As a small business owner, time is a valuable and scarce asset. Spend it the wrong way and you can never get it back.

A 2013 report surveyed 1,500 executives across the world about how they spend their time at work. It revealed a mere 9% of respondents were ‘very satisfied’ with their time allocation. So how can you improve your time management?

1. Understand the monetary value of each working hour

Knowing the revenue each activity generates for the business, will make you less likely to spend your company’s money and resources on the wrong things.

If you’re struggling, a spreadsheet of you and your team’s daily tasks, how long each takes and whether they generate revenue (either directly or indirectly). This will help you manage both your time and the company’s resources more efficiently.

2. Create to-do lists

Instead of trying to remember every detail about a project, leading to information overload, create to do lists. This gets actions out of your head and allows you to take charge of your projects.

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson is one of many business people who credits his success to to-do lists. He writes:

“I do indeed write to-do lists and prioritise items. I live my life by writing lists – there is one next to me right now. Without to-do lists, I would use my time far less effectively, and have a lot less fun.”

Besides pen and paper, there are many digital apps and resources for creating to do lists, such as:

  • Wunderlist: a cloud-based, affordable to-do list app that’s great for sole traders and small teams.
  • Trello: a tool geared towards collaboration.
  • Outlook’s To-Do List: links directly to your email.
  • another tool geared towards collaboration.

3. Focus on what’s important

Productive small business owners know their time is best spent working on important and or urgent tasks rather than those that add little business value. When reviewing your to-do lists, be ruthless and efficient about what gets your attention first.

You’ll accomplish more if you focus on one task from your list at a time. Of course, sometimes unforeseen events take priority, but your goal is to work through your to-do list methodically when possible.

4. Do it, delegate it, defer it

Best-selling author David Allen, highlights in his book Getting Things Done, the value of rapidly doing, delegating or deferring key tasks as appropriate.

  • Doing: use your cognitive skills in a way that delivers a return to your business.
  • Delegating: delegate tasks you are ill equipped for, thus using you and your team’s resources, time and skills more efficiently.
  • Deferring: put off what’s unimportant to a later date when you have the required time, energy and resources.

This simple three-step workflow will help you to work on high-priority tasks more frequently and further grow your business.

5. Take regular breaks

Overworking is just as damaging on your health and business as underworking. Ensure you are taking proper breaks and getting away from the office. Otherwise, you’ll begin to feel stressed and will likely become unproductive and frustrated.

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