By Rhonda Campbell
While I worked for major corporations, I’d often lament the long hours I worked. There were weeks when I didn’t take a break long enough to hurry downstairs to the cafeteria to get lunch. I’d end up raiding the vending machine, munching on Doritos and potato chips, not what you’d consider a healthy diet.
To be sure, I worked hard. Even now I know that. But there were times when I felt I’d put more time in on a project than I actually did. In large part, that was due to the fact that I managed multiple projects. Can you say multi-tasker?
What Do You Do All Day as a Small Business Owner?
After I became a small business owner and started my own company I continued to multi-task, jumping from one project to another. I was busy for hours a day. But, check this. I wasn’t working on projects that really mattered, ones that would continue to move my company forward. I thought I was, but I wasn’t. After a few weeks I created a spreadsheet, a tool I could use to track how much time I spent working on specific projects.
Today to ensure that I practice effective time management skills I log how much time I spend marketing and promoting, conducting interviews, creating copy for clients, etc. It helps me to not only track my time it also lets me know when I might not be focusing as well as I could. On those days when I’m not focusing to the best of my ability, I get less work completed (although I sit at my computer for the same amount of time as I do on more productive days).
If you’re a small business owner managing a micro-small business (e.g. small business with less than five employees) a freelancer, self-employed worker or entrepreneur, it’s important that you know what you’re spending your time doing. Goodness knows any of us could spend all day checking one email after another. And don’t mention social media; it’s easy to spend three or more hours a day marketing and promoting your products, upcoming events, etc. at social media networks, but what if you needed to finish a novel, website design, web application build out? By practicing effective time management skills you can start to move forward without working 14 or more hours a day.
Tracking Your Time Reveals a lot About Your Entrepreneurial Skills
As a small business owner, as soon as you find out what you’re spending your time doing, you can find out why it’s generally nightfall before you finish working for the day. You can also discover whether you’re more productive in the morning, afternoon or evening. As a freelancer, by tracking your time, you can find out how much you’re getting paid by the hour. This can help you to set or adjust your rates going forward.
Following are some tips to consider when looking for ways to gauge how effectively you’re managing time, along with a few time management suggestions:
- Track how often you take telephone calls that are not related to work. If you have a telephone that records the length of each call, this should be easy to do. Should you spend consider time on the telephone, consider setting aside 1-2 hours a day to respond to telephone messages.
- Monitor the numbers of times a day you stop to check and respond to non-work related emails. Again, as with telephone usage, consider setting aside 30-40 minutes a day to respond to emails.
- Pay attention to mid-day interruptions from family members, etc., people who may struggle to see you as working if you work out of a home office. Let family members know your work hours. For example, you could tell them that you work Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
- Consider how many times a day you’re on social media networks (it might be time to hire someone else to market and promote your business at social media networks).
If you are managing your time wisely and you’re still not reaping the business results (e.g. customer sales, profits) you want, consider hiring contractors or employees to take on some assignments. After all, spending time is not the same as using time wisely. In fact, the way you spend your time as a small business owner, projects you work on all day every day, is adding up. After awhile everyone around you will know whether or not you’ve been using your time wisely. Signs of effective time management include increases in customer sales, better cash flows, improved customer service, expanding business partnerships, etc.
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