It seems like there are never enough hours in a day to get everything done -- especially when you’re a small business owner. But if you always feel like you’re struggling to check off the tasks on your to-do list, it’s easy to run yourself ragged with nothing to show for it.
The fact of the matter is that your time management could be to blame. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to work harder; it may just mean you need to work smarter.
One of the main concerns we hear from our agency partners is that they have trouble with time management. Whether they could use extra help for their growing business or they want to streamline their operations to eliminate wasted resources, their struggles are incredibly common.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your workload or you’re being bogged down with meetings and record-keeping, you may also be struggling to actually scale your agency. We hope that these tips that center around time management for businesses will help you identify what’s holding you back and how to revamp your approach for the sake of both efficiency and overall career satisfaction.
Don’t Attempt to Multitask
Ah, the myth of multitasking. It’s still pretty pervasive, though some people have realized that attempting to multitask usually does more harm than good. It sounds ideal in theory, allowing you to maximize your productivity in a short amount of time. But that’s not really the way that our brains work. Our minds can’t really conduct tasks simultaneously; instead, we just switch rapidly from one task to another. All that stopping and starting can make us feel confused and forgetful -- and overall, it actually makes us less efficient and more likely to make simple mistakes!
If you’re still fooling yourself into thinking you can multitask, it might be time to stop. You’ll feel a lot better (and you’ll get a lot more done) if you focus on one thing at a time. Give each task the time and attention it deserves to avoid careless errors and to allow your brain to work the way it likes best. You may need to be strict with yourself at first, particularly if you’ve become accustomed to trying to juggle multiple obligations at once. But if you’re able to break the habit, you can streamline your day in a way that feels far more focused.
Set Goals For Each Week
Speaking of feeling focused, another one of our suggestions to improve time management for businesses is to set some goals for yourself. “Winging it” is not the answer to improving your productivity.
Rather than leaving your schedule up to chance, set a routine for yourself and stick to it as best you can. Taking time to plan out your work beforehand can keep you from feeling scattered and overwhelmed. When you know exactly what you need to work on each day or each week, you’ll know how much time to devote to each task. When you complete those tasks, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment about achieving your goals on a weekly basis and will feel a lot less stressed with everything you have on your plate. What’s more, this can keep you from completing non-essential tasks that don’t support those goals just because they seem easier or more enjoyable.
Prioritize What’s Critical
On that note, you’ll want to regularly evaluate which tasks need your urgent attention and which ones can stand to wait. Keep in mind that what’s important and what’s urgent may not always be the same thing. There are several methods you can use to rate tasks on your list -- but whether you follow the Eisenhower theory or rank tasks based on which ones correspond to the highest revenue for your business, you’ll want to figure out which responsibilities take top priority. This can keep you from wasting time on non-urgent matters or avoid forgetting about important deadlines.
Push Yourself to Delegate
Making sure you can identify essential tasks is only one piece of the puzzle. You also need to figure out which tasks you can delegate to others.
As a small business owner, you’re probably accustomed to wearing a lot of hats. You might even believe that if you want something done properly, you have to do it yourself. Ultimately, this attitude is harmful to both you and your employees. You’ll be much more likely to wear yourself out from exhaustion while keeping your employees from reaching their full potential.
This can be an exercise in building trust. While not every employee will be equipped to handle any task you throw at them, it’s important to surround yourself with dependable people who can fulfill the organization’s obligations and meet (or exceed) expectations.
It may help to further divide your tasks into categories: work you personally need to complete, work that can be completed by others with your help, and work that can be totally handled by other people. If you doubt the abilities or the integrity of your employees, that’s a separate issue you’ll need to address. But remember to give people a chance to rise to the occasion (without micromanaging!). For the sake of your stress levels, push yourself to delegate tasks to others and give them the tools they need to complete the work in a sustainable and timely way.
Identify Sources of Waste
When you’re trying to make your organization more efficient, you’ll typically want to look at what’s being wasted. That’s why our time management for businesses post had to include identifying (and eliminating) sources of waste.
The reality is that you might be wasting a lot of time without even realizing it. When you’ve been working in a specific way for a long time, the idea of changing things up can be scary -- even if your current methods are contributing to high stress levels and low performance.
One of the best options to address this is by logging your work-related activities and how much time they take. Don’t change how you’d normally do things on a workday; instead, create a totally honest record of how you spend your time. Be sure to log everything from big projects to making your third cup of coffee. Even if you have a two-minute conversation with a colleague or take a short break to read a relevant article online, write it down.
Once you have this comprehensive record, you can more readily see the tasks that are wasting time throughout the day. That doesn’t mean you have to forgo coffee refills or bathroom breaks. It just means that you’ll be able to prove just how much energy is being spent on work that takes away from other operations.
For many people, some of the biggest time wasters include responding to emails, returning phone calls, or attending meetings. And while you may think many of these tasks are non-negotiables, you might want to push yourself on that to discover whether there might be a better way. Do you need to attend every single meeting or can meetings be cut from an hour to 30 minutes? Can someone else handle your emails or would it be better to devote a specific chunk of time for responses every day? What can you completely eliminate? Answering these questions and taking a true assessment of how you spend your time at work can be extremely illuminating and allow you to maximize your efficiency.
Block Off Time to Decompress
Although we just mentioned that it’s important to trim the fat, so to speak, don’t forget that time management for digital marketers and agency owners will rely on your ability to take care of your well-being.
As a small business owner, you’ll run yourself into the ground if you let your work obligations take over your life. And when you’re drowning in tasks, it can be easy to feel like there’s no escape. But assuming you have the help you need to feasibly get the work done, you might be allowing your own burnout to derail your productivity.
It’s important to recognize when you need a break. We all need breaks! You can’t possibly be expected to maintain the maximum level of productivity all day every day. It just isn’t feasible. You’re a human being, not a robot.
That’s why it’s important to plan out your breaks and actually force yourself to take them before you have a breakdown. It’s a good practice to block off time on your calendar to decompress. Whether you need to take 10 minutes to walk around outside or you take an hour-long lunch each day, it’s important to carve out time for yourself. If you don’t attend to those very basic needs, there’s no way that you’ll be able to bring your best self to work or have a prayer of keeping your productivity levels high.
Keep Distractions to a Minimum
It might go without saying, but those who want to know the secret to time management for businesses should first look at eliminating distractions.
What does that mean in practice? It really all comes down to controlling your environment. That could include decluttering and organizing your office, adding some semblance of privacy during certain hours, turning off your phone, or using a browser extension to keep you from opening certain tabs.
You’ll need to recognize when to go into “do not disturb” mode and when it’s appropriate to be more approachable for your employees. Typically, if you require more intense concentration for a large task, that’s the time to be vigilant about eliminating all distractions. For smaller tasks, you may want to retain some flexibility -- but you should still figure out and eliminate the main offenders when you can.
Automate When Possible
In the digital age, it’s not uncommon to utilize automation as a way to streamline and speed up operations. When you use automation for the sake of productivity, you can potentially free up a lot of time and reduce the number of tedious tasks you have to do in a given day.
Consider looking at the processes that you’re still performing manually and determine whether it’s possible to automate at least portions of the process. That might involve setting up automated email templates or using billing software to speed up collections. While it might be a little scary at first to embrace a hands-off approach, remember that you can (and should) still oversee automated processes. But since a computer is sometimes more reliable than a human mind, you can depend on automation to handle some of the more mundane tasks that don’t require your creative brain.
Outsource to Trusted Partners
Wrapping up our time management for businesses post is the idea of outsourcing. Like with automation and delegation, some agency owners may have a tough time trusting that others can do what needs to be done.
Of course, you can’t blindly put your faith in those who haven’t necessarily earned it. That can end up creating more stress and strife. But if you have the right people on your team, you can depend on them to fulfill their obligations and deliver superior results on time.
In most cases, this is a win-win. You’ll be able to shift your focus to the areas you care about and in which you excel, while others can focus on the tasks you can’t or don’t want to handle yourself. If you don’t have in-house employees or aren’t looking to hire more staff members quite yet, outsourcing can be a great solution.
This is especially true for more technical aspects of digital marketing that require more in-depth experience. If you’re a Jack or Jill of all trades, you might be doing a little bit of everything -- but that doesn’t mean you’re doing everything well. It can be hard to admit when you’re not delivering on promises or you’re in over your head. However, the good news is that you can work with a partner -- like a white label SEO agency -- to ensure your clients get the results they expect without sacrificing your productivity or your ability to grow your business.
With more free time available, you’ll be able to prioritize those urgent tasks that need your attention. In addition, you’ll have the freedom to balance your daily obligations with your desire to scale your business. Instead of working 50 hours a week to get every task done, you can achieve a better work-life balance and feel more efficient when you’re on the clock.
Figuring out effective time management for businesses can be a real sticking point. But we hope that these tips will prove helpful for digital marketing agency owners who are struggling to find enough hours in the day. For more information on how we can help you take your agency to the next level through our SEO reseller program, please contact our team today.