Any small business person knows that wearing many hats is taxing enough, but factor in juggling the business of life – household, kids, appointments and perhaps a personal need here or there – and things can feel overwhelmingly unmanageable.
Increasingly, time is our most precious resource, and despite the amazing technological strides of the last century, we haven’t found a way to stretch 24 hours any longer.
So how can you best manage your time when you feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day?
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Yes, it sounds cliché, but really busy people just don’t have time to give to the small stuff. Not if they want to be effective in the areas of their lives that actually matter most. You have a limited amount of energy – investing it in things you can’t control, things that zap your energy or don’t contribute to your overarching goals, is counterproductive. Getting upset rarely improves a situation, so move on.
Organizing the files and systems in your household and office may be time consuming up front, but the pay off in the long term is huge. When you’re super organized last minute bumps and surprises aren’t a big deal. You’re ready with plan A well in advance, and know what plans B and C will be.
Have a computer where everyone convenes
If you’re managing a household as well as a business, make sure that one computer in the house has the most current schedule and that it’s open, accessible to everyone, and located in the room that everyone uses (ie. the kitchen or den). Make everyone responsible for inputting their own schedules, appointments, programming reminders, and checking the central calendar daily against the one on their own PDA, computer or timetable. Sometimes when backing up data we may revert to a version that’s lacking the latest information. Having kids as part of the process early on – at whatever level their age allows – will foster responsibility and help make organizing a shared task.
Prepare the night before
There’s nothing worse than scrambling in the morning when things don’t run smoothly: the alarm doesn’t go off, there’s a traffic jam or you’re just tired as a result of poor sleep. Knowing the morning is already wrought with unforeseen time suckers, eliminate whatever you can control the night before. Decide what breakfast will be and make sure it’s organized in the fridge or on the counter, program the coffee maker, get clothes ready, put your files in your bag, charge all electronics. It sounds basic, but having a routine and sticking to it will help you better manage your time from the moment the day begins.
Take advantage of tech
Whether it’s the convenience of a PDA, a laptop, collaborative online tools, or the latest applications, technology can be a great friend to the time strapped small business person. Doing things on the go is part of your life when you’re running your own business. Thankfully technology now makes it easier to multitask. You can use Skype or Face Time for meetings when you don’t have the travel time or budget, have appointment reminders sent to you automatically, subscribe to news alerts and information feeds, share documents across user groups, keep expenses in check and so much more. Find the tools that help you better manage your needs with the time you do have available, and use them to help you stay on top of things.
One of the most important things you can do is communicate clearly and teach your “team” – at home and at work – to become accountable. While doing everything yourself may ensure it gets done the way you like, it will also burn you out. Accepting that others can help carry the load gives those around you a sense of ownership in shared success, and makes things easier on you.
Every Minute Counts
Have a doctor or dentist appointment? Take your laptop with you to get work done while waiting. Any travel or commute where you aren’t behind the wheel is a great opportunity to catch up on important reading, notes, report writing and more. Stuck in traffic? Go hands free on your cell and make those important calls for the day while at a stand still. Time between meetings is time to make notes, catch up on emails and prepare for the meeting to follow. Time is money, and as a small business owner, your time is your biggest non-renewable resource. Make the most of it!
Ann Kaplan, President and CEO of iFinance Canada – a North American consumer finance company – is an award winning businesswoman, published author and mother of six.