If you’re an entrepreneur, one of the biggest challenges is how to manage your time. When you spend all day putting out fires, how do you get around to the really important work — the stuff that will help your business thrive and grow?
It isn’t easy, but after years in business for ourselves, we have a few best practices for squeezing the most out of every day.
Set Aside Strategic Time
You have probably heard a hundred times over “Work on your business, not in your business.” And it’s true.
When you’re crazy busy and your to-do list seems endless, the last thing you may want to do is take a timeout to check in with yourself on your big-picture goals. But this is actually perhaps the single most productive thing you’ll do all week. David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done,” the holy grail of time management for many entrepreneurs and other productive people, recommends a practice called the weekly review. During your weekly review, you check in on the status of your goals and projects and lay the groundwork for the following week. A weekly review is great for staying focused and for keeping details from falling through the cracks. We recommend doing your review on Friday so that you can enter the weekend with more peace of mind.
Batch Similar Tasks
One of our other favorite time-management strategies is to knock out a bunch of similar tasks at the same time — ideally when you’re in the right mood or the right energy level for that task. Maybe you’ve noticed that your mind starts wandering if you try to do deep, focused work in the afternoon because you’re in a more chatty, social mood in the second half of the day. That’s the time to schedule your meetings or phone calls. Batching tasks also makes you more efficient. Think about how much time you would save if you responded to email at a few set times per day instead of constantly switching between your email and other work.
Be Realistic About Your Capacity
Is it really possible to fit everything you want or need to do into your life? For entrepreneurs, this is one of the trickiest questions when it comes to how to manage your time. We tend to have lots of ideas and interests that we’re passionate about and that we hate to think of giving up. But sometimes there really just aren’t enough hours in the day to contain them all. If you have too many priorities right now, think in terms of deferring some instead of abandoning them. For example, you could decide that you’re going to focus on creating your new website now, but after it launches you’ll turn your attention to developing the online course you’ve been dreaming about launching.
A question we always ask ourselves is “What is the most important thing I can be doing NOW to secure the future of my business and my happiness?” Then we do that task next.
Establish Boundaries and Expectations
Another way to give yourself more time to do the work that really benefits your business is to more deliberately manage how you interact with clients or customers, prospects and even colleagues. In our onboarding materials, we encourage clients to collect their questions and comments to pass along during the phone calls that are built into our process vs. emailing us every time something crosses their mind. We also make sure clients know the best person for different types of questions in case they do need to email. Setting these guidelines both helps us work efficiently and assures clients their concerns will be heard.
Stop Repeating Work
Every business has tasks that keep coming up. Invest some time upfront in creating templates for your recurring tasks will pay off many times over. What can you use templates for? Here are a few ideas:
- Email marketing
- Descriptions of your products or services
- Information for new clients and onboarding
- Templates for presentations, proposals, and estimates
Upgrade Your Tools
Let’s face it: Running a business is complicated. You need more powerful tools than a paper calendar and sticky notes. The right tools will put time back in your day and help you do better work. A few of our favorites:
- Asana for project management (our personal favorite game changer)
- Harvest for time tracking
- Dropbox and Google Docs for collaboration
- FreshBooks and Bench for bookkeeping
Take Tasks Off Your Plate
Instead of trying to find time to do everything on your list, take some tasks off your list entirely. What are the ways you create value for your business with your unique skills and talents? Those are the areas to spend your time on. But then what about the other stuff – all those tasks that keep your business going but that don’t have to be done by you? Outsource as much as you can. For more on this topic, see our complete guide on hiring expert help for your business.
And if you’re looking for a trusted partner to take on marketing and branding work for you, give us a call at DesignGood. We’re all about helping you build the kind of business and life you want.