Time management: it’s an age-old problem. When you go it alone, you have to be able to keep track of your own time and hold yourself accountable. Even with all the technology in the world at their fingertips, even tech start-ups are notorious for having poor time management. Here are 10 tips to help you manage your time just a little better.
1. Understand how much time you have
The first thing you need to establish is how much time you have in a day to spend. Be honest with yourself: how long do you spend checking and replying email? How much of your 9-5 schedule is devoted to meetings? Do you really need that two hour break? Once you have worked out your limits, you can then start to allocate the time you need to spend on different aspects of your business. It sounds simple but many of us overlook this simple step. Fore-planning will save you a lot o heartache.
2. Put a value on your time
“Time is money” as the old saying goes and it is time to put a price on yours. Not only will this help in the overall costings of your start up but it will also allow you to manage your workload. Price correctly and your business will reap the rewards; under-price and you may end up working too long on the low value jobs. Time a limited resource and expensive: managing your time is one of the hardest aspects of running your own business. You find out more information for new businesses on pricing jobs here.
We’ve all been there: that annoying, niggly job that’s high priority you can’t face starting. Guess what? It won’t go away! You must be courageous now: put on your wellies and get stuck in. Why not tackle it head on and get it filed? While most small businesses are pretty good at multi-tasking by nature, research shows that prioritising for better time management will help you stay in control. CIMA professional development recommends a personal reward system:
Avoid procrastination by completing unpleasant tasks first. The tough stuff usually turns out to be not so bad. Break complex tasks into easy pieces and give yourself a reward for getting something done.
That’s right, we give you permission to purchase that block of chocolate..
4. Make reasonable to-do lists
Let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than busying yourself with a hundred jobs to do and never reaching the end. Make reasonable to-do lists, with your time limitations in mind, and feel the positivity that ticking off each completed task brings. Don’t worry if your list isn’t a mile long – shorter lists are actually better. Achievable tasks are proven to increase productivity in the long run. If you continually set yourself unreasonable goals, you will only slow yourself down, and the negative vibes of having an unfinished list can do serious damage to your self-confidence. Here are some more top tips on creating to-do lists.
5. Be decisive
Decide each day what the goals are by order of importance (deadline, volume of work, etc.) and stick to them. If you work in a shared office, avoid unnecessary conversations until you’ve done your task. Don’t get stuck on long telephone calls when you have a deadline looming and write short, polite responses to emails to keep lines of communication open. Once you have made up your mind about which tasks are to be completed, stop deliberating! Second-guessing is just another name for procrastination.
6. Stay focussed
Try not to let distraction get the better of you. Staying focussed on the particular job in hand is key to your success as a small business start-up. Try staying focused for short amounts of time, say 20 minutes at a go, and then have a short break before diving in again. Being mindful of how long you have to spend per task will help ensure you stay within your timeframes. Alexander Cohan writes:
It’s easy to get distracted by seemingly urgent items that come up, particularly if you already know how to handle them. For example, I see questions come in from customers all day long that I could quickly answer with the particular perspective I’d want on the response. I shouldn’t though, I need to focus on the important (but less obvious) tasks I’ve apportioned to myself for the day and let the customer’s assigned manager handle the question.
7. Embrace time management technology
There is an abundance of online time management tools available like Harvest and Toggl to name just two, you’re spoiled for choice! There are apps for monitoring how much time you spend on certain tasks, there are sprint timers, there are apps for blocking procrastination websites, there are apps for days. Forbes recommends a few right here.
8. Recognise stress
While some stress like adrenaline may actually drive you to achieve targets on time, too much stress makes effective working impossible. This article sums up the issue of time and stress,
Sometimes it may seem that there isn’t enough time to do everything that you need to. This can lead to a build-up of stress…Once we have identified ways in which we can improve the management of our time, we can begin to adjust our routines and patterns of behaviour to reduce any time-related stress in our lives.
Stress may lead you to waste time worrying about how you go about a project, and will even lower your productivity. And so, we recommend that you..
9. …take breaks!
Be mindful that stress and time go hand in hand and if not managed correctly you can end up feeling like you have even less time to achieve your goals. Recognise that being stretched for time is an unpleasant feeling and negativity is the ultimate productivity monster. Don’t rush things, take regular breaks and work systematically through your list of jobs to do in order of priority. Taking short regular brain breaks will make sure you’ll feel less tired at the end of the day and will probably achieve a lot more in the meantime. Be aware of your capabilities and mindful of your workload. (We’ve got a helpful article about mindfulness in the workplace right here.)
10. Finish on time
Stick to your deadlines and never make excuses – remember that if you keep avoiding work, it will eventually pile up. Tackling work as and when it comes in will help you be more efficient – but do remember to leave the office at a reasonable time. Tiring yourself out is never a good idea, and being kind to yourself is part of the entire philosophy of good time management.
Hopefully, our tips should have given you a better idea of how to manage your time and of the steps that you need to take in order to improve your overall productivity. Good luck!