Are you a slave to your business? Are you spending way too many hours a week working? Has your small business taken over your life and left little time for anything else? Here are seven time management tips for small business owners that will let you work less without putting your business at risk.
Has your business gotten out of hand? Did your dream business turn into a monster that’s running you ragged? Are you working nights and weekends to keep work flowing and get caught up with billing and other paperwork? If your business is beyond the startup stage, it’s time to reclaim your life.
Working 70 hours a week isn’t good for you, or for your business. Despite your fears, your business won’t fall apart if you work less and enjoy yourself more. Here are seven ways you can put more time in your life without jeopardizing the success of your business.
Send your ego out for a long hike. When you grow a business from the ground up, it’s easy to believe you’re the only one who can do what you do. But even if your business relies on some unique skill or talent only you possess, there will still be things you routinely spend time on that someone else could do or be taught to do. You can work less and spend more time growing your business by delegating or outsourcing work to someone else.
Keep a time log for at least a week. Write down each task you do. Be sure to note each time you start and stop each task. At the end of the week, analyze the log. Make a list of each activity you performed, how long it took, and how often you got interrupted. Your analysis will help you identify the specific tasks that could be delegated and also help you identify the leading time-wasting activities in your week.
Eliminate time-wasters. Do your employees ask you questions or chit chat when you’re trying to get things done? Have them save up their questions and bring them to you all at once at a set time in the day to reduce interruptions. Do you have customers or friends who frequently interrupt your work day to talk about non-important matters? If you have employees, have one of them answer all incoming calls and screen out those calls you don’t want to take or don’t need to take right away. If you don’t have employees, use caller ID and screen calls. Better yet, set a specific time of the day to handle most of your calls, and let calls at other times of the day go to voice mail.
Train someone else to do all or part of what you do. If you can train someone to do all or part of what you do, you can spend more time planning and marketing the business. In addition, if you should have an accident or get sick, the business won’t fall apart. There’ll be someone else who can take over for you until you recover.
Manage customer expectations. Let your customers know what your hours of operation are, when they can expect to receive their order (or how long their project should take to complete). This information can be provided on your website, in your sales literature, in contracts or letters of agreement, or at the time of order if orders are taken on the phone or in person.
Limit the number of times you read your email each day. Stopping to read email every 5 or 10 minutes distracts you from other activities and wastes time. For most business owners there shouldn’t be any email that’s so important that it can’t wait for three or four hours to be read and answered (if a response is even needed.) Set a specific time (and time limit) for reading email, and stick to it. You’ll get a lot more done the rest of the day.
Stop micromanaging your employees. If you have employees, don’t scrutinize every little thing they do or how they do it. Give them the instructions and guidelines they need, and then stop looking over their shoulder every 10 minutes. Once they’ve been working for you long enough to know the job, let them handle routine problems on their own, too. If a customer has a question or complaint, the employee should be able to take care of it without having to get your input on the situation.