Time Management Tips for Thriving SMBs

Mastering the art of time management can make or break your small business. Whether your challenge lies in finding enough hours in the day to get it all done, or in strategically delegating tasks to others, this guide will help you get more done without losing your mind.

Mastering the fine art of time management can make or break your small business. Whether your challenge lies in finding enough hours in the day to get it all done, or in strategically delegating tasks to subcontractors and employees, the following guide will help you get more done without losing your mind.

1. Accept the Inbox

Successful time management begins by giving up the false notion that you can somehow get it all done if you just work hard enough.

The truth is that you’re never going to get it all done – and neither is anyone else! No one dies with an empty inbox, and realizing that is actually a key component to getting more done.

Once you stop stressing about finishing everything, and realize that a new project or task will always take its place, you can begin to relax and enjoy the present moment. And the more present and focused you are, the less time each individual task is going to take because you are giving it your full, undivided attention.

2. Learn to Differentiate

Learn the difference between clock time and real time when scheduling your day. There is a difference between absolute time and mental time, as well as a difference between how long you think things may take, and how long things actually take.

While clock time is absolute – an hour is always 60 minutes, no more, no less – “real time” or mental time can shift depending on what’s happening that particular day. That means that your attitude and mental perceptions can color how fast or slow the day seems to be going, how much time it feels like you have to complete a particular task, and how stressed or relaxed you feel while carrying it out.

When cultivating time management skills, focus your energies on navigating the waters of real time. Your thoughts and perceptions have a much more powerful impact on the way you experience time than any clock ever could. Worry less about minute to minute productivity, and focus instead on the way you’re thinking about each task that needs completing.

3. Track your Time

Time management is all about developing an intimate understanding of how you spend your day, minute to minute.

Start by tracking how long things take you, keeping detailed records for at least a week. You could even use a time tracking app, many of which include the ability to create specific notes about how you’re spending each minute.

Think of time tracking like starting a new exercise regimen or food program. Only by getting crystal clear about your current habits will you be able to make changes to those habits. You’ll be surprised at how long things actually take you once you begin to investigate your current schedule. (“Whoa! I spent how long checking my email?”)

Once you’ve tracked your time for a week, create a graph or chart to help you visualize where you’re spending the majority of your time and where you can make adjustments.

time-management-24. Schedule Non-Activities

Most people think about time management in terms of activities – finishing projects, writing emails, creating marketing materials and attending meetings. However, time must also be scheduled for “non-activities” such as brainstorming, impromptu conversations with colleagues, and yes, even good old fashioned thinking.

But how can you anticipate how much time you’ll spend or need to spend thinking every day?

After tracking your time for a week, you should have a strong idea of how much of your day is typically dedicated to non-activities. If you find that your non-activity number is low when compared with time spent completing tangible activities, you may actually need to increase your downtime.

Allowing yourself ample time to prepare for and decompress after activities helps you to remain focused during said activities, thus decreasing the overall amount of time each task takes to complete.

For example, if you have a blog post to write, you might spend a third of your time brainstorming, a third researching and a third doing the actual writing. Without the brainstorming element, you’ll be diving into your project without any direction and are likely to need more time to complete it than you would had you mentally prepared.

It’s also important to allow yourself to decompress between activities. Rushing from task to task and checking off to-dos like a frantic Energizer Bunny is a surefire way to burn out and drastically reduce the quality of your work. It’s better to get less done and get it done well, than to complete everything under the sun in a sub-par fashion.

5. Go Above and Beyond

Once you’ve tracked your time and determined what you need to complete a particular task, over-schedule yourself. Think of yourself like that one client of yours who has seriously turned chatting into an Olympic sport. Just as you allow some extra time (okay, a lot of extra time)  for his conference calls, give yourself plenty of time to complete each and every task, even the ones that are usually quick and easy.

This time management trick ensures that you’ll never feel behind schedule, and will most likely be ahead of the game throughout the day. Because you’ve accounted for the inevitably of interruptions, unforeseen events and the ups and downs of your own energy levels, you’ll be able to meet the goals of each day without feeling stressed.

Being on top of your to-do list will also create positive feelings and make you feel more productive, which in turn will help you get more done.

Exclusive Productivity Tips for Savvy Solopreneurs

The brave soul of the solopreneur requires a special set of productivity tips to meet the needs of their small business. Without a regular team of partners, co-workers or employees to rely on, having the right systems in place to stay organized and productive is absolutely essential. Here are a few of our favorite productivity tips especially geared toward small business owners running a one man or one woman show.

The brave soul of the solopreneur requires a special set of productivity tips to meet the needs of their small business. Without a regular team of partners, co-workers or employees to rely on, having the right systems in place to stay organized and productive is absolutely essential.

At Shoeboxed, we’re always interested in finding new organizational and productivity ideas.  Here are a few of our favorite productivity tips especially geared toward small business owners running a one man or one woman show.

Seek balance

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is one of the biggest challenges faced by solopreneurs. Since you’re the captain of the ship and the first mate (and the guy swabbing the deck), it can become very easy to get sucked in to working 10, 12, even 15-hour days.

Oh, and let’s not forget about weekends (which you haven’t seen in how long now?).

But here’s the problem – working yourself into the ground actually inhibits your overall productivity levels. Sure, it may seem like you’re getting more done, but how is the quality of your work?

When you’re tired, stressed, and haven’t seen your friends and family in what seems like eons, your creativity is sucked dry. It becomes next to impossible to infuse your work with the kind of joyful energy that will attract more clients and keep old customers coming back.

So what’s a swamped solopreneur to do?

Give yourself a hard end time every day. In fact, make yourself a schedule and commit to it, no matter what. Since no one else is around to create structure in your work day, you have to do it yourself. A specific end time will force you to stay focused throughout the day and finish those top priority items on your to-do list.

Committing to a structured workday will allow you to implement the rest of our productivity tips and reap the maximum rewards from each.

You can also break up tasks into more manageable chunks. Instead of attempting to finish hours upon hours of work in a single sitting, follow organizational guru Samantha Bennett’s advice and commit to completing 15 minutes at a time. This way you’ll prevent burnout, and you’ll be surprised how quickly monumental projects get completed by giving just a few minutes of dedicated attention each day.

Once you’ve developed a schedule that allows you to actually sleep for at least eight hours a night and see your friends on a Saturday (a Saturday!), you may find that there is still work that needs to be finished.

Don’t sweat it!

That just means it’s time to…..

Outsource

how-to-delegateThere are so many amazing things about being a solopreneur. You get to be your own boss, make all the decisions about your small business, and even take naps in the middle of the day, should the mood (or fatigue) strike you.

But that also means that you’re responsible for every area of your business, from invoicing and accounting to marketing and customer service.

As your small business grows, you may find that not even the stealthiest productivity tips create enough time to get everything done.

First of all, pat yourself on the back! That means your small business is growing, and the next step in the process is to begin outsourcing certain tasks.

The mere idea of outsourcing can be seriously frightening for solopreneurs, especially if you’re used to doing everything yourself. What if you hire someone and they’re bad? What if the work isn’t finished on time? What if they screw everything up?

Calm down. There are ways to evaluate freelancers and potential collaborators before you hire them to ensure that you’ll be thrilled with the results.

Decide which tasks you’d like to outsource. This is pretty easy – what do you dread doing? What’s been sitting on your to-do list for eons but you just can’t seem to make yourself do it? Or what takes you absolutely forever to do that could take someone else an hour or two?

Web design, social media, online marketing, SEO, and other administrative tasks are all great things to delegate to a freelancer or virtual assistant (VA).

Consider the time wasted procrastinating because of your hatred of accounting, or the endless hours it takes you to set up a simple landing page. There are folks out there who thrive on crunching numbers and designing stellar sites – why not let them do their thing while you reap the benefits?

Post your opportunity on Vanet Networking’s VA job site, or peruse Elance to find a skilled freelancer to meet your needs. The nice thing about these sites is that you can view feedback and ratings from other clients, and you can see the freelancer’s work and portfolio before you hire them.

Elance contractors are particularly keen on pleasing would-be clients, since great feedback helps them secure more jobs. A single negative review can be devastating for a freelancer, so you can be sure they’ll put their best foot forward for you.

Elance will also give you an idea of market rates and what to pay for each outsourced job. Freelancers bid on each project, offering their most competitive rates. When you decide to hire someone, the negotiating is already done for you.

Make sure that you’re paying each outsourced contractor less than what you make per hour. For example, if you figure your time is worth $75/hour, and it takes you five hours to design a landing page, look for a designer willing to help you out for less than $375. With your valuable time freed up to actually do what you do best, you’ll be able to not only make money, but turn a profit by outsourcing.

5 Must-have Productivity Tips for Tax Season

Tax season is the perfect time to implement some new productivity tips into your organization arsenal.

On top of everything else you have going on, you have to find time to finish your taxes and incorporate all of those awesome write offs we’ve been talking about all year.

Check out these five fresh, fierce productivity tips to maximize your workflow during this busy time of year.

1. Consolidate Your Email

This may seem like a no-brainer, but we were shocked when we discovered how many Shoeboxed users were still trekking to multiple login screens to check different email accounts.

Continue reading “5 Must-have Productivity Tips for Tax Season”