Six Essential Time Management Strategies for Small Business Owners Jonathan Herrick Running a small business can seem like a job without end–work weeks that include late nights, early mornings, weekends and the feeling that without you, the place will fall apart. No wonder small business owners often feel overwhelmed by everyday tasks like answering emails, customer phone calls or trying to solve a technology problem. What small business owners should be doing, however, is ditching all those hats and focusing on things that really matter—like strategies for increasing sales, critical hiring decisions and developing people, products and services. You can’t add more hours to the day but you can manage your time more effectively, which is essential for increasing productivity and efficiency. Here are six ways to keep your days focused on the tasks that move your business forward (and keep you from burning out): Set a schedule everyday. You know the feeling—you’ve spent nine hours at the office, feel stressed and tired, but can’t point to one thing you’ve actually accomplished. This is where prioritization comes in. There are a variety of ways to set and prioritize your schedule each day. The most straightforward is a task list with the tasks that must get done that day up top. A great resource small business owners find helpful is David Allen’s book: Getting Things Done. It’s an approach to your crazy work week that organizes and divides everything you need to do into the right buckets so you can focus on the most important initiatives everyday. Set goals for the month and the year. Sit down with your management team and map out goals you want to accomplish each month and for the year, and keep those top-of-mind in everything you do. When you set your daily schedule, segment the day into objectives you want to accomplish and allot time to work on each. Make sure you understand how each task you complete moves the company toward its bigger goals–whether that’s developing a marketing plan for a new product or getting the next iteration of your app ready for release. This is also a good time to find a mentor or hire a coach, to help you stay on track and avoid distractions. Cut through the clutter. Look at your average day as a business owner and list all the regular tasks you must get done, from throwing out the garbage to calling suppliers to keeping track of expenses. Pick those that are most important because they move the business toward its goals and earn the most money or profit. Other tasks should be delegated to those on your team. Once you can focus on fewer tasks you’ll be able to spend more time on them and be more successful at completing them. Use online tools. There are a host of time management and productivity tools that can be used to help you stay on task, remember appointments, organize emails and deal with customer queries. Use an online calendar and set up reminders—even reminders to stop one task and move onto the next—to stay focused. Other tools help you keep information organized, like Evernote, Google Docs others.Integrated CRM and Marketing Automation solutions like Hatchbuck’s all in-one sales platform helps you to keep all of your contacts organized and automates your follow up so you can spend your time where it matters most. Don’t keep reinventing the wheel. If there are processes that work really well, duplicate them as much as possible throughout your business. Start with a list of all the conversations, emails and teaching sessions you keep repeating and instead create formalized processes for getting work done. Train others in the organization to use those systems. You can always adjust a process after it’s in place, to ensure it is making things better, not worse. Make time for breaks. Many studies on productivity show that working continuously for hours on end does not yield great results. The brain works much better if we give it a 20-minute break after 90 minutes of focused work. Without those rests, you’re going to feel burned out and unable to make smart decisions. A break, of course, means actually getting away from your desk, so do something that has nothing to do with work: take a walk, go to the gym, meet a friend for coffee or take a nap. You’ll reduce stress and activate the parts of your brain tied to creative thinking and innovation—both necessities for any successful business.