Making sure employees are working efficiently throughout the day is important for businesses of all shapes and sizes, but it’s crucial for small businesses (SMBs). Whether you feel you’re managing your time well or not, you probably know that time management can make or break your success.
Unfortunately, time management is sometimes a balancing act for SMB owners. For small businesses to grow and thrive, employers need to make sure team members are making the most of their working hours so they get everything done while still keeping labor costs under control. On the other hand, business owners should be taking care of high-level work and driving the business forward instead of being caught in the weeds with routine, low-priority tasks.
There’s no perfect SMB time management hack because the world simply doesn’t work that way. But we’ll still do our best to help optimize your team’s working hours by putting forward these five fantastic time management strategies that are perfect for small businesses.
Time management hacks that are ideal for small businesses
Not all time management strategies make sense for SMBs — they may be overly complicated, difficult to implement on a smaller scale, or just downright confusing.
That’s why we’ve curated the following selection of five ideas that work for small business owners, managers, and team members and can be implemented right away.
1. Use technology that’s specifically designed for small businesses
If you want to master small business time management, you first need to streamline how you run your operations. That means minimizing the time you spend on work, especially manual tasks you may dedicate hours to each week but could take mere minutes with the right tool.
Remember, we’re not living in the days of yore without any technology. Some platforms like Homebase are specifically designed for small business owners and managers like you to quickly and effortlessly take care of your more time-consuming, burdensome administrative tasks.
Here’s a just selection of the kind of work platforms like Homebase can help small business owners with:
- Scheduling: Our drag-and-drop schedule builder is easy to use, but it doesn’t stop there. We’ve also got pre-made templates, auto-population capabilities, self-scheduling features, and the option to attach shift notes and reminders.
- Time tracking: Employees can use their smartphones (and various other devices) as time clocks, so they can easily sign in and out of work without you having to maintain any physical sign out sheets. Even better, their hours get automatically transformed into timesheets that are ready for payroll processing without any extra work on your side.
- Payroll: Our built-in payroll system syncs with the rest of our tools and means you can spend minutes instead of hours on calculations every pay period. Homebase payroll can take care of paychecks, tax calculations, and withholdings.
- Team communication: SMB owners and managers waste a ton of time switching between their computers, phones, and various apps to get ahold of their employees. Homebase’s team communication app means you can reach everyone in one easy place.
- HR and compliance: Getting employees to fill out paperwork, reminding people to get their certifications updated, researching local labor laws, and verifying that schedules are compliant with applicable regulations is hard work and can have complicated consequences if you get it wrong. Our HR tool and team of HR experts can take that stress off your plate.
2. Try out prioritization techniques
Poor task prioritization and lackluster time management skills often go hand in hand. It’s only logical — small business owners should dedicate their attention to pressing issues that affect their operations the most. It’s also just downright bad business sense to spend a ton of time on unimportant tasks each day that could otherwise be delegated or batched.
If you have trouble figuring out what your highest priority tasks should be, there are several prioritization techniques you can try:
- Red, yellow, green: Assign tasks as red, yellow, or green depending on their urgency. Red means the task is critical and needs to be done ASAP. Yellow means the task is high priority but not urgent. Green means the task is both low priority and low urgency.
- The Eisenhower Matrix: Sort tasks into four categories according to their importance and urgency — do first, schedule, delegate, and don’t do.
- The ABCDE method: Designate tasks with the letter A, B, C, D, or E depending on their priority.
- A: Most important, with significant consequences if they don’t get done.
- B: Important but with minor consequences if they don’t get done.
- C: It would be nice to get these tasks done, but not much will happen if they don’t.
- D: Delegate these tasks to others.
- E: Eliminate these tasks altogether. They’re just busy work and aren’t really important for your business.
When it comes to excelling at task prioritization, it’s also helpful to use a dedicated small business management platform like Homebase. We’ve got features like:
- A manager logbook so team leads can bring the most pressing matters of the day to their colleagues’ attention.
- The ability to leave shift notes on Homebase schedules so coworkers can give each other a heads up about anything that needs to be addressed.
- A team communication tool that makes it easy for the whole roster to stay in touch about daily happenings.
3. Master task batching
Task batching is a popular productivity strategy that extends far beyond the world of small business operations. However, it’s a great way for SMB owners, managers, and team members to reduce the time they spend on tasks and work more efficiently.
Basically, task batching involves grouping similar tasks into one time period. This saves time because it avoids people having to switch between different kinds of work — which can be both ineffective and taxing physically and mentally.
For example, let’s say you’re a cafe employee. You have to open the coffee shop every morning at 8am, but you arrive at 7am to clean and prepare the space for customers. You have to get through the following tasks:
- Refill all the supplies you need to make beverages like milk, tea bags, sugar, and coffee
- Take note of anything you have to order
- Call suppliers
- Sweep and mop all the floors, both behind the counter and in the cafe itself
- Clean all the windows
- Unload the dishwasher
If we’re using task batching logic, it would be much more efficient to do all the cleaning tasks first (all the sweeping, mopping, window cleaning, and dishwasher unloading) and then move on to inventory and restocking tasks. That’s ultimately more productive than mopping a couple of rooms, refilling your coffee, and going back to clean some windows, for example.
4. Implement time blocking
While this time management tip is especially relevant to small business owners who struggle to get through their to-do list every day or week, it can be useful to anyone who is trying to bring a little more organization into their lives and better optimize their time.
If you’re not familiar, time blocking is a technique where you divide your day into chunks dedicated to certain tasks. That means you’re not just aimlessly trying to get through a list of tasks on a checklist or in an agenda — you have dedicated time slots throughout the day, so you know when you’ll get things done.
Here’s an example of how a time-blocked schedule might look for the owner of a small retail shop. Let’s say they arrive at 9am:
- Administrative work (9am-10am): Check emails, listen to and return voicemails, and respond to messages on the team communication app.
- Open store (10am-10:30am): Check in with store manager, help with daily setup tasks, and establish the day’s priorities.
- Hiring and recruitment (10:30am-11:30am): Online interview with potential new hire.
- Financial management (11:30am-12:30pm): Look over the previous day’s sales data and financial transactions, pay bills, send/file invoices, and monitor bank accounts.
- Lunch break (12:30pm-1:30pm)
- Meetings (1:30pm-2:30pm): Get together with managers or employees who need to address any ideas, explore opportunities for networking and collaboration, and meet with potential clients or partners.
- General daily operations (2:30pm-3:30pm): Help out in the store as needed, train/guide employees, oversee the business, check for product/service quality, and address issues and challenges as they come up.
- Marketing and customer service (3:30pm-4:30pm): Post and/or engage on social media platforms, respond to customer concerns, questions, and comments, and observe what competitors are doing on social media.
- Inventory (4:30pm-5:00pm): Take inventory of the shop and note down anything that has to be restocked the following day.
- Wind down (5:00pm-5:30pm): Check in with the store manager before leaving, answer any questions before you go, and check email and phone messages one last time.
5. Master delegation and outsourcing
Excellent time management is about recognizing what tasks you shouldn’t or can’t do just as much as it is about getting things done thoroughly but in as little time as possible. If you want great time management skills, you need to excel at delegation and outsourcing. But those abilities don’t come naturally to everyone, so here’s one way you can get better at assigning work to other people:
- Determine your own strengths and weaknesses: Ask yourself what kind of work you’re particularly good at and can get through more quickly and with more enjoyment than others. If you have any tasks you struggle with, consider whether someone else would be better suited to complete them. Perhaps you have great interpersonal skills and love networking and connecting with customers but have difficulty with numbers and math.
- Dig into employees’ strengths and weaknesses: Now, consider the same questions, but think about your team members instead of yourself. Consult your team leads if you don’t feel you know employees well enough to identify their strengths and weaknesses. You likely already have staff members with strengths and weaknesses that balance out your own. For instance, a retail shop floor worker might feel awkward greeting customers but would cherish the opportunity to spend some time in the back checking inventory.
- Outsource what you’re lacking in-house: On occasion, you may need to bring an additional team member on board — even a part-time worker or a contractor — so you can effectively delegate all the tasks you need to. A hiring tool designed with small businesses in mind, like Homebase hiring, can come in handy in those situations as it lets you take care of recruitment in the same place as your other team management tasks. Not to mention, you can automatically publish job postings to several top sites like ZipRecruiter, Craigslist, and Indeed.
Homebase’s tools are designed to save time
Working efficiently can be the difference between a small business that’s successful and thriving and a small business that’s overpaying on labor and contending with stressed-out managers and employees who don’t have time to get through their to-do lists. That’s why great time management isn’t just a nice-to-have — it’s a downright necessity.
Luckily, it’s not hard for SMB owners to take their time management practices up a notch and bring a little more order into their lives. It can be as simple as trying out a new prioritization strategy, optimizing how you batch your tasks, blocking your time, or delegating work more effectively.
And, of course, no matter what strategies you apply to manage your time better, implementing an affordable, small business team management tool like Homebase is a must. Our wide range of streamlined, easy-to-use tools means you can spend minutes rather than hours on tasks like scheduling, time tracking, payroll, team communication, and human resources each week. Not to mention, you can try out many of our features for free.
FAQs about the importance of time management
How do small business owners manage their time?
Different small business owners have different strategies when it comes to managing their time. But one thing’s for sure — effectively managing your time is essential to successfully running a business. So, if you’re a new small business owner or manager, finding a time management strategy that works for you should be a priority. These are some popular options:
- The memory way: We don’t recommend this, but too many business owners try to get everything done by relying on their memory alone!
- The old-fashioned way: Also known as the pen-and-paper method, small business owners write down what they have to do in a physical agenda or notebook.
- The digital way: This is pretty much the same as the old-fashioned way, but digital! Think of the notes or calendar tool on your smartphone.
- The app way: There are lots of apps like Todoist, Evernote, Toggl, Google Calendar, and Outlook Calendar that small business owners use to keep themselves organized.
Whatever method you choose to keep track of the daily tasks you need to do to manage your business won’t be enough by itself! To work extra efficiently, try a dedicated small to medium-sized business (SMB) platform like Homebase for all your scheduling, time tracking, payroll, and team communication needs.
What are the most important time management skills?
Some of the most important time management skills — particularly for small business owners and managers — are:
- Prioritization skills: Basically, do you have the ability to identify all the most important things you have to do in a day?
- Goal-setting and monitoring skills: Small business owners and managers need to understand where they’re currently at and what they’d like to work toward!
- Focus: It’s difficult for many people to turn off the noise around them and concentrate on the task they have at hand, which makes it much harder to work productively. SMB owners who know how to minimize or eliminate the distractions around them can work much more productively.
- Delegation skills: Unless you have a really small business, you won’t be able to manage everything by yourself. That’s why SMB owners and managers need to have great delegation skills and understand what tasks other people can help them with.
- Familiarity with technology that can help: Modern small business owners and managers are in luck because there are several tools that are specifically designed for the tasks they need help with the most. Homebase is a great option with a free plan and powerful scheduling, time tracking, and team communication tools, just to name a few.