As an entrepreneur, your time is precious. You have eight hours a day and five days a week (plus some extra) to take care of all your myriad responsibilities and turn your business into a success. Incorporating really good time management tips into your daily routine will help you get more done.
Time management can be difficult to master, but if you’re dedicated to the cause and willing to adjust your habits, any entrepreneur can get better at managing their time.
The best time management tips for entrepreneurs
These are some of the best time management tips for entrepreneurs:
Start tracking your time.
Create a time audit.
Use online calendars and to-do lists.
Batch similar tasks together.
Delegate more frequently.
Don’t abandon tasks.
Stop wasting time waiting.
Know when multitasking can work.
Follow the 80-20 rule.
Learn to say no.
Limit your media consumption.
Set a strict time limit for each task.
Build buffer time into your schedule.
Dedicate your mornings to your most important tasks.
Schedule breaks and vacations.
Build habits around recurring tasks.
Set goals for improvement.
Let’s explore each of these time management tips in greater detail so that you can start managing your time better right away.
1. Start tracking your time
Our first time management tip is to start tracking your time. Toggl and Time Doctor are two of the top dedicated time trackers, but most modern productivity apps and project management apps have time trackers built-in as well.
Tracking your time serves a few different purposes.
First, it forces a level of mindfulness into your work. You can start and stop the timer whenever you change tasks, bringing your attention to your habits.
Second, you can use it as an analytics tool. In other words, which tasks seem to be occupying a disproportionate amount of your time? Why are they taking so long?
Use this in combination with these other strategies to determine how well they’re working.
2. Create a time audit
After using a time tracking app for a week or two, take a detailed look at how you’re spending your time.
Consider this your time audit. Take note of any major gaps in your schedule that seem to be missing; these are likely being wasted by distractions or unproductive work.
Also, note any tasks that seem to take longer than you thought. Flag these so you can find more efficient ways to handle them in the future.
3. Get organized
Everything becomes easier (and faster to accomplish) when it’s organized.
For example, if your emails are all organized into folders and subfolders, you’ll find it much easier to find whatever specific message you’re looking for, ultimately saving you minutes of time.
These small efficiency boosts might not seem like much individually, but added together, a better-organized work environment and work approach can save you hours of time every week.
4. Use online calendars and to-do lists
There are dozens of productivity apps that claim to help you save time and work more efficiently, but the best app available is probably still a basic online calendar, especially when you use it in conjunction with a to-do list.
Most modern online calendars are hosted in the cloud, so you can access them from any device. Use these to keep track of all your meetings and obligations, and to organize your most important to-do items.
The trick here is to use your calendar consistently; only if you rely on it for all your scheduled items will you find it useful for organizing and managing your time.
5. Batch similar tasks together
Most entrepreneurs find themselves overwhelmed by a diversity of tasks in different areas; they’re forced to tackle HR, accounting, high-level business strategy, and customer service tasks all in the same day.
You’ll find it easier and more efficient to batch your tasks in different categories, rather than hopping from one type of assignment to the next.
That’s because it takes time for us to get into a flow state, and if you shift between different categories of tasks, you could disrupt that flow.
Plus, batching similar tasks gives you a sense of continuity.
6. Delegate more frequently
One of the greatest tools in your arsenal as an entrepreneur is delegation — the power to transfer some of your tasks to someone else.
Many new entrepreneurs are reluctant to delegate since they want to remain in control, but this is ultimately counterproductive.
Your time is best spent on the tasks that require your unique abilities. For many business owners, this includes high-level strategy, client relations, and management.
Any task bogging down your schedule that can be handled by someone else should be handled by someone else. Delegate to the right people, and communicate instructions well to master this time management tip.
7. Don’t abandon tasks
As an entrepreneur, you’re probably going to be pulled in multiple directions throughout the day.
You’ll get calls, meeting requests and passing conversation requests from your employees and partners. When something new catches your attention, you’ll be tempted to drop whatever it is you’re working on.
However, this break in your focus can significantly compromise your productivity. Instead, commit to finishing your task (or at least finishing your current thought) before switching.
8. Stop wasting time waiting
How much time do you spend listening to hold music, waiting to join a conference call? How often do you send an inquisitive email to an employee, only to wait several minutes for them to send a response?
We all spend too much time waiting.
Instead, recognize when you seem to be waiting most, and avoid these stagnant periods of time — either by moving on to a new task or by timing your entrances better.
9. Eliminate distractions
Distractions are absolute productivity killers. Even small distractions, like a phone call or an email notification, can completely disrupt your focus.
You need to gain control over these distractions if you’re going to master your time.
You can start by disabling push notifications on your phone altogether, and setting up SmartLine. SmartLine allows you to add a second local number to your phone, so you can control when you receive business calls. You can also set designated “focus” hours, where you aren’t open for communication.
This is an especially useful time management tip for entrepreneurs who believe being an entrepreneur is synonymous with multitasking.
Multitasking doesn’t work.
If you split your focus between two tasks, like listening to a voicemail while reading an email, you’ll simply do each task insufficiently, forcing you to go back and do them properly (or otherwise compromising the quality of your work).
Instead, focus on one thing at a time. Even if it seems slower, it’s going to help you work more efficiently.
11. Know when multitasking can work
Multitasking can work in some situations — but it isn’t “true” multitasking.
For example, if you’re stuck on hold while trying to call a vendor, use that time to knock out a couple of tasks.
If you have a long commute, use that time to listen to voicemails or review a previous meeting recording. Essentially, you’re making use of otherwise wasted time.
12. Follow the 80-20 rule
The Pareto principle is a simple adage that suggests that 80 percent of the consequences in a given system come from 20 percent of the causes.
For example, 80 percent of your sales will come from 20 percent of your customers.
Use this to your advantage when analyzing how you spend your time. You’ll find that 80 percent of your impact on the business comes from 20 percent of your work. Shift your workload to focus on these most-important tasks, and you’ll be able to work much more efficiently.
13. Learn to say no
Many entrepreneurs find themselves struggling to say no. They attend every meeting invite they receive, do favours for their business associates, and find themselves constantly bouncing between other people’s priorities.
If you simply say “no” to these unnecessary additions, you’ll spend far less time on them — and more time doing what’s important for your business.
14. Limit your media consumption
Watching TV, playing games and browsing the internet are temporary distractions that feel good in the moment, but ultimately, they have the power to kill your productivity.
That’s not to say you can’t enjoy them at all, but avoid letting them consume your life.
Instead, avoid media consumption altogether during work hours, and during your recreational time, focus on reading, exercise and quality time with the family.
15. Prioritize wisely
You probably won’t have time to do everything you want, so it’s valuable to prioritize your most valuable or most important tasks (and make sure it’s the least valuable tasks that get discarded).
I like to use an Eisenhower matrix for this. The system forces you to evaluate not just the urgency of every possible task on your plate, but also its importance. It’s a great way to determine which tasks truly require your attention soon.
16. Set a strict time limit for each task
According to the informal rule Parkinson’s Law, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
In other words, if you set an hour to complete a task, you’ll probably take that full hour — even if at your most productive, you could knock it out in half an hour.
In line with these expectations, try to set stricter time limits for all your tasks — especially your meetings.
17. Build buffer time into your schedule
Much of your time management depends on your ability to schedule things precisely and consistently.
However, if you schedule too much, it can work against you. You’ll be frustrated when you deviate from your schedule, and you’ll box yourself in.
To avoid this, build some buffer time into your schedule, and improve your flexibility.
18. Dedicate your mornings to your most important tasks
Most of us hit a bit of a lull around midday. We’re full from lunch, or tired from the morning’s activities, and we’re less motivated to accomplish, well, much of anything at all.
Accordingly, you should plan to tackle your most important tasks and/or your highest-priority tasks as early in the day as possible.
As the day progresses, you can shift to less important and less challenging tasks. The only exception here is if you find yourself gradually becoming more energetic and focused throughout the day. If that’s the case, follow your own natural rhythms.
19. Schedule breaks and vacations
You’ve spent the majority of this guide prioritizing work tasks and scheduling them on your calendar, but it’s also important to schedule and prioritize time for yourself.
Too many entrepreneurs burn out because they work nights and weekends, never taking a break, to make their business grow faster.
It might seem counterintuitive, but if you take more frequent breaks and the occasional vacation, you’ll actually make yourself more productive.
Put the breaks on your to-do list, and build vacations into your calendar — you’ll be more likely to follow through on them this way.
20. Build habits around recurring tasks
Some of your tasks, meetings and other responsibilities are going to be recurring.
You might need to spend some time organizing your email inbox. If you want to work on these tasks more consistently and more efficiently, try to establish them as a habit in a part of your routine.
For example, try organizing your inbox every afternoon from 4 to 4:30.
If you do this consistently, eventually your process will become second nature. You won’t have to think about doing it, and you’ll get it done much faster.
21. Set goals for improvement
Finally, reflect on how you’ve performed in the past, and how your habits are changing, and set goals for how you want to improve in the future.
Goals are incredibly important for directing your progress and will help you stay motivated as you improve your productivity.
Do you want to complete a certain type of task 15 percent faster? Do you want to use your calendar for every meeting moving forward?
As long as your goals follow SMART criteria and genuinely challenge you, they’ll be effective.
Note that every entrepreneur is different, and some of these time management tips might work better for you than others. Try to experiment, and give each of these tips a fair chance — you might be surprised to learn what works best for you.
Some combination of the time management tips for entrepreneurs above and your own inventive approaches can help you increase your time management skills. Once you’re better at managing your time, you’ll get more done every day — and feel better doing it.