Who ever said being an entrepreneur was easy?
Though the appeal of entrepreneurship is often associated with “being your own boss” and “making your schedule”, these things are often easier said than done. Being your own boss comes with a slew of responsibilities, like prioritizing your own tasks, delegating, scheduling meetings, running a website, and more. Your schedule is likely variable as well, with weird hours, meetings throughout the day, and demands outside of the typical “9 to 5”.
As an entrepreneur, you know how demanding managing so many tasks and responsibilities can be, especially in the beginning stages of starting a business. Having effective time management is the key to staying organized and keeping your schedule under control.
Why Time Management is Important for Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurship is an exciting, chaotic, fulfilling, and demanding adventure. There is a thrill behind setting your own priorities, following through on ideas, and forging connections with like-minded people. It can be tiresome work, but ultimately, it is worth it to create something of your own. Starting a business is no easy feat, but for those that pursue it, it can bring a vast array of opportunities.
As an entrepreneur, you not only have to manage your business, but have to make time for things like family, fitness, a social life, and more. With a variable schedule, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and have things fall by the wayside. Proper time management is essential to staying on top of your business, and making time for the things that are most important.
10 Time Management Strategies for Busy Entrepreneurs
Time management is more than just customized planners, time management apps, and a sea of sticky notes. Time management has much more to do with 3 essential principles: Motivation, Prioritization, and Repetition.
Without these three things, no amount of time-saving “hacks” will keep your business on track. Like a fad diet, time management only works if it becomes a part of your routine, rather than a temporary fix. The key to the ten strategies below is that they change your mindset around how to get motivated, prioritize your responsibilities, and create a repetitive routine.
Strategy 1: Ride the Motivation Wave
Most notably coined by Daniel DiPiazza of Rich20Something, riding the ‘Motivation Wave’ is essentially the idea that you are most productive when you are hit with a surge of motivation, and that you should take advantage of that motivation whenever it strikes. That is, when you are feeling highly motivated, utilize and optomize that time to boost productivity and get stuff done.
Rather than pushing yourself through moments where you are tired, stressed, or just generally unmotivated, the ‘Motivation Wave’ strategy allows you to capitalize on that motivational energy when you DO have it. It means keeping the ball rolling, staying on the grind, and getting as much stuff as possible.
Note: If you aren’t feeling motivated, this can be a sign that you are feeling burnt out. Take a break, clear your head, and find something that helps you replenish that personal energy. We will talk more about this in Strategy 7.
Strategy 2: Create a Work Space
Getting and staying motivated primarily involves a combination of finding what gives you motivational energy, and avoiding distractions. That’s why creating a work space (and mentality) around productivity is beneficial to getting your best work done. Having a designated work area serves the purpose of helping you maintain a productive mindset, and eliminates the distractions that can usually get you off your groove.
If you are usually a “coffee shop entrepreneur”, you may find that a place away from home is where you get the most stuff done. Often, having a place that is completely removed from where we usually do our relaxing and hanging out is the best way to get us into that “work zone” mindset.
For others, having an area set aside solely for work purposes is best. This could be as robust as a home office, or just the kitchen table that is away from other distractions.
The key here is to find a place that becomes associated with productivity, over anything else. Beyond just having a place devoid of the usual distractions, your work space should trigger a mental shift from “chill zone” into “work zone”. Over time, this feeds into the Repetition component of establishing a routine of effective time management and productivity.
Strategy 3: Prioritize Responsibilities
Many entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed with the sheer list of things that they have to get done on any given day. Often, this list seems to grow, rather than shrink, as new opportunities come their way. Feeling overwhelmed by the things that have to get done is not a productive, nor sustainable, mindset. Prioritization is an entrepreneur’s best friend. The key to conquering many tasks and responsibilities is assessing priority, and then managing your time accordingly.
Prioritization is an entrepreneur’s best friend.
Staring at a list of things to do is daunting. But, it is likely that the majority of those tasks to not need to be completed at that exact moment, or even that day. To determine priority,
- Be realistic about when things are due, how long they will take to complete, and what you can realistically accomplish in the time that you have.
- Break larger tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks.
- Note which tasks are low priority, medium priority, and high priority.
- Set reminders to yourself for deadlines, and what smaller tasks need to be completed before you can cross an item off your list.
For example, if your goal is to publish 2 blog posts per week, break that down into what needs to be done before you hit that ‘Publish’ button.
Perhaps you need to reserve 15 minutes for brainstorming, 2 hours to writing, 1 hour to editing, 30 minutes for photos, and so on. Then, you have a process that can be accomplished over time throughout the week, rather than you sitting down for 4+ hours trying to write two blog posts in one sitting. Not only will this be less mentally taxing, but it is easier to find time to complete smaller tasks rather than scheduling out 4+ hours at one time.
Strategy 4: Be Dependable (and Accountable)
Having good time management strategies in place will not only ensure that you stay on top of tasks, but it will be beneficial to your business, and your well-being, in other ways.
For one, it will make it easier to stick to obligations and take advantage of opportunities that may come your way. Proper time management means fewer re-schedulings, less “oops I forgot“, and fewer disappointed clients. It proves to other that you are dependable and accountable.
Though this may seem like a clear benefit of good time management, it is also a motivator. No one wants to be seen as disorganized or flakey. If you take your business seriously, you will want to be seen as someone who follows through on their word and obligations. Keep that mentality, and it will motivate you to keep your schedule inline – which will benefit you, your company, and your customers.
Strategy 5: Plan for the Unplanned
In business and in life, the unexpected inevitably happens from time-to-time. Depending on your motivation and time management skills, this can either derail your entire schedule, or simply be a bump in the road. The key to avoiding the former is less about getting back on track, and more about planning for the unplanned in the first place.
Things will happens. Emergencies come up. The internet cuts out. Your car refuses to start. While most of these things can’t be avoided, how you prepare for these situations can make a world of a difference.
When scheduling out tasks, may sure to plan for if the unexpected were to occur. That means avoiding scheduling meetings back-to-back, assuming traffic will be worse that you think, and getting out the door just a bit early. It means allowing enough time in between tasks for if the ‘unplanned’ were to occur, so that if it does, you won’t be completely thrown off your game.
Strategy 6: Delegate Tasks
Whether you manage a team, have a business partner, or are a solopreneur, delegating tasks is a great way to save time and reduce stress.
If you already have employees or partners that can take on some of these tasks, determine what you need help with and who is best suited for the job. It may be that you are spending too much time on these small tasks, when you should be dedicating more time to your larger business strategies. As intimidating as it can be to take yourself out of these tasks (especially if you are a perfectionist), it is a sign of leadership and business savvy to be able to delegate tasks and focus on the things that are most important.
If you are a solo business owner, you are probably wondering how this is even possible. Really, there are multiple options for you to find help and delegate out menial tasks.
- For one, if you have the budget to do so, we suggest hiring a personal assistant or VA (virtual assistant) to manage the responsibilities that always seem to drag you down. This could include: answering e-mails, managing your social media accounts, setting up e-mail campaigns, scheduling meetings, and more. This could be an investment that saves you a lot of grief (and time), as you focus on what matters most.
- Another option is to exchange skills and services with people in your network. This involves reaching out to someone who is more efficient in the things you need help with and calling their help, in exchange for you providing a service to them. For example, maybe you find someone who needs help running their FB ads, while you need help creating content. This person may be willing to write blog posts for you in exchange for you managing their advertising account, at no financial cost to you. This way, you are both more efficient – saving time, energy, and money.
Strategy 7: Invest Energy
One of our favorite quotes around here is, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” Not only can this be applied to life in general, but in how you spend your time. That is, don’t waste time focusing on the things that are outside your control, but focus on investing energy into things that truly matter for your business.
This starts with taking care of yourself, and setting yourself up for mental success. Find those things that make you happy and boost productivity. Listen to your body to know when you need a nap, a snack, or even a change of environment. Channel that energy into those tasks that will truly make your business grow.
Strategy 8: Schedule it Out
An obvious method for good time management is scheduling out your tasks.
Whether you prefer a notebook, planner, mobile calendar, or a time management app, find a method that makes sense for you and your business. Choose something that you are confident you can stick to, and make it a habit to check this resource at least once per day to stay on top of things.
Scheduling out your tasks can also help you visualize what needs to get done, which can reduce the amount of stress you have about your tasks. It also helps to schedule times for those “energy boosters” that are important to you, like going to the gym, preparing meals, or spending time with friends. Don’t let these things fall by the wayside!
Tip: Set notifications on your laptop or mobile device to remind you of when a task is due, even if the exact hour is arbitrary. This can help ensure that you are staying on track for the day and don’t fall behind.
Strategy 9: Know When to Take a Break
It’s simply true that there are times that you will need to take a break – and that’s okay! Hopefully the above strategies have already set you up for success, so that you have set aside time to re-energize if you need to. Try not to push yourself up against too many deadlines, or else you will feel burnt out. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but if taking a break is a feasible option, do it!
Sometimes 10-15 minutes is all it takes. Got for a walk, make yourself a snack, cuddle with your dog – whatever you need to do to get your mind off the tasks at hand. Then, it will be much easier for you to ride the Motivation Wave once you get back to work.
Strategy 10: Make it a Habit (Intuition + Repetition)
The key to making all of these time management strategies work for YOU is to make them a habit over time. In order to do this, you must trust your own Intuition, and then follow through with Repetition.
First, recognize your areas of improvement, and then listen to yourself to know what works for you. Find a scheduling method that makes sense for your business, and figure out those essential “energy boosters “.
Finally, be intentional about following through on these strategies until it becomes a daily routine. It may some trial and error, but eventually it will end up saving you time and energy. This will help you focus on the tasks that truly matter for your business.
Know of any other awesome time management tips? Let us know in the comments below!