Resources are carefully monitored when you’re starting a business. Every cent you reinvest in your business could mean growth or loss, success or backsliding. But your most valuable resource might be something you didn’t buy, that’s both limited and infinite and, if squandered, can drive your business into the ground.
Properly managing your time means you can focus on completing work for customers and growing your business. Think of your time as being poured between three buckets:
- Growth: Finding new customers to keep your business expanding.
- Work: Delivering on promises to customers.
- Maintenance: All the behind-the-scenes efforts that result in getting paid and keeping the lights on, including taxes, inventory, marketing, and more.
We have some essential tips to ensure you don’t waste a moment of your most valuable resource.
The Five List
Your to-do list is likely endless, but take a moment each morning to jot down the five most important things you need to accomplish that day. As interruptions pop up throughout the day, consider how each request for your time will affect that list. If it might advance the completion of an item, that’s a good place to allocate time. If it derails accomplishing the list, weigh whether or not you should prioritize the request over those five items.
Don’t assume you must complete each item in full that day. Long-tail projects are more achievable when broken into chunks. Items on your Five List might include “spending an hour writing” or reading a few chapters of a book that will help you strategize more effectively. But try to have a few things that you can cross off. Research shows that crossing items off a list frees the brain to focus on other things. Incorporate the small reward of a satisfying checkmark in your day.
Give yourself a small block of time at the beginning and end of the day to do clean-up tasks. That might include weeding out spam and junk emails, sorting bills, or even making your Five List for the following day. Don’t answer calls or get lost in responding to emails during this time. This time is about decluttering your workspaces—physical, digital, and mental. Staying organized and orderly is more likely to keep you on track throughout the day.
Are you a morning person? A night owl? Under what circumstances do you do your best work? Now structure your day to accommodate how you work best. Remember, you’re an entrepreneur! One of the perks is being able to manage your own time in the way that best suits you and your life. Some ideas:
- Figure out when you are most engaged when your brain seems to be firing on all cylinders, and allot that time of day to the items on your list that need the most focus.
- Save rewarding items such as quick check marks on your to-do list for times of day when you usually find yourself lagging.
- Don’t assume that your day must be strictly 9-5. If you lose focus around lunchtime but are extra productive in the evening, take downtime during the day and lean into your nighttime surge of energy.
Lean Into Tools
There is no shortage of tools to help you manage your time and organize your thoughts—from digital kanban boards to bullet journals. Figure out how you best stay organized and find and invest in tools that help without being a burden.
Also, consider gaps in your current business and whether or not the tools you choose can fill them. For instance, a tool like Solo Hustle can handle project management, accounting, and marketing automation needs.
Make sure your tools are talking to each other. Integrating project management with invoicing ensures that you are sticking to the terms of contracts and getting timely payment for your efforts.
With consistent focus, you’ll be able to find the right cadence for being most effective with your time, and your business will see the results.