As the Covid-19 crisis ebbs and flows, most small business owners are working from home. As if running a business wasn't demanding enough, the pandemic has intensified the challenges.
The competing priorities entrepreneurs have always faced—client work, administrative duties, staffing issues, family responsibilities, self-care—have become even more daunting to address. With no distinct physical way to set boundaries, it has become difficult to focus on individual tasks and give them their due attention.
I know and understand the turmoil well. During the pandemic, I've managed a remote workforce and taken care of all other aspects of our business almost entirely from home. Additionally, my husband has been working from home. Add in our four children and the house has been full, to say the least. I realize it can be difficult to draw lines in the sand and prioritize responsibilities. However, it's necessary to discover ways to compartmentalize individual to-dos so that you can be more productive on all fronts. Everyone's situation is unique, but here are some tactics that have worked for me.
5 Tips to Help Small Business Owners Manage Competing Priorities When Working from Home
1. Maintain Independent To-Do Lists
It may seem convenient to rely on one to-do list that covers everything you have on your plate. However, that can become overwhelming. In addition to having a master to-do list, make separate to-do lists for each of your responsibilities. For example:
- Health and wellness
2. Prioritize Your Priorities
Your to-do lists will contain a mix of tasks—some more urgent than others. To make sure you tend to the most mission-critical responsibilities first, organize your lists to put essential items to the forefront. But what happens when the lines blur about what should get your undivided attention? Consider trying one or more of the following techniques for prioritizing tasks.
- Priority Matrix – This involves organizing tasks into quadrants to determine which should take precedence. Check out the Eisenhower Decision Matrix and Stephen Covey’s time management matrix for more information.
- ABC Method – This technique involves reviewing and ranking tasks on an "A," "B," "C" level of importance. When multiple tasks seem to have the same degree of urgency, you may identify several As, Bs, and Cs. You would then rank the tasks within each of those priority categories to determine your plan of action.
- Eat the Frog – Sometimes, I find this is a valuable method for tackling my days. "Eating the frog" involves doing the tasks you like least first. Rather than dreading those nasty to-dos all day long, you get them out of the way. This allows you to work more intently on the other responsibilities you have awaiting you.
3. Delegate to Get It Done
Surely, not EVERY task on your list must be done by you personally. Carefully look over your to-do lists to determine what responsibilities you can delegate to others. For example:
- Can someone else run your financial report?
- Can your significant other go grocery shopping?
- Can a staff member respond to inquiries on social media?
- Can your kids do their own laundry?
When someone else is perfectly capable of knocking a few to-dos from your list, by all means, take some pressure off of yourself and allow them to contribute.
4. Negotiate Due Dates
Communicate with stakeholders to discuss rescheduling lower-priority activities. Most people cooperate when asked if it’s okay to set a new deadline for non-urgent tasks that won’t have a ripple effect if not accomplished by a specific date.
5. Use Tools to Your Advantage
Old-school tools like a day planner, desk calendar, and notebook can help keep priorities top of mind. However, consider using cloud-based collaboration and productivity tools to communicate with team members, organize tasks, and manage projects. Several software platforms that might serve your needs include:
While these tools are geared toward helping businesses, you might also find ways to use their capabilities for managing your home projects and tasks, too.
Here’s to a Healthy Work-Life Balance Amid the Pandemic!
I hope these tips help you navigate the new normal of managing your business and personal life all from one place. Also, I recommend getting in touch with other entrepreneurs to exchange ideas, tips, and tricks. The more we can support each other, the better able we can survive and thrive during these uncertain times.
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.