In the hustle and bustle of running a small business, there’s one factor that shouldn’t be overlooked: time management. And it isn’t just ticking off tasks on a to-do list. Effective time management is the cornerstone of productivity, work-life balance, and the overall efficiency of your business operations.
As a business owner, time is a precious resource. Effective time management ensures that you allocate time to focus on making strategic decisions, innovating, and growing your business, instead of being weighed down by the day-to-day tasks. In other words, time to work ON your business instead of just IN it.
But as a busy business owner, you’ve got lots of things on your plate. So, let us make it easy for you. In this article, we’re going to define time management, explain why it’s integral to small business success, lay out some pros and cons, and show you beginner and advanced strategies to manage your time—and some time wasters to keep an eye on.
What is time management?
Time management is about allocating time effectively to tasks and activities. It involves planning, organizing, and prioritizing to maximize productivity and achieve goals.
Time management is both an art and a science. It’s all about how well you can plan, organize, and control your time. The science is the ability to get more done in less time while maintaining a focus on quality and efficiency. The art lies in the process—the tasks and actions that give you complete control over how your time is spent.
Why is time management important for small business?
When you run a small business, your time management plan is running double duty. You have to think about your own time management and the time management of your employees.
Imagine a business where every minute is valued, every goal is met, and productivity soars. That’s the power of effective time management. Sounds great, right?
We’re not overstating when we say that if you can make time management strategies work for your business, they can significantly impact the health and success of your business. From optimizing your resources to making your clients happy to growing your opportunities, time management can get you there.
The pros of good time management
When your mind is in a million places, it can be really hard to prioritize time management in your business. We want to take a moment to show you how setting up good time management strategies really does trickle down to every aspect of your business.
Poor time management can lead to decreased productivity, stressed-out employees (and business owners), and unhappy customers. Nobody wants that.
Let’s explore some key pros of good time management.
Time management is directly correlated to productivity. There really is no debate. When tasks are well-organized, and time is used effectively, employees can accomplish more in less time.
And if you go a level deeper and start to time track and block out specific times for specific times, you can become even more efficient. What does this productivity ultimately lead to? Huge business growth.
Higher quality of work
If you’re managing your and your employees’ time appropriately, they’ll never have to rush through a task.
Think of a server who’s scheduled to polish silverware at the end of the night, but they were overscheduled on other tasks. If they’re feeling rushed and stressed, they aren’t going to do as good a job. That means spotty silverware for the team the next day—and possibly unhappy customers.
If a team feels like their time and tasks are managed appropriately, they’re going to have the energy and headspace to complete tasks at a higher level.
This one goes hand-in-hand with the above point. If employees are over-scheduled, over-tasked, and over-run, they’re going to burn out. This increases team turnover which is bad for business—morally and financially. If the workload is distributed at a pace that’s manageable and employees are encouraged to balance their time between work and home life, employee happiness goes up.
Good time management leads to employee happiness, which leads to higher retention, which leads to saving money in your business. It’s all linked—and possible.
Strategic and effective decision-making
This one is more specific to business owners, but blocking out some time to work on your business instead of in it allows you to take dedicated time to make strategic decisions about how you want to grow and optimize. If this time isn’t actually scheduled in your calendar, it’s easy to fall by the wayside. Then you hit that dreaded business plateau. And no one wants that. Spending more time planning gives you more time to grow.
Saves you money
Every small business has, at one point in time, felt that financial pinch. If labor typically accounts for 70% of business spending, you’re going to want to optimize that number. And how do you do that? Proper time management.
Knowing what you have in terms of staffing resources, when your slow times are, when your busy times are, and then scheduling appropriately is a great time management dial to turn up.
Scheduling clients can be one of the biggest headaches any business has to face. Whether that’s a hair salon trying to fill their books but not overscheduling, a construction business who has to map out project timelines, or a restaurant who needs to turnover tables to make a profit, time management is a huge part of the job.
But what happens when that time isn’t managed appropriately? Well, one of two things. Either you have holes in your schedule and you’re an unhappy business owner or—and possibly worse—an unhappy customer who was left waiting. But if you meet deadlines and get people in when you said you would, those customers are more likely to leave a positive review, refer their friends, and keep coming back for more.
Time management tips that will grow your business’ bottom line
Let’s finally dive into the time management strategies you can start implementing today.
Set SMART goals
In the realm of time management, goals are the North Star. But not just any goals—SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. If you know what you’re working towards and you have a clear timeline, your business is going to grow. There’s no doubt.
Set some time aside to really build out SMART goals for your business. This can be annually, quarterly, or even monthly depending on the size of the goal. As an added bonus, schedule in some time every month to review where you’re at.
Learning how to set goals that drive your business forward is key.
2. Utilize time management software
Welcome to the digital age. The era of apps, remote work, and globalization. Businesses need to understand why time management software is no longer an nice-to-have, but a necessity. Dive into the benefits, from tracking employee productivity to managing budgets.
Remember how we talked about labor being a big money bucket for small business? Using scheduling software can save you time and money by doing a bunch of tasks for you with a couple of clicks. You can input your employees’ availability, see PTO, get an overview of past busy and slow times, and schedule everyone in. It’s a smart, easier way to manage your staff’s time effectively and optimize yours.
3. Go old school with to-do lists
Task lists are the backbone of time management, and to-do lists are the physical manifestation of those tasks. You can visualize all of the tasks that need to get done and work through those tasks systematically. Seeing the length of that list helps you manage your time effectively.
To-do lists are different for everyone. Some people love a good pen and paper, some people want a digital list they can tick off, and others have elaborate colored pens and post-it notes. Whatever allows people to visualize the number of tasks they have vs. the time they have to complete them.
This is time management in its most basic form. But creating effective to-do lists brings clarity, direction, and organization to your business.
4. Prioritize those tasks wisely
Believe it or not, not every task on your list is a priority. It can be tempting to finish the easy tasks first to get them out of the way. But the truth? Those small, easy tasks never stop coming. Which keeps pushing off those bigger tasks further and further down the line.
There are several different systems for prioritizing tasks. The Eisenhower Matrix is a great one to institute. This involves dividing tasks into:
- Urgent and important: You should probably work on these tasks immediately.
- Important but not urgent: These tasks are important, but you can afford to wait on them.
- Urgent but not important: These tasks need to be completed immediately, but are great to delegate them to your team.
- Not urgent or important: These tasks can be cut from your list.
By using this system, you can save your best energy for accomplishing the most important tasks first.
3 advanced time management strategies
Mastering the basics of time management is just the beginning. Now, let’s dive into some advanced strategies that raise your time management game to the next level.
1. Task batching and time blocking
Did you know that shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40% of someone’s productive time? It’s true. The solution to that problem? Don’t multitask—stick to one task at a time. The next level is to batch similar tasks together so you don’t switch around during the day. Then, block time off in your schedule to work on those similar tasks, undistracted.
For example, you have scheduling and payroll software, and you know you have to do these tasks weekly. Step #1 is to block time off in your weekly schedule to accomplish these tasks. Then, batch those two tasks together since they’re similar, and both involve sitting at your desk and using the same system. Step #3 finish payroll first and then complete the schedule. Don’t try and switch back and forth between the two.
Not only will this save you time, but it will save you mental space if you know that every Wednesday from 1pm to 4pm you have dedicated time for those tasks.
Bonus tip: Work with a software system that allows your tools to talk to each other, like scheduling and payroll. Tools like Homebase make integration a breeze and have you wrapping your to-do list in less time than it takes to write ‘scheduling’ right the first time.
2. Delegation and outsourcing
One of the hardest jobs as a business owner is to delegate. Take a deep breath, and understand the art of letting go. You can’t do it all yourself—no matter how many times you tell yourself you can. You need to have faith in your hiring abilities and delegate tasks.
If you use the Eisenhower Matrix, you can easily see which tasks are best to delegate out. This is also a great way to give a sense of purpose to those employees who are looking for opportunities to move up and prove their abilities.
Trust your team! After all, you did hire them.
3. Time tracking your tasks
We have a challenge for you: for the next month, have everyone time-track their tasks. If you’re just guessing how long it takes your team to accomplish a task, it’s time to start time-tracking tasks. These can be tasks that you do and tasks that your employees are responsible for.
Once you know how long a task takes, on average, you can really be more mindful of your time management. This means you aren’t overscheduling or under-scheduling your team. Instead, you’re maximizing their productivity while avoiding burnout.
No longer guessing at how long a task takes is an advanced strategy to manage time in your small business.
Overcome time wasters in your business
Time management isn’t just about learning strategies to optimize your time, it’s also about eliminating those sneaky time wasters. We’re looking at you endless scrolling…
Eliminate distractions in the workplace
Did you know that Screen Education’s “Digital Distraction & Workplace Safety” Survey found that US Employees spend 2.5 hours every day distracted by digital content totally unrelated to their jobs? Yikes. That’s a lot of time wasted instead of managed.
Although phones aren’t the only distractions, they’re definitely #1. What policies can you set up in your workplace to eliminate the biggest distractions getting in the way of time management?
Could that meeting have been an email?
Ok, ok, meetings absolutely have a time and place and can even increase time management if everyone on the team is on the same page. But we’ve all been to a meeting that could have easily been an email. Think of the hours—and dollars—lost to wasteful meetings. In fact, Otter.ai and Steven Rogelberg found that, “Smaller companies with 100 workers would save nearly $2.5 million annually if they dispensed with meetings”.
So, before scheduling that team meeting to go over new protocols, think about utilizing a team communication platform that easily distributes these documents and asks people to acknowledge they’ve received and read it.
The answer to all of your time management woes
With time management, we want to be working smarter, not harder—who’s got time for that? Sometimes the simplest solution is digitizing your tasks, making your life as a business owner easier.
With the Homebase suite, your time management woes can be a thing of the past.
Use our scheduling tool to easily and efficiently manage your team’s schedule, communicate important information quickly with our team communication tool, and speed through payroll with our time clock tool that turns punches into time sheets.
Time Management FAQS
What is time management?
Time management is planning and organizing how to divide your time between different tasks to be more efficient.
It means determining what it is you have to do, want to do, and the difference between them, as well as how long each task is going to take. Then breaking down how any tasks are related, and figuring out a plan to get everything done that needs to be done. Time management is easier for some people than others, and you might find different strategies work better for you.
Why is time management important for small business?
Time management for small business is really using your resources to optimize your time—and your bottom line. It’s one of those important things that can get ignored. So make your 2024 about managing your small business’ time effectively and watch it grow!
How do I better manage time for my small business?
There are so many ways to better manage time for your small business. What you use needs to work not only for you but for your employees and customers. It never hurts to ask your team what they feel they need support with when it comes to time management.
Nowadays, digital tools really are the way to go to improve time management, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pull out a good old pen and paper and some sticky notes if that helps you visualize what you need.