Time management is vital when you own a small business. The 9-to-5 work day disappears and you end up doing whatever it takes to reach your goals and milestones, even if it means making sacrifices and working around the clock.
There’s always the temptation to work more, sell more, make more — but there are so many competing priorities you can and should be making time for.
Good time management means balancing business operations with making time for yourself outside of work. It’s a real struggle for many small business owners.
Owner and operator of VERVE Candles, Brooke Gallard admits she still finds it difficult to maintain a work-life balance without saying no to job opportunities.
“I am still learning how to stop myself from taking on too much sometimes. It is not unusual for me to be up working until midnight while my family sleeps,” says Gallard.
If you want to give more consideration to time management, here are some tips to stop things falling off your to-do list:
1. Organise your tasks
The reality of having competing priorities is that some things will need to wait. You may have trouble setting those priorities until you’ve jotted them all down.
“I think the key is to make sure you try to answer calls, emails, messages and enquiries as soon as you can. Keep a record book or diary to remind yourself what needs to be completed,” she says.
Once you’ve done that, you can consolidate your tasks into a single list to give you greater visibility of your workload, ensuring top-level objectives come first. Prioritisation can be a tricky business when everything’s important.
If you do find yourself falling out of rhythm, consider the wisdom of ‘eating the frog’ — or, in other words — getting the difficult tasks out of the way first.
2. Define your resources
Ask yourself, ‘How much time do I have?’
The reality of owning and operating a small business is that it forces you to become a jack of all trades. This calls for you to invest some agility and effort into time management.
Many small business owners are constantly juggling multiple and varied priorities. It’s often a toss up between what to take on, turn down or hand over.
Gallard says taking a step back can be the best way to move forward in certain circumstances.
“You can manage your time by either multitasking and using your work time more effectively, or you can hire help when you feel snowed under.”
3. Manage expectations
You can either run your business reactively with whatever little time you have, or you can manage your time more effectively to maximise output.
Time is one of the most important resources a small business has: it’s important that you be honest with yourself and with customers if you’re feeling the pinch.
Start by adequately managing customer expectations. What you promise and what you deliver are two very different things: the latter can make or break relationships for small businesses.
Gallard says communication with customers is particularly important for managing expectations on larger projects.
“I try to base the finished project on the worst case scenario so the customer does not get upset if deadlines cannot be made.
Sometimes there are factors out of your control which can hold things up, so addressing the problem as soon as possible works best. Sometimes things need to be negotiated.”
Something to keep in mind
To sustain a healthy work/life balance, blocking out time for your personal interests is vital. You can use any extra time you find to broaden your network, work on a project, look for new ideas or simply relax.
Not only is a healthy balance essential to living a rich and meaningful life, it’s a great way to get your business on the front foot.
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