Time Management Tips for the Self-Employed

Having to wear all the hats in your business can be overwhelming. From apps that can help you get organized and work more efficiently to time-saving hacks, these tips can help you manage your time better.

Your one-person small business can feel like one of those decades-old TV shows that takes place in a small town. The mayor is also the sheriff, the gas station owner, the snowplow operator, and the preacher. You do what needs to be done because your business isn’t big enough yet to hire staff.

Or, maybe you’re a consultant or own some other type of business where it may never make sense to hire employees. How do you get everything done? We put together a list organized by different work areas.

Technology Time-Savers

Control Your E-mail- Did you know that the average worker spends 28% of their workweek on managing their inbox? That’s 11 hours of valuable weekly time. Don’t keep your e-mail open all day and don’t send any more than required. Only reply all or send to all if necessary. Sending e-mail creates more e-mail. You have more power to control your inbox than you think. Don’t discourage people from contacting you. Just be strategic about what you send.

Use an App- Having trouble organizing your schedule? Use Google Calendar. Are your files scattered and hard to get to when you’re away from the office? Use DropboxGoogle Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive. Do you coordinate with other people for clients? Use Slack or GroupMe. Other favorites for keeping organized are Evernote and Trello. There are plenty of free apps that help to keep you organized.

RELATED: Where to Find Free Calendars, Schedulers, and Organizers

Build an E-mail List. You don’t need complicated software. Low-cost options like Constant Contact allow you to keep your marketing list organized while making great looking e-mail quickly. Constant Contact also integrates with forms processors and CRMs. (Disclosure: BusinessKnowHow is a Solution Provider for Constant Contact.)

Work with Dual Monitors- Studies have shown that working with more than one monitor can increase your productivity by as much as 44%. You can hook your laptop up to a second monitor just as easily as a desktop computer. There are even options for tablets.

Cut Your Social Media Time – You can spend way too much time on your social media if you’re not careful. Instead, use a free app like Hootsuite to schedule posts on all of your social channels.

RELATED: How to Save Time on Social Media

Don’t Buy More Than You Need- You can dump a lot of money into the enterprise level CRM or accounting system but you’ll waste a lot of time trying to learn something that’s too big for your small business. You don’t need something that requires an IT person to figure out. You just need something that will grow with you.

Office Hacks

Make a Plan- What will you accomplish this week? What can wait until next week? Don’t figure things out as you go. Make a solid plan with measurable goals. You’ll be more productive maxing out one or two things instead of bouncing from task to task.

The 2 Minute Rule- Some productivity experts say that if something will take less than 2 minutes to complete, do it as soon as the request comes in. It will help to keep your to-do list from getting out of control.

RELATED: How to Increase Your Productivity

Know When to Farm Out- Some things cost a lot of money and you might be tempted to try and do it yourself. As a business owner, your time is valuable. Every minute you’re not doing whatever drives revenue for your business, that’s money out of your pocket. You tried to save money by learning to do something yourself but it took all day. You could have paid somebody less money to do it in a couple of hours. Redefine your definition of saving money.

Minimize Meetings- Of course, meetings are sometimes important but if you don’t need one, try to get out of it. Why? Because sitting in a meeting probably isn’t making you much money unless you directly charge people for your time. Communicate by phone, e-mail or messenger app. Building relationships is important, however, so be sensitive to when a meeting might serve that purpose more than productivity.

Scan—Don’t Read– A lot of people will try to communicate with you but you don’t have time to read everything. Scan for keywords important to your business to determine if it’s worth extended study.

Hire Somebody When it Makes Sense– Once your business gets large enough that you find yourself spending a significant amount of time doing clerical-type tasks, it’s time to hire somebody. If you can pay somebody a few dollars above minimum wage in your state (or even a lot more than that depending on the value of your time) to do the tasks that will allow you to spend more time on income-producing activities, that’s money well spent.

Personal Hacks

Manage Your Energy Instead of Time– In his book, The Corporate Athlete, Jack Groppel says that managing your energy is more important than managing your time. Get enough sleep, eat right, take breaks, get away from your work and do something fun, take time off, and have hobbies you love. You can have plenty of time but if you don’t have the energy to be productive, time is of little use.

Use “Lost” Time Wisely- Instead of listening to music in the car, listen to an audiobook or something else that could count as continuing education. While waiting at the doctor’s office, have a book or something business related to work on.

Wake Up Earlier- If you’re not a morning person, stay up later. If you’re working when others aren’t, you don’t have to contend with those constant disruptions.

Smarter, Not Harder- Sometimes you have to do both but productivity experts say that once you work more than 40 hours, you’re not as productive. Work harder for 40 hours and use some of those extra hours as a way to re-energize.

Bottom Line

Sometimes you just have to dig in and get the job done but resist the urge to get everything done in a sort of panic mode. Plan things, look for technology that can help and know when it’s time to take a break.

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