Being a small business owner requires slightly different time management skills than being an employee. (Well, “slightly” may be an understatement.) When you’re an employee, your job is typically well-defined, with specific duties, tasks and deadlines. Managing your time can be tough, but in most cases, at least your work is finite.
Once you become your own boss, however, your work can easily seem infinite—especially in the early days of startup (when you may not be able to afford employees) and during those “growing pains” when your company is bringing in more business but you haven’t quite figured out how to handle the new workload.
My company is going through one of those growing-pain phases, and recently, I began to get overwhelmed by all my to-do’s.
So I turned to a friend who’s a whiz at organization to help me get a grip. Here’s some of what we figured out.
You can read every time management book ever written and spend thousands of dollars on time management tools and systems, but none of them will work unless they work the way you do.
For example, one of my daily duties is writing (proposals, articles, this blog). While lots of people need silence to write, I can’t write unless the TV is on in the background. Solution? I stopped trying to write in the quiet of my office, and now write in the evening--in my living room with the TV on.
Another example: Deadlines are a big stumbling point for me—and setting my own deadlines wasn’t working. So I enlisted one of my partners to create fake deadlines for me, then nag me about them.
Finally, some time-management solutions are surprisingly simple. I like to move around while I work, and frequently found I was searching for files or papers at whatever desk, table or sofa I was working on. Easy answer? I invested in a small, portable file basket. I keep current files there and tote the whole thing with me wherever I want to work.
If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve most likely got time management issues, too. How to beat them? What worked for me is really thinking about what projects, problems or recurring issues throw me off track. Once my organizational helper and I had done this, we were able to brainstorm some solutions.
The time management tactics that work for your colleagues may not work for you. For instance, I have a friend who can’t think in a noisy environment. She needs silence and solitude to concentrate. I have the opposite problem—I think best surrounded by other people (like in Starbucks).
As you search for solutions to streamline your time, ask your key employees or business partners for help. Find out what their time-management issues are. Maybe the things you struggle with are duties your partner could handle in a snap. Trading responsibilities just might help simplify everyone’s day—and make your business more productive.