Time Management 101 for Entrepreneurs

No one is as busy as an entrepreneur—that’s why mastering your time management is so important. These tips will help you avoid common pitfalls and make the most of every moment you have.

Recognize How You Manage Time

Everyone has a different internal clock, so what works for one entrepreneur might not work for another. The trick is to manage your time in a way that caters to your own preferences and tendencies, so that your schedule works with you instead of against you.

For example, are you a morning person? If so, there are certain types of tasks you want to try to schedule for those morning hours when your mind is sharpest and the most active. Trying to complete tasks at times that aren’t compatible with your internal clock is poor time management.

Another one of the most common time management pitfalls is convincing yourself you “don’t have the time” to do certain tasks. In most cases, it’s just that you haven’t made the time. Being honest with yourself about what time you can make, and what time you truly don’t have, is the first and most important step to effectively managing each hour of the day.

Evaluate your skills to identify weak points, and make a profile of your time usage patterns to figure out what could you make more efficient. For example, if you go out for lunch each day for an hour and fifteen minutes, maybe you could pre-make lunches at home every Sunday to prepare for the week. Then, just grab your lunch and eat while you work, adding an hour or more of productive time to each of your workdays.

Gaining Control Over Your Time

1.    Setting Goals

Smart goal setting is one of the number one time management strategies to gain more control over your life and schedule. Focus your goals on specific activities, with benchmarks along the way (with deadlines) to help you stay on track. Set both short-term and long-term goals, and make sure they’re attainable but ambitious.

2.    Assess Your Current Realities

Get a better handle on your current situation by making an inventory of tasks and assignments. Then separate them into categories, so that you can see what you MUST get done each day. Based on what you see that you need to accomplish in the coming weeks, build a manageable schedule that takes into account realistic goals. Make sure your schedule separates one-off projects from recurring day-to-day obligations, and makes time for each.

3.    Develop Daily & Weekly Planning

This is where your new schedule comes in. Plan a daily and weekly schedule that looks weeks in advance, using the first week as a framework to follow. You may have to make adjustments along the way, especially as new tasks and unplanned developments come into play. Be flexible, but stay disciplined about the schedule you create.

Manage Your Work Efficiently

To create an effective schedule, you have to know how to be efficient about managing your work. To do this, separate tasks into urgent (must complete today/now) and important (must complete by x, y, or z date, but not immediately.) This will give you better idea of how and what to prioritize. A prioritization system makes all the difference between whether or not you are managing time smartly, as it ensures that the right projects get done at the right time.

To Master Your Time, Manage Your Email

Automate your email wherever possible. Wasting time on unimportant, personal, or non-urgent emails during work is one of the biggest single workplace time wasters. Set email priorities and stick to them, or you’ll have to watch your precious minutes waste away as you find yourself responding to non-urgent messages.

Set Up a File System & Make It Work

Use a file system and automated data entry tools to make your file storage and retrieval efficient. Be organized with folders, and use file names that make everything easy to access. Data entry automation software will help you save time, keep your files organized, and reduce errors.

Avoid Over-Commitment & Procrastination

Once you have your overall weekly schedule figured out, be careful not to over-book yourself. You can always say “no” to requests. In fact, saying no to a meeting is better than over-committing, and then finding that you have to cancel at the last minute. Too many cancellations give a bad impression, making you look unreliable and damaging your reputation as an entrepreneur.

The other side of that coin is to avoid procrastination. Get tasks done according to the schedule you came up with, and don’t put them off. A few small tasks from your to-do list being put off can quickly cause your list to balloon into a much longer one very quickly, so stick to your plan and don’t kick tasks down the road for later.

Healthy work-life balance also means making time for leisure, and over-booking yourself and procrastinating on smaller things will throw that balance into disarray. With an overscheduled calendar, your personal productivity gets derailed as you’re forced you to take on tasks during what would otherwise have been free time on your calendar.

Final Thoughts

Effective time management is a matter of planning and discipline. Scheduling apps and time management software can make the job massively easier, but ultimately, it’s up to you to become a smart scheduler, a disciplined doer, and an efficient manager.