To help you master time management as a small business owner, we’ve gathered 25 expert tips from founders, CEOs, and entrepreneurs. From embracing task batching to prioritizing tasks by importance, discover the favorite time management hacks of these successful individuals.
Embrace Task Batching
My favorite small business time management skill is task batching. I find that it is extremely helpful because it allows you the time needed for completing small daily tasks, while still managing your time frames for the larger important tasks that need to be done.
Task batching is simple; group related tasks together and complete them all at once, rather than switching between different tasks. For small business owners juggling many responsibilities, task batching offers me a way to be more focused, reduce stress, and be more productive with my time.
Time-Box Your Day
As a small business owner, I have to juggle pretty much all aspects of the workplace at once, which includes meetings, employee engagement, customer service, and a fair bit of web design. So I time-box my day to focus on one task at a time.
Web design requires me to spend long hours in a creative mind-space, and I can’t focus if I’m interrupting the work with calls and meetings. So I schedule this work when I’m feeling my productive best, early in the mornings.
I also give myself an hour every day to do miscellaneous or unproductive work like going through mail or social media, to give myself a mental break, and to make sure I’m not distracted by these later.
Utilize the Power of Three
The “Power of Three” is a nifty time management hack that small business owners like us can benefit from. Here’s how it works—each day, you pick three tasks that are super important for your business goals. These should be the game-changers, the tasks that really move the needle.
Then, you focus on those bad boys like a laser beam. Block out specific chunks of time for each task, no multitasking allowed! Give your undivided attention to one task at a time. Once you knock off those top three tasks, you can tackle the rest of your to-do list with a sense of accomplishment.
It’s all about prioritizing, staying focused, and making meaningful progress.
Schedule Sunday Night Emails
Mondays are an easy punching bag in the week of a small business owner. Recurring tasks, items left over from Friday, new emergencies, and more. It’s a day that can easily slip away from you without some strategy.
In order to better prepare for Mondays, I usually schedule emails and Slack messages on Sunday night when it’s still quiet and I can take the time I need to address larger topics. This allows me to have important items ready in the queue while calmly managing the unexpected issues that hit me every Monday.
Apply Pomodoro Technique
My favorite time management hack is the Pomodoro Technique. Let me tell you, it’s been a lifesaver.
I remember days when I’d train clients back-to-back and barely have time for administrative tasks. I decided to apply the Pomodoro Technique—25 minutes of focused work, then a 5-minute break.
One day, between two workout sessions, I squeezed in a “Pomodoro” to answer emails. The result was amazing. I cleared my inbox without feeling overwhelmed or detracting from my client commitments.
Set SMART Goals
As a small business owner, my favorite time management hack is setting SMART goals. By establishing Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals, I gain clarity and direction.
Clear goals enable me to prioritize tasks effectively, allocate time efficiently, and stay focused on what truly matters. With SMART goals in place, I can track progress, measure success, and make necessary adjustments along the way. This time management hack ensures that my time and efforts align with my business objectives, leading to increased productivity and overall success.
Work Undistracted Extra Hours
I have owned a small business for the last 15 years. Over the past four years, I came up with a time management style that works for me. I get to work at least an hour earlier or stay an hour later than everyone else. This gives me one hour to work on “My Projects” with no customers or employees needing my help.
I get more done in that one hour than I could possibly do during standard work hours. I have to make sure to have a plan of what I want to get done in that hour and only focus on that project. It’s amazing how much you can get done in an hour without distractions.
Declutter Your Calendar
As a small business owner, your calendar is bound to get messy and filled up with various tasks. This will keep you stressed and easily cause you to miss out on important tasks that need your urgent attention. Cleaning up my calendar was one of the best things I did in order to manage my time properly.
If a task can be done in a few minutes, just finish it ASAP. Neglecting those tiny tasks and postponing them will only make your calendar get more cluttered.
Try Appointment Scheduling Software
As a salon owner, my favorite time management hack has to be appointment scheduling software. I cannot stress enough how much this tool has revolutionized the way I run my salon.
Prior to this, scheduling and rescheduling appointments was a tedious process that took up an enormous amount of time. Now, clients can book, reschedule, or cancel their own appointments online, and the system automatically updates. It sends out reminders to clients, reducing no-shows and giving me an at-a-glance view of the day or week ahead.
Moreover, I’ve synced the system with my personal calendar. This way, I can balance my personal life with my professional responsibilities with no overlaps. It also helps me understand when I am busiest and where I have gaps that need filling.
All of this automation has freed up a significant amount of time that I can now invest in focusing on enhancing my clients’ experience, improving our services, and strategically planning for the salon’s growth.
Apply the “One Touch” Principle
As a small business owner, my favorite time management hack is to use the “one touch” principle. This means that any action I need to take should be handled within a single task, as opposed to being spread across multiple tasks.
For example, if I need to reach out to a client, I’ll categorize the task as “reach out to client” rather than “prepare email, send email, follow up”. This allows me to manage my time more efficiently by grouping together related tasks and being able to focus my effort on the most important ones first.
My favorite time management hack as a small business owner is not multitasking. The term “multitasking” refers to the act of engaging in more than one activity that is at least slightly different from each other, either at the same time or serially.
One thing you want to make sure you are doing is saving energy anywhere you can. Multiple academic research studies have found that the brain uses energy as it readjusts its focus from one item or activity to another.
You cannot afford to multitask, especially when some activities are not significant enough to make an impact or have any use to you in the long run. Part of being a small business owner is thinking in the long run, and making sure you are not multitasking will benefit you surely in the long run.
Mute Notifications, Limit Distractions
Stop your devices’ constant stream of chirps, bells, and blinking lights. Mute your notifications if you want to do high-quality work. According to research, even a quick break—such as checking an alert on your phone—can potentially cost you several minutes of concentration. That’s because it can take your brain 25 minutes to get back to what you were doing after being distracted, no matter how small.
Mute notifications and check emails and messages infrequently to preserve your time. Even better, keep gadgets hidden so you won’t be tempted to check them as frequently.
Use the Eisenhower Matrix
As a seasoned small business owner, one of my favorite time management hacks is prioritizing tasks using the Eisenhower Matrix.
The Eisenhower Matrix is a simple yet powerful tool for organizing and prioritizing your to-do list. It categorizes tasks into four quadrants: Urgent and Important, Important but Not Urgent, Urgent but Not Important, and Neither Urgent nor Important. By assessing tasks based on their urgency and importance, you can focus on high-priority activities that align with your business goals.
To implement this hack effectively, start by identifying your most critical tasks and allocate dedicated time blocks for them. Delegate or eliminate tasks that fall into the less important categories. Regularly review and adjust your task list as priorities shift to ensure optimal time allocation.
By leveraging the Eisenhower Matrix, you can streamline your workflow, reduce time wasted on unimportant tasks, and maximize your productivity as a small business owner.
Implement the Two-Minute Rule
The two-minute rule, made famous by productivity expert David Allen, states that if a task can be completed in less than two minutes, it should be completed immediately rather than added to a to-do list.
Even minor actions like responding to an email or making a short phone call can add up and become a nuisance. If you take care of these things right away, they won’t add up and become a hassle later.
Minimize Distractions for Efficiency
My greatest time-saving tip is to anticipate distractions and try to minimize them. You cannot work continuously throughout the day. Distractions do occur, and that is acceptable. Remember to account for wasted time when organizing your job.
Consider scheduling work for about seven hours if, for instance, you intend to work eight hours per day. Throughout the day, it’s beneficial to mix up difficult jobs with simpler ones to maintain balance. Maybe you have a more laid-back meeting with your team after spending several hours working diligently on your marketing strategy.
Understanding your typical distractions is crucial as well. Consider adding a focus app to your browser if you frequently get distracted by social media or other entertaining websites. Up to a specific period, focus apps restrict particular websites. Family members and coworkers can occasionally be a major source of distraction. Establishing specific times when you cannot be interrupted is one solution.
Supercharge with the Power Hour Technique
As a small business owner, my most effective time management hack is the “Power Hour,” and I use it frequently because it helps me supercharge my productivity. It’s a straightforward concept that can yield remarkable results.
I start by selecting a consistent time slot that aligns with my peak energy levels. Then, I prioritize this hour by eliminating all distractions, muting notifications, and letting my team know not to disturb me unless it’s urgent. I set a timer for 60 minutes and devote my undivided attention to a crucial task or project. It’s crucial to resist the temptation to stray off course by staying away from emails and social media.
Last, I record my progress and celebrate my accomplishments to stay motivated. If you want to try this, adjust the Power Hour as needed, experimenting with different times and durations until you find what works best for you. This way, you can tackle important tasks head-on, enhance your productivity, and take control of your schedule.
Combine a Four-Part Harmony
My favorite time management strategy is a four-part harmony of tracking, prioritizing, time boxing, and investing in tools.
To kick off, I track how I spend my time. Initially, I used post-it notes, but nowadays, Toggl Track is my go-to tool. It offers clarity on my time expenditure and helps keep my work hours in check.
Secondly, I use task management tools such as Asana to keep my work organized and, crucially, prioritized. It’s refreshingly simple to shuffle to-dos around in Asana, making prioritization a breeze.
Time boxing on my calendar is the third part. It lets me offload my to-do list from my brain to my calendar, assuring me that each task has its dedicated time slot.
Finally, investing in tools like Canva has proved invaluable. Not only do they save time, but they also elevate the quality of my output. It may feel like spending, but it’s an investment in my business—and that’s where money should flow.
Manage Tasks with Reminders App
After spending years looking for the ultimate To-Do list manager, my current go-to time management hack is simple. I create and manage my To-Do list in Apple’s Reminders app for three reasons.
First, it’s always with me on my iPhone, so adding new To-Do items can be done in the moment. This is crucial to avoid forgetting things that can lead to disappointing clients or creating unnecessary urgency when forgotten items reveal themselves.
Second, it’s the easiest app I’ve found to re-prioritize action items when necessary. I simply move the action items with my finger on my device. And lastly, the Reminders app is fully synchronized on all my Apple devices, including iCloud. This means my To-Do list is always backed up and will never be lost.
The app’s ease of use gives me a tangible sense of control and peace of mind. When things are hectic, I don’t waste mental and emotional energy remembering and managing my to-dos, allowing me to focus on the task at the top of the list.
Create a Not-to-Do List
Instead of starting my day with a traditional to-do list, I create a list of tasks I will not do. I identify low-priority or non-essential activities that often consume my time and derail my productivity. This could include checking social media excessively, attending unnecessary meetings, or engaging in time-wasting conversations.
By consciously eliminating these tasks, I can create more time and mental space to focus on high-impact activities that drive my business forward. I gain control and reclaim valuable hours with each task I strike off my “not-to-do” list.
When you implement this technique, you can prioritize your time and attention for tasks that align with your goals, and watch your productivity soar as you avoid unnecessary distractions.
Focus on Easy Wins Early
As a small business owner in the arborist industry, one of my favorite time management strategies is to focus on achieving easy wins early in the day. It’s like a small but significant triumph that gears up my momentum for the rest of the day.
For instance, I check and reply to important emails first thing in the morning. It’s an easy task but critical to the smooth running of my business. Crossing it off my list right away sets a positive tone for the day. This approach keeps me motivated and focused on the bigger challenges that may come my way.
Harness the Power of Saying No
My favorite time management hack as a small business owner is saying no. It’s important to prioritize tasks and opportunities that align with my business goals.
By declining non-essential requests, I can focus on what’s most important. Saying no sets boundaries and helps me protect my time and energy. I carefully assess each request, considering its value and impact on my business.
While it can be challenging, saying no allows me to make deliberate choices and optimize my time for productivity and success. It helps me maintain a healthy work-life balance and drives the growth of my small business.
Master the Art of Delegation
Mastering the art of delegation is the most efficient time management hack for me. Small business owners will always have a million things on their to-do lists, but this doesn’t mean that only we can tick those off.
Delegating administrative tasks can free up a significant portion of our schedule, so we can then focus on high-level strategic activities that will help scale the business. This optimizes our capacity and productivity, while also saving our precious energy for more high-impact tasks.
Allocate Time for Cushion and Breaks
It is important to keep in mind that while you can plan and create a schedule of tasks and goals to accomplish as a business owner, some things may not always go according to plan. This is why it helps to allocate extra blocks of time in case some things take longer.
Furthermore, if you do not end up needing to rely on this cushion room, you can always take this time to decompress and take a break. Breaks are important for productivity, as well, because you need those times to refuel.
Organize Tasks with Folder System
The travel business can make time fly—literally. So, when you are managing a team or business, there is one thing you can do to make you manage your time better.
The next step is to prepare a folder with an index card holder and arrange 31 file folders inside. You can write down what must be done on each day of the specified date. Additionally, you may accomplish this using the Internet or computer-based papers.
This can help prioritize which work should be completed on which day. You may also make a week’s worth of preparations. You might forget about the things that need to get done the following day and make the required adjustments to the sequence.
Some minor tasks can be completed after a project or activity has been placed on hold for a while. The best way to manage time efficiently is to create a list of such quick tasks. Additionally, things that require repeated thought can be completed during this period.
Prioritize Tasks by Importance
Before starting your work day, go through your to-do list and organize your tasks from most important to least important. Knock out the crucial tasks first. If it takes you all day, fine. They were a priority.
If you know you can’t get to some of your less important tasks, delegate them to someone else or save them for a slower day. This hack will boost your productivity and allow you to feel accomplished for the day.
Brett Farmiloe is the founder of Terkel, a Q&A platform that connects brands with expert insights.