11 Time Management Tips for Small Business Owners During the Festive Season
As we all know time is a small business owners most valuable commodity, and it waits for no one. Everyone in business wants to have the most positive end to the year possible yet it’s now that they find themselves more pressed for time than ever. The festive season is often a boon for small businesses, when owners see an uptick in sales, etc.
However, since there is so much to accomplish in such a short time frame, the festive season can complicate even the most well thought out time management strategies.
This is one of those times of the year where we find ourselves looking at the clock and wondering, ‘where did the time go?’ To our bewilderment, it is the end of the day, or year, and that ever-expanding to-do list is showing no sign of deceleration. To that end, here are 11 useful tips that will help you to accomplish all your end of year goals whilst maintaining your merriment.
1. Take stock of your current time management skills
Do you currently have systems and strategies in place that ensure you achieve maximum results every day? How effective are these systems and strategies? In other words, how many of the tasks sitting on your to-do list are you able to strike through at close of play? Do you find yourself working all hours of the day and night and not having enough time to sleep, eat and rest? If so, it’s time to re-think your current plan.
2. Devise a better plan
This is the perfect time of the year to reflect on what’s working and what’s not and to make the changes necessary for a more successful year. Use the break at Christmas to implement new systems and strategies that will power up your business. Take the time to plan your working days, weeks and months. Schedule in time not only to plan them but also to review them and assign time limits and discipline to all tasks and projects.
3. Rearrange priorities
Trim away excess, those non-productive activities. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should eliminate the annual Christmas party. Simply decide which activities propel your goals and which do not. Having a party might be good for morale, which in turn is good for business. Socialising with clients and prospective clients at Christmas may well lead to opportunities in the new year if so they deserve to be made a business priority.
4. Interruptions are inevitable
Accept that interruptions are inevitable. Interruptions aren’t nearly as detrimental to time management however if you’ve taken them into account and planned for them beforehand. Plan for the unforeseen. Pad your commute with a little extra time in the event of snarled traffic or some other occurrence that is beyond your control.
Delegating some of your workload to others is an extremely advantageous move for a business owner or entrepreneur at this time of year. Just think what a relief it would be to offload your event planning, social media, online and email marketing.
6. Day/Appointment Planners
Don’t rely on your memory. Schedule all appointments into a digital or paper calendar and write all tasks on a to-do list. Make a note of connections you need to contact or meet and schedule all follow ups. Map out important dates for the new year so you can plan other activities around them.
7. Avoid cancelling appointments
You may feel that you have too much on your plate for so many meetings and appointments, and may be tempted to cancel engagements that have been sitting in your diary for weeks or months. The problem with repeat cancellations is that they (if important to your business) will just need to be rescheduled for a later date and it only results in more emails back and forth trying to decide on alternative dates, times and venues. It may also create a domino effect, interrupting your plans down the road, and causing you to make more adjustments to your schedule. Rescheduling is essentially procrastinating. If you have someone handling your scheduling for you it’s not so much of an issue, but if you’re a one-man band you can’t afford to waste time in this way.
8. Say “no”
So many people are uncomfortable using this tiny word, but inevitably at some point small business owners must learn how to use it. If you are feeling overwhelmed with your workload first of all you need accept complete accountability, for no one has forced you to take on so many projects, you’ve said ‘yes’ to all of them on your own accord. Be selective and consider which opportunities are going to be the most beneficial for your business aims, not just now but in the long run. Don’t fall into the trap of taking on too much and then ending up resenting the fact that you have less time for your priorities.
9. Close the door
Make those around your workplace aware that when the door to your office is closed, it’s the same as displaying a do not disturb sign. You are not to be disturbed except in the event of an emergency.
10. Police yourself
Police yourself in the same manner as you do those who work for or with you. You expect them to work diligently, without taking excessive breaks, or wasting time on their phones, or social media. Don’t allow yourself to be lured by temptation, this is especially the case if you work from home, since it’s all too easy to lose time checking social media, doing online shopping, listening to the radio or watching the TV, popping out to do errands or having a friend over for a quick catch up. All these things can lead to disaster, so apply discipline. This is not to say that downtime is not important, for it absolutely is and you should apply the same discipline to your free time, just ensure that work time is work time and free time is free time, don’t blur those boundaries.
11. Employ Tools
There are so many great productivity tools and apps available, many of which are free or offered at very reasonable prices. Rescue Time helps you to understand where your time is being spent and sends you weekly reports to reveal who those time thieves really are. Evernote enables you to capture all your ideas, thoughts and images in the same place, organise projects and clip and save pages from the web. Toggl is a great time tracking software that allows you to track exactly how much time is being spent on each project or task and allows you to run reports which display summaries for you to analyse.
Pocket is great for storing anything you’d really like to read but don’t have time in the present, so you can ‘pocket’ any articles or pages you find online and then read them all together in your designated reading slot. Dial2do is great for those moments when you’re driving and a great idea comes to mind, all you have to do is speak and it records your notes. TeuxDeux is an excellent digital to-do list that has a great drag and drop feature making it easy to move items to different dates. It automatically moves all tasks not completed on one day to the next saving you from having to re-do your list from scratch the next day.
Finally, remember that there’s no such thing as a perfect system and time-management techniques are all about experimentation. Strategies won’t always be as successful as you hoped, but all you need to do is review what’s gone wrong, and devise a new plan. One remaining and crucial tip that even the savviest business owner should apply is the scheduling of downtime. It’s true what they say about all work and no play. It’s no fun, but it is also counterproductive. No one is capable of running without fuel, so schedule time for relaxation and enjoyment, especially during the festive season, you deserve it!
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a prosperous new year!
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