Whether you’re managing a busy retail store during the holiday season or a busy coffee shop where each delayed order could lead to a lost customer—you need to make each moment count to keep your customers happy and make efficient use of your team.
Time management is more than just a to-do list or a schedule; it’s a strategic approach in creating efficient workflows, setting realistic goals, and fostering a productive work environment to drive the growth of your business.
In this article, we’ll spotlight time management’s role among your employees. We’re also serving up actionable strategies to help your team manage their time more effectively so that every hour of work contributes positively to your business’s bottom line.
Why time management is so crucial for small businesses
Poor time management can cause a ripple effect of delays, wasted resources, and frustrated customers. This can be tough on a small business already working with tight resources. Here are a few more reasons why time management is crucial:
More productivity and efficiency, and therefore more profits
Productivity is the art of getting more done in less time. If you’re spending hours on tasks that can be automated or outsourced, you’re missing opportunities to focus on what drives your business forward. Efficiency means finding the best way to perform tasks, eliminating unnecessary steps, and streamlining processes.
For example, if you’re managing a bakery, you can analyze the process and find ways to combine different steps of preparing bread without compromising quality. This way, you can produce more loaves in the same amount of time.
Better work-life balance and more well-distributed workloads
Let’s say you’re managing a marketing agency. If one team member consistently works late into the night to meet deadlines while others leave on time, it’s a clear sign that the workload is not well-distributed.
This imbalance doesn’t just affect the overworked employee; it can lead to resentment within the team, lower overall morale, and ultimately affect the quality of work. On the other hand, an employee who is consistently underworked may feel undervalued or overlooked. Addressing this requires proactive management.
Encouraging a culture where breaks are taken, creativity is fostered, and personal life is respected contributes to a more fulfilling work environment. This, in turn, leads to greater loyalty, increased productivity, and a positive reputation for your business in the community.
Improved decision-making and planning
It’s impossible to make smart decisions without proper planning and understanding of how resources, especially time, are used. You may think you’ve enough time to launch a new product or introduce a discount offer for customers. However, if this means sacrificing the quality of your existing products and services due to a lack of resources or staff, it’s not worth it.
A platform like Homebase’s scheduling features enables you to track when you’re busiest and align your staffing accordingly. It’s not just about numbers; it’s about having the right people at the right time.
This improved visibility makes it easy to introduce time tracking to employees. They can see their schedules, swap shifts, and communicate with management all within the tool. This transparency builds trust and empowers your team to actively participate in your business’s success.
Strategies for effective small business time management
Good time management requires practice. Here are a few steps to get you started:
Use technology to help you out
From time tracking to delegating tasks and staying on top of email communications, there’s a range of tools available for small businesses.
For example, project management tools like Trello or Asana help you oversee tasks, deadlines, and team collaboration all in one place. Similarly, productivity apps like Todoist or Evernote boost individual performance by helping you prioritize tasks and keep notes organized.
Homebase’s time clock feature lets employees clock in and out directly from a mobile device or a designated terminal, creating a real-time attendance tracker. Plus, it integrates with payroll systems, reducing the administrative burden of processing payroll.
Create a structured work schedule and routine
A well-defined work schedule brings clarity, helps set expectations, and ensures that work progresses smoothly. Consider answering questions like:
- When are the peak hours?
- Who are the right team members for specific shifts or tasks?
- What are the specific needs and preferences of your staff?
Once you have the answers, use a tool like Homebase to assign shifts to employees, copy schedules from previous weeks, and even create templates for recurring scheduling needs. You can also track labor costs as you build the schedule, helping you make informed decisions that align with your budget.
Homebase also considers historical data and provides recommendations for staffing levels, helping you to anticipate needs and prevent over or under-staffing. Plus, with the team communication app, you can communicate changes directly to affected employees, and they can swap shifts with manager approval.
Ask employees for feedback
Your employees interact with customers, handle daily operations, and represent your brand. Their perspectives provide a unique window into areas of your business that you may not see as clearly from a managerial position.
Feedback from employees can highlight opportunities for improvement, spark innovative ideas, and foster a sense of ownership and engagement within your team.
Here’s how you can ask for feedback:
- Create a safe space: Feedback should be a two-way street. Make it clear that all opinions are valued and that providing honest feedback won’t lead to negative repercussions.
- Be specific and direct: Instead of broad questions like “Do you have any feedback?”, try more targeted inquiries like “What can we do to improve our customer service experience?” or “How can this project process be more efficient?”.
- Use the right tools: Depending on the context and your company culture, feedback might be gathered through one-on-one meetings, anonymous surveys, regular team meetings, or digital platforms designed for employee feedback.
- Make it a regular practice: Feedback shouldn’t be a one-time event. Regularly asking for input ensures that you keep your finger on the pulse of your company and makes feedback a natural part of your business culture.
Offer team members time management training
Time management is a skill that requires practice like any other. Investing in time management training can help your team members to become more efficient and productive.
Before diving into training, you should understand what challenges your team is facing. Are they struggling with procrastination? Is project planning the issue? Are meetings running overtime without substantial outcomes? Identifying these hurdles helps you tailor the training to your team’s real-world needs.
You might choose to invest in online courses, workshops, or even bring in a time management expert. The key is to find a format that resonates with your team’s learning preferences and aligns with the business’s values and goals.
Encourage your team to implement what they’ve learned in their daily routines. Regular check-ins, goal-setting sessions, and open discussions about time management challenges can help to embed these skills into the fabric of your work culture. You can even create metrics to track improvements, celebrate successes, and provide ongoing support where needed.
Set clear goals and priorities
It’s easy for tasks to become reactive rather than proactive. Clear goals and priorities are your business compass, keeping efforts focused and aligned. They transform vague ambitions into actionable paths, creating a sense of purpose and direction for every team member.
Start by defining what you want to achieve, then understand why it’s essential. The ‘what’ gives you direction, while the ‘why’ fuels motivation. For example, a goal to increase sales might be driven by the need to expand operations or improve customer service.
But not all goals are created equal. Some are stepping stones, while others are milestones. Understanding how to prioritize helps you allocate resources effectively and keeps the team focused on what truly matters. Ask yourself, “What needs to happen now?” and “What will have the most significant impact?”
Finally, ensure everyone on the team is aware of goals and priorities. Regularly review progress, celebrate successes, and adjust as needed. As the business landscape changes, your goals also need to adapt.
Tips to overcome common time management challenges
While time management is about developing efficient habits, it’s also about learning how to deal with unexpected obstacles. Here are some tips that can help your team get back on track and stay focused on the tasks at hand:
- Avoiding procrastination: The ‘I’ll do it later’ mentality can be a significant hindrance. Overcome this by breaking tasks into smaller, manageable parts and setting specific deadlines. Reward yourself for milestones reached, and stay accountable.
- Dealing with interruptions: Unplanned interruptions can derail your focus. Set specific work hours or ‘focus periods’ and inform your team about them. Utilize tools that mute notifications during these times and stick to a routine.
- Prioritizing tasks: Use methods like the Eisenhower Matrix to distinguish between what’s urgent and essential. This way, you ensure that vital tasks aren’t buried under the less significant ones.
- Avoiding multitasking: Multitasking may seem efficient but often leads to mistakes and half-finished work. Focus on one task at a time, complete it well, and then move on to the next.
- Managing distractions: Social media, email notifications, and other digital interruptions can be hard to ignore. Set rules that help minimize distractions or use apps that offer greater control over your online environment.
Make time work for you with Homebase
Time management is a skill, and it’s an essential one for any business. Allocating resources efficiently, setting clear goals and priorities, and having effective strategies to handle unexpected obstacles can help your team become more productive and successful.
While there are plenty of online resources available that offer tips on how to improve time management skills, nothing beats personal experience and feedback. Investing in time management training and creating an environment that encourages feedback are key to effectively mastering the art of managing your team’s time.
And with a platform like Homebase, the journey becomes smoother. Beyond our powerful time clock and timesheet tools, we also offer HR and compliance features and hiring and onboarding capabilities so you can communicate your policies easily to every new team member.
Our integrated payroll systems mean you can directly link team members’ timesheets with their time tracking data, allowing you to round accurately and legally. And with our free plan, small businesses can access many of these handy features for up to 20 employees at a single location without any cost.
Because Homebase is more than a tool; it’s a partner in your business’s growth and success.
FAQs about employee time management
What is employee time management?
Employee time management is when employees plan and exercise conscious control over their working hours to increase efficiency and productivity. It involves organizing tasks, setting goals, and prioritizing activities to ensure work is completed within designated time frames. Tools like schedules, to-do lists, and time tracking software like Homebase can help streamline this process, allowing for accurate monitoring and analysis of time spent on various tasks.
What are the 5 key elements of time management?
The 5 key elements of time management are:
- Goal setting: Clearly defining short-term and long-term goals helps create a roadmap for success. Setting realistic and measurable objectives ensures focus and direction.
- Prioritization: Determining what tasks are most important and tackling them first enables more efficient use of time. It helps in identifying what needs immediate attention and what can wait.
- Planning: Creating a daily, weekly, or monthly plan helps allocate time to specific tasks. Utilizing tools like calendars or project management software aids in organizing tasks effectively.
- Monitoring: Keeping track of time spent on various activities helps understand where time is being used wisely or wasted. Time tracking tools, like Homebase, can be valuable in this process.
- Adjustment and flexibility: Recognizing when changes are needed and being adaptable ensures that unexpected challenges or opportunities can be addressed without derailing overall progress.
How do you tell an employee to improve their time management?
You can tell an employee to improve their time management by:
- Identifying the issue: Start by pinpointing the specific areas where time management needs improvement. It could be task completion, punctuality, or project planning.
- Communicating clearly: Have a one-on-one conversation with the employee to discuss the issue. Use clear and positive language to express your concerns and expectations.
- Offering support and guidance: Provide resources, training, or mentorship to help them develop better time management skills. Encourage them to set goals and prioritize tasks.
- Implementing tools: Use Homebase for time tracking, scheduling, and monitoring. It can provide concrete data on time spent and help employees visualize their workflow.
- Setting expectations and deadlines: Clearly outline what needs to be done and by when. Encourage the employee to create daily or weekly plans to stay on track.
- Providing regular feedback: Check in regularly to see how they are progressing, and offer praise for improvements and constructive feedback for areas still needing work.
- Encouraging self-reflection: Encourage them to evaluate their own time management practices and identify areas for growth. Self-awareness can lead to lasting changes.