As a business owner, you know that time is your most precious commodity. It’s a limited resource that you can never get back, and if you’re not careful, it can quickly disappear. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to manage your time effectively. In this article, we will discuss 10 time management skills that every business owner needs to know. These tips will help you prioritise tasks, boost productivity, and form habits that will benefit you both at work and outside the office.
- What Is Time Management?
- Why Are Time Management Skills Important?
- 10 Time Management Skills For Business Owners
- Final Thoughts On Mastering Effective Time Management Skills
Time management is the art of balancing time and activities to maximise efficiency while achieving your goals. Sounds simple enough, right? However, with the immense amount of ongoing responsibilities, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all.
Time management involves making decisions about how you can best use your time, setting priorities among tasks, eliminating distractions, and staying organised. When done well, effective time management also involves developing strategies for tackling complex tasks and understanding how to break them into smaller steps. While it’s particularly relevant to people in business, a finely tuned set of time management skills is also transferable to your non-work self in everyday life.
In business, the benefits of having good time management skills are plentiful. You can better keep track of what’s on your plate and meet important deadlines in an organised and efficient way.
You’re also more likely to focus on what’s necessary and reduce the amount of time spent on procrastination or on activities that don’t yield results. Ultimately, you’ll be able to make the most of your time, which benefits you, your work life and your personal life. So let’s get into them.
Here are 10 time management skills you need to master as a business owner:
- Prioritise Work
- Delegate Tasks
- Create a Schedule
- Establish Deadlines
- Avoid Multitasking
- Adopt the Pomodoro Method
- Identify & Manage Stress
- Be The Early Bird
- Take Breaks Often
- Set Boundaries
This may be an obvious but equally important first step in effective time management. Every business owner needs to be able to prioritise tasks. This means assessing which tasks are the most important and urgent and devising a plan to address them first. It’s also important to understand that not every task is equally valuable, so it can be beneficial to focus on those that will give you the most bang for your buck.
Using the Eisenhower matrix can be a useful tool for determining what should be done first, next, by someone else or what can be eliminated. Here’s an example of how to prioritise your tasks using this matrix:
Another aspect of effective prioritisation is setting clear and realistic goals for your tasks. Make sure that each short and long-term goal is achievable, measurable and aligned with your desired outcomes. This highly transferable skill of goal setting will allow you to focus on what needs to be done and stay motivated to achieve it.
Every business owner must learn how to delegate tasks. This means passing on certain jobs to employees, contractors, or freelancers who have a specific skill set to carry them out successfully. Delegation amplifies productivity and encourages adaptability in the workplace. It gives business owners more space to focus on the bigger picture and to take on more complicated, specialised tasks.
Thomas Hubbard, a highly esteemed Northwestern University Professor of Management, is a big advocate for delegation in business settings. His research has supported the adoption of delegation tactics, even when the initial outlay for it is expensive.
Take the example of a law firm employed with highly skilled associates. Delegating cases to legal associates may be costly, as they’re highly qualified and charge an expensive per-hour rate for their services. However, by doing this, the firm’s partners are liberated from mundane matters, can take on more clients and can dedicate more resources towards complex cases.
Finding the right people better suited for certain jobs within a business helps free up more time for you and results in a better balance of workloads. This is a huge skill to hone for any business owner, and one to adopt if you want to succeed.
Scheduling is another essential time management skill for business owners. Setting aside specific times in your day to focus on certain tasks will help you to stay organised and productive. Formalising your to-do list (either on paper or digitally) has been proven to decrease procrastination and is more effective than simply relying on mental or improvised lists.
Invest in a calendar, planner or notebook to jot down tasks and schedule a time to ensure they’re completed. Rather than just writing down what it is, allocate a time and date so it’s locked in. Focus on your highest priority items to maximise productivity throughout the day. Checking off each task as you accomplish it will give you a sense of fulfilment and inspire you to keep going.
Good scheduling practices also account for dedicated, scheduled breaks. Yes, scheduling breaks as if they are an appointment means you’re less likely to skip them, which in turn improves your overall productivity.
Setting deadlines for yourself and your employees is an effective way to ensure that tasks are completed on time. This helps to keep everyone, including yourself on track and motivated.
When you’ve created a deadline for an important task, have it clearly visible where you’ll see it often, preferably in your workspace. Keeping a tangible reminder in sight will encourage you to stay focused.
Create a timeline for yourself that is achievable, allowing you to accommodate unforeseen challenges that may arise. If you push yourself to finish ahead of your deadline, you should reward your perseverance for sticking to the task at hand.
You may be forgiven for thinking that multitasking is the hallmark of a high-achieving, successful individual. In fact, multitasking has the opposite effect in business and life. It may feel like you’re getting several things done, but in truth focusing on a single task yields much better results than attempting to juggle multiple activities.
Multitasking is detrimental to work productivity, according to behavioural experts and neuroscientists. Research shows that people can usually carry out novel tasks quickly and skillfully, yet they experience performance issues when attempting to multitask.
In other words, our brains are not designed to proficiently multitask. Switching between tasks that are not related is physically exhausting for the brain and requires additional attention. When we move between two unrelated tasks, our brain needs to reorient from one to the other, and neither task can be achieved optimally.
We run the risk of missing important information, losing concentration, making mistakes and completing tasks at a sub-par level. So, stick to one thing, in a dedicated time slot to maximise productivity and ensure a high standard of delivery. Single-tasking, rather than multitasking should be on your list of effective time management skills.
If you want to sharpen your time management skills in a way that’s practical and results-driven, the Pomodoro method will set you up for success. This method is a technique developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s that helps you to take the overwhelm and stress out of deadlines and alleviates poor time management. The Pomodoro method helps to cultivate self-observation and allows you to tackle tasks in short, deliberate intervals.
How to adopt the Pomodoro Method:
- Nominate a task and begin your work
- Set a 25-minute timer and focus solely on that task without any distractions
- Simply work on the task in front of you and stop working when the timer sounds
- Have a short 5-minute break
- Repeat these steps 3 more times, after which point take a longer 30-minute break
- Once you’ve had a decent longer break, return to step 2 and continue working
The beauty of this time management technique is that you’re actively building in breaks, both short and long in duration. This gives you mental checkpoints to hit and makes the whole task seem more manageable and achievable. The timer gives your brain some direction to maintain, boosting productivity in a way that almost feels like a game.
One way that the Pomodoro technique works brilliantly is for batching similar tasks. For example, if you have emails to attend to, allocate a designated 25-minute time slot to this task alone. It’s a guaranteed approach to encourage better focus, lower distractions and overcome procrastination.
When your workload is already at capacity, taking on more responsibilities can cause stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. Stress can cause reduced productivity at work, lowers your energy, impacts creativity and may affect your mood. As a result, this could have further consequences on your interpersonal work relationships.
Chronic stress can take a serious toll on your nervous system and has been shown to cause impaired cognition and changes in several areas of the brain. It’s important to find ways to identify and manage sources of stress so there are fewer negative impacts in your work life.
Stress can manifest in a variety of ways, but there are steps you can take to effectively manage it, including:
- Meditation and deep breathing
- Getting outdoors for some fresh air and sunlight exposure
- Engaging in physical activity such as exercise or yoga
- Enjoying a social life outside of work hours
- Therapeutic activities or hobbies like art, music or anything that brings you joy
Discover what techniques work best for you to help alleviate stress, which has downstream effects on your time management.
The most accomplished individuals share a common secret — they all start early to make the most of their day. Getting up with the sun gives you time to exercise, reflect on your goals and constructively plan for the day ahead.
If mornings are a struggle, challenge yourself by setting your alarm an extra half hour earlier. You’ll be astounded by how much headway you can make in that limited amount of time. Whether it’s used for goal setting, work-related tasks, eating a nutritious breakfast or something as simple as a morning yoga practice, this habit will help make the rest of the day more productive.
As mentioned previously, taking regular breaks can and should be a part of your usual schedule. However, taking regular breaks is so important, it deserves discussing in more depth. This is because taking breaks is another important, albeit less recognised time management skill for business owners and entrepreneurs.
Even with all the right techniques in place that serve optimum time management, stressful situations can still happen. If this occurs, make a point to take a short break. Fresh eyes and a clear head are sometimes exactly what a difficult task might need. You’ll feel more productive and more equipped to tackle the next job on your plate.
Furthermore, if you know a break is on the horizon, it can be easier to motivate yourself and overcome monotony while completing the task at hand. So remember to be intentional. Go for a walk or deliberately move away from your workspace, because taking the opportunity to recharge amidst a busy workday is essential.
If you’re in a position of authority at work, you’ll know what it’s like. Everyone wants a piece of you. The request for time or resources can come in thick and fast from your colleagues daily. This is where the subtle yet powerful skill of saying no and setting healthy boundaries is hugely important for anyone, including business owners.
Learning to respectfully refuse work if you’re already at capacity will ensure your workload isn’t insurmountable. What’s more, those making these requests will also learn what you can and cannot accommodate across a given day or week. Saying no is one of the most beneficial ways to protect your time and look out for yourself.
Want to know another advantage of setting healthy boundaries? A huge upshot of learning how to say no is that you begin to see opportunities in places you’d otherwise miss. In effect, you get better at saying yes to more important things, and you’ve also freed up the time in your schedule to take them on.
Once your professional boundaries are set, you can better manage your own time and maintain a level of productivity that aligns with your overall goals.
As a business owner, you know that time is money. And if you’re not managing your time well, then you’re not managing your money well.
Developing good time management skills and knowing what needs to be done in the future will help you stay on top of things. Regularly monitoring your progress is also a useful business practice, as it helps keep yourself and everyone accountable while remaining focused on what needs to be done.
Mastering these 10 time management skills is achievable and beneficial for you and your business. What’s even better, when you become more efficient and productive in your workday, you’ll free up time to live a happier, more balanced life.