When it comes to time-management, I have a favourite saying that’s gone around the internet a few times: “Everyone has as many hours in their day as Beyoncé” (Feel free to replace Beyoncé’s name with anyone’s that you admire). My point is that every human on the planet has 24 hours in a day, 1440 minutes or 86,400 seconds. The only difference between people who make a clock chime and those just ticking over is how they use their quota.
That’s why it’s crucial that all business owners learn to manage their time allowance just as carefully as their financial budget – because as your business grows, your schedule will only get tighter. The good news is, there are coping mechanisms. We might all have 24-hours in our day, but with a few savvy strategies, here’s how you can make it feel like double.
Match your methods to your mood
I find I’m the most productive when I give myself the freedom to wake up in the morning and then decide how and when to work that day, rather than trying to predict how I’ll be best productive.
On a Monday I might be in an extroverted psyche and want to work at a big table amongst chatty teammates. On Tuesday I might want quieter solitude in my office. On Wednesday I could crave a compromise – sitting in my office with the door open, on the cusp of the organised chaos outside. It’s not a huge change of environment – just a few steps from one seat to another – but it can make a big change to my creative mojo.
Slow your start
Sleeping in might not sound like a clever time management strategy, but I’ve found that giving myself permission to get to the office later, and cutting the hours I’m in there, can allow me to get more work done.
I’m not talking about hiding under your doonah until noon (sorry, night owls) but, after years of feeling like I needed to be the first person in the office, it’s now not unusual for me to sit in bed until 9am replying to emails, catching up on social media or reading up on business strategies.
It means that when I do arrive at the office, I’m firing on all cylinders. It also shows my team that I trust them to get their job done when I’m not in residence.
Schedule a one-person meeting
I used to only use my calendar to schedule meetings with other people, but then I realised it’s just as important that I set time aside for work I have to complete on my own. If you know you need two-hours to write a marketing plan, thirty minutes to catch-up on invoicing or even just ten-minutes to write an important email, then block it off and abide by it.
Don’t be afraid of being a “mono-tasker” and putting aside an amount of time to work on a set task. Just because you have the ability to multi-task it doesn’t always mean it’s the most efficient way.
Don’t feed the early birds
One of my pet peeves is people who arrive really early for meetings. I know they come early to send off a message of efficiency, but when people arrive 15, 20 or even 30-minutes before a meeting’s scheduled, it can throw your schedule into disarray.
If this happens, don’t feel rushed for fear of appearing rude by leaving them waiting. Just guide them to a resting spot – The Collective office has a balcony where nobody minds waiting in the sunshine – and then return to your work until your scheduled time. And if you’re an early bird yourself, please circle the block a few times before landing next time.
Remember the four D’s
As a business owner, you can feel under pressure to say yes to every request in case you miss out on an opportunity, but I can tell you from experience it’s the fastest way to burnout. Instead of automatically replying in the affirmative, remember there are other options – the four D’s’: do it, decline it, delay it or delegate it.
If a project genuinely excites you but the suggested timeframe is impossible, be honest about when you might be able to undertake it. Alternatively, outsource it to a trusted team member or lessen your burn by hiring a virtual assistant that you can pay-per-task rather then having an extra employee on your payroll.
Imagine the opposite
If I ever feel myself verging on self pity at the end of a hectic work month, where I’ve been living out of a suitcase, I try to take a moment to think about how I’d feel if my inbox was empty. If I had no requests from clients, if I didn’t have team-members with big ideas to brainstorm, if I didn’t have any speaking gigs on my calendar and was sitting in an empty office twiddling my thumbs, I’d be much worse off.
As a small business owner, it can feel impossible trying to find the time to eat, sleep, and keep your company’s heart beating. But would you really want to go back to the time when your business was no more than a bubble diagram on a notepad? Take five seconds to stop, breath and feel grateful and it can reset the clock on your day.