Have you noticed how time drags when you work for someone else but flies when working for yourself?
It’s because of distraction.
Our brain focuses on performing the action when busy, and solo business owners are always busy.
Our daily tasks often include accounting, marketing, employee relations, customer service, and sales; each demands our time and drains our energy reserves, resulting in burnout.
Which is very real and sucks. Trust me, I know.
That’s why managing your time as a solo business owner is crucial, and strategies that maximize your time are critical to your success.
The first is reading this post; the rest you’ll find within.
And it’ll only take 5 minutes; after all, time flies when you’re having fun!
1. Set Clear Goals and Prioritize Tasks
Setting clear and specific goals is the first step in managing your time.
Okay, I can see you rolling your eyes, but stay with me.
Think about it. How many tasks do you achieve when you don’t write them down?
That’s because you’re human, so don’t stress.
Goals, whether in a fancy to-do book for $50 from a life guru or posted notes on the refrigerator, give you a route to follow that ensures you stay focused on achieving your tasks.
And they’re great motivators because it sucks seeing them again at the end of another working day.
You maximize your productivity by identifying and prioritizing your tasks based on their importance, and the urgency helps you achieve them.
Here’s how to do both:
- Set clear and specific goals by asking yourself what you want to achieve and when. Then, break these goals down into smaller, manageable tasks.
- Create a to-do list and prioritize tasks on importance and urgency.
- Refrigerator post-it notes are great, but project management software tools help you stay organized and on track 27/7.
- Set reminders for yourself and tackle the most critical tasks first; mark them off once done.
- Review your tasks and goals regularly, and make adjustments as needed. For example, if one goal consistently rolls over, it may not be that important to you; if so, replace it with one that is.
- Say no to time suckers, IE, people, or requests that rob your time.
Use post-its, calendars, to-do lists, or project management software tools to set and track your goals. Break larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps and set daily reminders.
And celebrate when you achieve a goal running because working solo is challenging!
2. Create a Schedule
Schedules are a crucial part of optimizing your time because they enable you to allocate it to ensure you achieve your daily tasks.
Schedule creation tips:
- Identify your most productive hours of the day; for me, that’s between 06.00 and midday. But not everyone’s a lark; you might be a night owl. The trick is identifying your most productive timer and scheduling essential tasks during those hours.
- Stay organized by using scheduling software like Google Calendar, Trello, or Asana.
- Break larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps.
- Take breaks throughout the day to rest and recharge; 15 minutes is often enough to recharge your mental energy, avoid burnout and improve your focus.
- And be flexible with your schedule because your first one might not suit how you perform; if so, change it.
You aim to create a schedule that works for you, not against you. Try different systems until you find the one that maximizes your time.
3. Eliminate Distractions
Distractions destroy productivity, but by identifying and minimizing them, using tools to improve focus, and creating a distraction-free environment, you can eliminate distractions and improve your productivity.
Tips for eliminating distractions:
- Start by identifying what distracts you the most, such as social media, email, phone calls, or interruptions from family members when working from home.
- Next, take steps to minimize them. For example, turn off your phone (it’s okay, the world keeps turning), log out of social media, or use apps like Freedom or Cold Turkey to block distracting websites.
- Reduce distractions by setting specific times during the day to check and respond to emails or engage with social media.
- Create a distraction-free work environment; this could be simply closing your office door, using noise-canceling headphones, or working in a secluded area.
- Ensure your colleagues, friends, and family understand your need to focus and ask them not to interrupt you during work hours. A writer friend of mine has a notice on his office door; it reads, “only enter if bleeding,” the kids love it!
Besides minimizing distractions, use strategies like the Pomodoro Technique or mindfulness meditation to improve your focus and productivity; they work!
4. Use Time Saving Tools
Technology is a powerful timesaving tool when you use it to your advantage.
Check out Zapier, IFTTT, and Hootsuite for automating social media tasks, Grammarly for proofreading and grammar checks, and Canva for graphic design.
Using timesaving tools is excellent for automating repetitive tasks and streamlining your work process, allowing you to focus on more critical jobs.
Tips for using them:
- Identify tasks that take up most of your time, such as managing social media, data entry, or scheduling appointments. Then automate them.
- Learn how to use the tools effectively, read the tutorials and instructions, and practice using them before you automate tasks.
- Set up automation for your identified tasks.
- Monitor and adjust the tools and automation set-up as needed.
When you add up the hours we spend doing repetitive tasks, it’s easy to see where we lose time. Claim it back and use time-saving tools.
5. Take Regular Breaks
Regular breaks help us recharge, improve our focus, and avoid burnout, and while it’s tempting to keep going, and earn an extra buck, there’s only one of you, so take a break.
- Schedule regular breaks throughout the day, such as 10 minutes every hour or a more extended break midway.
- Variety is essential when taking breaks. You can take brief breaks to stretch, walk outside, or longer intervals to rest and recharge.
- Avoid spending your break time on tasks or activities that are work-related.
- For those who spend hours staring at a screen (that’s me), take breaks away to rest and help you avoid eyestrain. That also means Netflix!
- Make taking regular breaks a pattern. Set reminders for yourself and stick to your schedule.
Use this time to rest, read a book, run, meditate, do pushups, eat, or relax. What you do is fine as long as you take your breaks.
6. Delegate Tasks
Delegating tasks is an essential part of time management for solo business owners. It allows us to focus on our core responsibilities while freeing time to work on other essential tasks.
Begin by identifying tasks you can delegate, such as administrative, social media management, or graphic design. Then check out online platforms and freelancing websites, like Upwork, where you can find professionals to help with these tasks.
How to delegate tasks:
- Identify non-essential tasks; those are ones that aren’t essential to your business or ones you hate doing. It could include administrative, social media management, or graphic design.
- Tasks identified, your next step is finding the right people to do them. You can hire freelancers or virtual assistants or outsource to a company on websites like Upwork, Fiverr, or freelancer.
- When delegating tasks, provide clear and detailed instructions to ensure they complete the job correctly and on time.
- Set clear expectations for the task, including the deadline, budget, and specific requirements. And ensure the person understands what you expect of them.
- Work complete, give feedback, and make necessary adjustments to ensure the person understands what they did well and where they can improve.
- Trusting the process and the people you’re giving tasks to is essential, so step back and let them do their job.
7. Learn to say no
Saying “no” is essential for good time management, especially for new solo business owners who often need every gig and feel guilty about turning down requests.
But it’s a double-sided sword because if you don’t set limits and protect your time by saying “no” to non-essential things, you’ll burn out. Saying no is a habit; it takes a bit of time, but the results are worth the effort as it enables you to focus on your core responsibilities and achieve goals that matter.
How to say “no”:
- Be honest when turning down a request, and explain why you can’t take on the task or opportunity. Hey, if they don’t like your reasons, they don’t deserve your time!
- If you cannot take on an opportunity, offer help in other ways. For example, suggest someone else better suited for the job or offer to help with a minor aspect of the project.
- Saying “no” can initially feel uncomfortable, but it becomes easier over time. Practice saying “no” in different situations to get comfortable with the word; before long, you’ll love this simple 2 letter word.
- Set boundaries on what you will and will not do, making it easier to say no.
Saying “no” isn’t about being rude or dismissive; it’s about reclaiming your precious time. By learning to communicate no, you can protect that time, focus on your core responsibilities, and achieve your goals as a solo business owner.
8. Reflect and adjust
Reflecting and adjusting your time management strategies enables you to evaluate your progress, identify areas for improvement, and make adjustments.
How to do it:
- Assess your progress and review your to-do list, calendar, and any other tools you use.
- Look for patterns in your work and identify areas where you could be more productive. For example, if you procrastinate on specific tasks or spend too much time on low-priority ones, delegate them.
- Make adjustments based on your assessment and identify areas for improvement. This may include setting realistic goals, creating a new schedule, or eliminating specific tasks or distractions.
Time waits for no one, and we only have a set amount, making it our most precious commodity.
Sure, at first, every task seems essential, but as your business grows, learn to automate and delegate, then use the free time to focus on what earns you profit.
Remember, time management is an ongoing process, so evaluate your strategies and make changes as necessary.
Do that, and you’ll have all the time in the world!