Have you ever noticed that some entrepreneurs seem to get an insane amount of work done each day – while others are spinning their wheels without enough time in the day to accomplish much of anything? Which type of boss lady are are you? More importantly, if you’re in the second group – what can you do to be more productive? Here are 9 steps for better time management for entrepreneurs (aka “busy boss ladies”, like me!):
1. Track Your Time for One Week
First you need to get a clear picture of how you spend your time. Track everything you do during your work day for at least one week. And by “everything” – I mean “everything“! You can write it down on a list – or you can track it digitally using the app or calendar of your choice. (I used Google Calendar when I did this exercise.) Be honest and record when you start and stop every task, even when you get distracted. Did your 5-minute Facebook “quick peek” turn into 45 minutes of watching cat videos on YouTube? Write that down! Don’t change your habits or schedule during this week. Just keep on working (or getting distracted!) as you normally do.
2. Evaluate and Categorize Your Time
Now look at how you spent your time that week. Highlight each thing that you did into categories such as Urgent, Important, Family, Fun, and Wasting Time (ahem, cat videos!). Some things that are fun might fall into the category of distractions and that’s OK. In the future you can place time limits on those things, so that you can still have fun without going overboard and wasting time.
3. Schedule Urgent and Important Tasks First
Everything that is urgent and important should be scheduled. Urgent tasks are tasks that are critical that they get done today (or in a short time frame). Important tasks are items that will help your long-term goals. They really need to get done; but they can be done at a time when you fit them into your schedule.
It’s OK if some tasks overlap categories. For example, an Urgent or Important task might also be in the Family category. Just put it all into your schedule. Give each task the amount of time you think it will take, adding in a few minutes for padding to avoid run over and missed deadlines.
4. Schedule Family and Fun Tasks
Don’t forget to put time in your schedule for family and fun. Both of these types of “tasks” are a very important part of your life. The trick is to schedule the right amount of family time and the right amount of fun, without intruding on the important and urgent tasks and activities that you also must do.
5. Delete and Delegate
Are you running into a schedule that leaves no time for family and fun – or even sleep? You, my dear, are over-scheduled. Now it’s time to start cutting things out. Maybe you’re noticing some tasks that really don’t need to be done. Go ahead and remove them from your schedule. Or maybe you’re noticing some items that need to get done; but someone else can do them. Never underestimate the power of delegation for getting more time in your day. (This is on my “to do” list! I need a VA!) So while you can’t actually get more than 24 hours in a day, you can create a situation where you duplicate yourself by outsourcing some of your tasks. You can start small by freeing up a few hours each week by hiring someone to clean your house or mow your lawn. And then you can work up to hiring someone to help out with your business.
6. Create a Plan of Action for Each Activity
It doesn’t matter if the plan is for family time, for business, or for something else. If you create a plan of action for the larger projects on your to-do list, you’ll accomplish them faster and with fewer problems. One of the biggest time wasters is jumping from item to item. Stick to one thing at a time until it’s done and you’ll be more productive.
Want to take this a step further? Batch it, baby! Schedule a large block of time to crank out 2 or 3 blog posts instead of writing half a blog post this morning and finishing up the other half tomorrow.
7. Spend Time Each Night in Planning Mode
Take the time each night to evaluate how your day went and to decide what tasks need a longer or shorter amount of time to accomplish. You can then adjust your schedule and plan of action accordingly.
Look ahead in your schedule to remind yourself what is coming up – so you don’t forget anything. Never rely on just your memory or you will get off track (and if you’re like me, you won’t sleep well at night because you’re worried about forgetting something). Taking the time to do this will improve your scheduling (and productivity!) skills.
8. Train Others to Respect Your Time
If you have a business (and especially if you work from home), you will often find that other people seem to lack respect for your time. The cause of this lies not with those people; but with you! You haven’t taught people to respect your time. Are you setting up boundaries for when you’ll accept phone calls from family and friends? Do you allow your family members to barge into your office whenever they have a simple question? It’s time to start teaching people how to treat you. If they respect your time, you won’t have as many interruptions and you can get more work done!
9. Get Real
Finally, it’s important to always be realistic about what can really be accomplished in any given amount of time. No matter how much you think you are, you are not Super Woman. You’re a human being who is doing her best to manage the resources you have. If something doesn’t get done today, move it to tomorrow. Go easy on yourself and be forgiving instead of getting frustrated at what you didn’t accomplish that day. As you get better at scheduling, you’ll get better at figuring out how long it really takes you to do a particular task. And then you’ll have fewer days where you aren’t productive.
Want to learn more about managing your time better? Here are 3 busy boss ladies that know their stuff – and are able to help you get more productive with your business. (Note: none of these are affiliate links. I just want to share these resources with you because they have helped me with my business – and I think they can help you with yours too.)
- Melissa Ingold’s Freedom Builder Academy – designed specifically for women business owners who want to work with an assistant and have more time to focus ON their business – and still have a life outside of it.
- Phyllis Khare’s Course: Time Bliss Me Using Google Calendar – an online course that teaches you how to use Google Calendar to give you control over your calendar and your productivity!
- Chalene Johnson’s Virtual Business Academy – Discover how you can save time and money and grow your business faster than ever before by going Virtual!
So tell me in the comments below: Are You Managing Your Time or Is It Managing You? (And what are you doing about that?)