Seven important time management tips for startup entrepreneurs

Launching or running your own early stage small business? Here are seven time management tips that will help you get more done in less time – and free yourself up to really make it a success.

If you’ve never launched your own startup business, you can be forgiven for thinking it’s fairly easy. You’ve sacked your boss, which means you get to choose when and where you work.

You might even picture yourself hanging out in a coffee shop with your laptop, working on some exciting ideas, or carefully curating your Instagram account as you sip your morning latte.

The reality, as any small business owner knows, is very different. And much less glamorous. When you run your own business, all the pressure to make it succeed is on you. As are all the tiny, boring tasks that will keep your business going and (helpfully) help it to grow.

Tiny tasks that need to be done but, collectively, can stop you from focusing your time and energy on the really big jobs that need to be done to stop your business simply ticking over, and really help it succeed.

So how can you manage your time more efficiently? How can you avoid the trap of focussing your energies and attention on the mountain of day-to-day tasks that need to be done, and (as a consequence) losing your perspective and the ability to look at your long-term goals.

And how can you avoid becoming burnt out and demotivated as a result, which is one of the most common reasons why small businesses fail?

To help prevent this from happening, here are seven ways you can manage your time effectively and to increase your overall productivity. 

1) Stick to a schedule

We tend to have two types of days in our own business. Days in which we know exactly what we need to achieve that day, and power productively and satisfyingly through it.

And days in which our mind wanders, we waft around, half-heartedly working on things that aren’t really important right then (and usually don’t finish), and usually get lured into the rabbit hole of randomly looking up things online. Or getting sucked into social media.

There’s one key, but simple difference between these two days. And that’s a list.

When we start the day with a clear list of what we need to do, we keep on track. We’re motivated to get working and are less likely to deviate from our tasks because… oh look, your ex-work colleague has just posted her holiday photos on Facebook!

Lists are satisfying, especially as you tick things off. But they’re most satisfying when you get to the end of the day and everything is ticked off. You have that warm glow of a job well done, and can enjoy your evening with a clear conscience.

They also give you a calm feeling of control, which can be a rare thing when you’re navigating the chaos of running your own business, with 1,001 jobs all vying equally urgently for your attention.

(Want to know the best kind of list to make to help you stay on track and get what you need done? Check out our Success List below.)

2) Use technology

When you’re running your own small business, you have limited resources. Your time, energy and your funds are finite, so you need to find ways to work smarter with what you have.

And thankfully today, we have access to a wealth of technology and apps that can enable you to do just this. We run our own business using systems that streamline what we do, and ensure we work as efficiently as possible. And these systems are always powered by some form of technology.

So what kind of tech can help you? Take a look at these seven time-saving apps – there may be some ideas there that work for you. You can also work smarter if you’re on the road with these four apps.

3) Don’t procrastinate

By putting off tasks, you just end up wasting your own time, and add to your worry and anxiety. So don’t make procrastination a habit. Don’t make the mistake of obsessing over every small detail, either. Losing sleep over trivial matters could result in unproductive business strategies. 

So how can you overcome the habit of procrastination if you’re prone to it? We recommend using a Success List to identify the right tasks to work on, and help you get them done. We’re always more productive (and procrastinate less) when we have a clear list to work through. (See point number one, above.)

4) Complete one task at a time

Identify which tasks require your full attention and focus on completing them one at a time (again, you’ll find the Success List REALLY helpful with this). Them set a deadline and monitor the time spent on a single task. Don’t take on more work than you can handle. 

Our favourite procrastination-beating tool that will aid you with this are Focus Blocks. Focus Blocks are a structure in which you focus on one task (or similar group of tasks) and complete them in a set period of time. You can learn how to use Focus Blocks here.

5) Set realistic goals

Setting both short-term and long-term goals will motivate you, and help you understand what your business objectives are. So make a list of daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly priorities, and set yourself SMART goals.

It also helps to brainstorm ideas on how to effectively execute each task without wasting time or resources. One powerful technique to help you work strategically towards your goals (and actually achieve them) is chunking. You can read here how to chunk your goals into achievable steps.

6) Distribute tasks equally among your team

As an entrepreneur, it’s all too easy to think that no one else can do something as well, as quickly or as thoroughly as you. As a result you put too much on your own plate, and either find yourself letting balls drop, or burn out. (Or both.)

While success in business is important, so is your health and well-being. So don’t carry the entire burden of making your business work on your shoulders. If you have people working with you, break down the tasks that need to be done, and distribute them equally among your team.

Don’t have a team yet? Consider whether it might be time to start building one – even if it means outsourcing some tasks to freelances support, such as a VA or marketing consultant.

Outsourcing and delegating doesn’t just help you take some of the weight off your own shoulders, but it actually frees your business up to grow. How? Because if your time is wasted on tasks that could easily be done by someone else, or just keep your business treading water, you’re going to stagnate where you are.

Instead, by giving these tasks to someone else (and yes, paying them to do them) you free yourself up to add the real value to your business – whether that’s product or service development and delivery, or networking, PR or sales.

To help you get started on this big step (as it can feel when you outsource or delegate for the first time) we’ve curated some helpful articles:

7) Recharge

This may sound counterproductive, but taking a breather every once in a while can actually improve your focus and enhance your productivity and creativity.

Working long hours without any time to reflect can cause stress and result in burnout. So take a step back and relax. This will help you clear your head, and mentally prepare to take on upcoming tasks, and potential setbacks. Consider incorporating a pomodoro timer into your routine. It’s a simple yet effective way to structure your breaks and enhance productivity.

If it helps, compare yourself to a mobile phone. It starts out fully charged, but its power depletes as you use it. And if you don’t plug it in to recharge, it will die. Like that mobile, you have limited reservoirs of energy (and ideas), and if you continue to work without recharging, you’ll burn out.

So, give yourself set working hours AND (just as importantly) set non-working hours. In those non-working hours, turn your tech off so you’re not interrupted, and really be present with what you’re doing.

Don’t just use these times to work in other ways either. We appreciate that if you have a family, when you’re not working your time may be claimed by childcare, housework, cooking, taxiing etc. But make sure you carve out chunks of time just for you, and fill that time with activities you love or that revive you.

Always remember that you are the power that will drive your business forward and ensure it’s a success. And if you’re not properly revived and recharged, and turning up to each new working day on 100%, then you won’t be able to give your business what it needs.

Photo by Malvestida Magazine