Time is precious, particularly when it comes to running a small business. Yet there are never more than 24 hours in a day. Some entrepreneurs respond to this fact of life with focus and purpose. Others freak out.

Are you in the latter group? You don’t have to be. With the right approach, you can work efficiently, productively and relatively stress-free. And in the very first stage of these approaches, you need to learn to manage your time.

  1. We often talk about not having enough time. Rather than focusing on that and complaining to yourself or others about not enough time, think about what you do have enough time for. Start talking or thinking about that instead.

  2. Start within five minutes of sitting down at your desk and switching on your computer. Half an hour or an hour wasted here on procrastination or distraction is costly.

  3. Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will plan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

  4. Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10 am, Y task by 3 pm and by 5:30 pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other for other activities.

  5. Make sure you’re engaging in activities that support your business goals, both short and long-term. Everything else is a potential time waster. Your daily plan should revolve around working on tasks and activities that directly relate to generating income and growing business.

  6. Stephen Covey, co-author of First Things First, offers and organizational tool for your to-do list based on how important and urgent tasks are.

    • Important and urgent- Tasks that must be done, do them right away

    • Important but not urgent- Tasks that appear important but upon closer examination aren’t. Decide when to do them.

    • Urgent but not Important- Tasks that make the most “noise” but when accomplished, have nothing or no lasting value. Delegate these if possible.

    • Not urgent and not important- Low-priority stuff that offers the illusion of “being busy.” Do them later.

Write down your three or four “important and urgent” tasks that must be you complete each one, check it off your list. This will provide you with a sense of accomplishment and can motivate you to tackle less essential.

  1. Use an organizer. The organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects and other miscellaneous items.

  2. When things get really pressurized and you’re tight on time, ignore email completely.

  3. Learn to say “No”. Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

  4. Start paying attention to the number of times someone interrupts you when you’re in the midst of an important task. Track self-included interruptions, too, particularly those of the social media variety. Your smartphone is extremely useful but it’s also addictive and among the most insidious time-wasters known to mankind.

It may take a massive exercise in willpower but shut the door and turn off your phone to maximize your time. Instead of being “always on,” plan a break in the day to catch up on email, call people back, talk with staff etc.

  1. How many productive minutes are you packing in each week? Use this simple timesheets tracker by TSheets to quickly and easily clock in and out of various tasks or projects throughout the day. Switch jobs or tasks with just one click using the TSheets mobile app or track time directly from your desktop. Then generate robust, real-time reports to see exactly where you’re spending your most valuable asset – and where it’s being wasted.

  2. Be sure to get plenty of sleep and exercise. An alert mind is a high-functioning mind and one that’s less tolerant of time-wasting activities.

  3. Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

  4. Eliminate your time wasters. What makes your time away? Facebook? Tweeter? Email Checking? Stop checking them so often. One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links/bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites. While you’ll check FB/Tweeter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

  5. Cut off when you need to. Why things overrun in because you don’t cut off when you have to. Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

  6. Leave buffer time in-between. Don’t pack everything close together. Leave 5-10 minutes buffer time in between each task. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

  7. If you’re doing a task where you’re likely to get distracted and spend longer than you want to there (for example, on social media, email, or internet searching), take off your watch and put it on the desk, noting what time you started and how long you intend to spend there. Check back in regularly on time passing.

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