Q. Dear Zenagos,
I started my own business, and I have to do everything. I knew that I would need to work with my clients, but I didn’t know about all of the accounting, taxes, paperwork, and ordering. I have so much to do; how do you get it all done?
We hear this frequently from new business owners – “I had no idea how much work it would take to run a business.” But, that doesn’t mean they are unhappy. Most entrepreneurs love the freedom and agency of running their own show. However, they do need to learn to work much more efficiently, so they can still have a life!
Time Box Your Tasks
You have probably heard of the concept that work expands to fill the amount of time you have, an idea referred to as Parkinson’s Law. Since a small business owner’s time is so tight, you need to push back against this tendency. One time-management trick that can help is “time boxing.” Set aside a specific time to do a certain task, and discipline yourself to finishing the task in that time, no matter what. For example, if you need to write a blog post, set aside one hour to do it, and promise yourself that you will be done at the end of the hour. Push yourself to complete the task in the time box. This can save you a tremendous amount of time.
Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
At the beginning of your day, write down the things that you absolutely must accomplish that day. Be tough on yourself if you find yourself drifting to tasks that are more interesting or fun. You can’t do the fun stuff until the important things are done. One way to help yourself with this is to make time boxes at the beginning of the day (while you still have energy) for the most important tasks. Set aside tasks that aren’t important. This will improve your effectiveness.
Outsource What You Can
Pay attention to the tasks that are taking up your time. Are there things you are doing that someone else could do just as well or better? For example, are you spending hours and hours doing bookkeeping and sending invoices? You might be able to hire a bookkeeper, who could do it more quickly, get your invoices out sooner, and improve your collections. It’s important to know your strengths and outsource the things that are not your strong suit. Remember, it’s not about working harder, but working smarter.
Take Mental Breaks
Everyone needs recovery time, so make sure that you take mental breaks. If you tend to over-focus, working for hours at a time, set an occasional alarm to remind yourself to get up and move. As they say, sitting is the new smoking! Make sure that you are taking time to relax, recover, and rejuvenate.
Everyone is a little different, so not every time-saving tip will work for you, but even one helpful tip can give you back hours and make your work more efficient. Be observant about how you are spending your time, and keep working on making better decisions. If you spend your time on the right things for your business, you will improve your probability of success.
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