Time Can Be On Your Side

By Andy Hyland

Being a small business owner means running a company and more often than not that means having sole responsibility for IT, sales and marketing, managing staff and other essential administration. It can be a lot to juggle sometimes for a small team.

While working for yourself is ultimately rewarding, it can also be very stressful and manic, leaving you with little time to think strategically about where you’re going, let alone how you intend to get there. According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), 67% of small business owners felt administrative tasks stopped them focusing on growth. It’s no wonder then, that time management is one of the most important things to get right in those early days of your new business.

Below are five time management techniques which will help you work more efficiently, reduce stress and claw back some of that much-needed time in which to focus on the future of your business.

Plan your time

Not knowing what you are doing and when makes you less productive. Take time to think about what you need to accomplish in any given day, week or month and make a plan to achieve these goals. The plan should be a live document, one you refer to frequently and one you adapt based upon changing circumstances.

Think about what your priorities are and the deadlines you need to meet. Work to these in the first instance. Then look at what else you would like to do and add these tasks to your plan. Be realistic about how much you can accomplish and how long tasks will take to complete. This way, you won’t over commit and can identify if you’ll need help from staff or freelancers.

Find the right time management method

There are lots of time management methods out there, each of which work better for some people than others:

  • The Eisenhower method categorises tasks as important, not important, urgent and non-urgent. Do urgent and important tasks first, followed by important but non-urgent. Urgent but not important come next then non-urgent and not important. If you don’t get to the latter, there is likely to be little, if any, impact on your business and you might find they don’t need to be done at all.
  • The ABC method rates tasks with an A, B or C, with A being the most important. You then number tasks in order of priority, starting work on A1 first.
  • The POSEC methodology organises daily tasks based on their urgency and the time available. Where you don’t have enough time, streamline tasks or eliminate them if they are not necessary. Delegate where you can.
  • The Pomodoro Technique means you work on a task for 25 minutes, take a five-minute break, then move onto the next one. This is a good option for those that find they get stuck on a task trying to perfect something and thus run out of time to do anything else.

Consider your options and try out different methods, selecting those that work best for you.

Avoid trying to multitask

As a small business owner, you will often find yourself pulled in multiple directions. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you can manage more than one task at a time. Trying to multi-task, however, doesn’t save time in the long run but wastes it and has the potential to lead to mistakes or poor-quality work. Time is also wasted by transitioning from one task to another.

Focus on one project at a time and you will see much better results. Avoid the phone and emails during this time and tell staff you are not to be disturbed. If you need to check emails or messages, decide how long you will work on the project and then take time to respond to people before going back to the task at hand.

Delegate whenever and wherever you can

When you own your own business, it is sometimes hard to let go but this is one of the best ways to make sure that you have enough time to do what you need to do to grow the business. If you have staff, don’t try and do their job as well as your own. Trust them to do their jobs and, if they have capacity, ask them to do more. If you have no employees or your existing staff are working at capacity, then you might want to look at hiring freelancers or contractors to get you help you navigate really busy periods.

Take advantage of technology

Depending on the nature of your business, there is plenty of software and cloud based applications out there to help you improve productivity and get more control over certain elements of your business. A typical example of this is finance and accounts. In fact with small businesses spending at least one day a month on financial administration, this is a major time sink.

Two of the major functions of finance, and something that every small business owner needs to be on top of, is bookkeeping and budgeting. Through the use of cloud accounting software, business owners can streamline some of the simpler accounting tasks and get a full overview of things like expenses, payroll and cash flow.  While this won’t remove the need for an accountant, with automatically updating bank account feeds, it will save you a lot of inputting time, as well as removing the reliance on clunky spreadsheets.

Hopefully, using these techniques you will reduce any stress you are feeling and assist you in finding time to focus on the future of your business.

Andy Hyland has been a qualified accountant for fifteen years and is the owner and director of AK Tax, an accountancy and tax advisory firm based in Medway, Kent. He has spent much of his professional career advising small business owners and has written extensively on finance related subjects. You can connect with Andy on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

Time stock photo by Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock