your planning for the week at the beginning of each week… well, I also want you to do a check-in at the end of each week.
Assess how things went for you this week, what you did/didn’t get done, and why. That will help you identify flaws in your systems and time management strategies, so you can adjust accordingly and keep moving forward.
Day 21: Find an accountability buddy.
Do you have someone else that you can check in with on a regular basis? It could be once a week or once a month. Find a business friend or a business coach—someone who will check in with you and see how you’re going, and keep you accountable to your own business.
It’s okay to need a little hand-holding sometimes! We all need that from time to time. Acknowledge that and then find someone to hold you accountable to your work
Bonus tip: Give yourself permission to be human.
The reality is that sometimes, life gets busy and we need to just let things go and take a day off for self-care. And that’s okay. Honour yourself when you need to take time away from work, and remember that—although your business NEEDS to be a top priority in your life—it doesn’t have to be a top priority 24/7.
You can occasionally give yourself a break and get some much-needed rest from your business!
At the end of the 21 days, assess how things went for you. How do you feel about your time management abilities now? Have you found these to be effective time management strategies for your small business?
Share in the comments below!
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