Time is elusive. You turn up to work thinking you’ve got loads of it, so you spend a good while checking your inbox, you wander off to make a coffee, you stop for a quick chat with Julie from downstairs, and then you sit down to crack on with your work. But suddenly, there’s a meeting schedule, an urgent task added to your to-do list, a task you thought would take one hour takes three, and before you know it, you’re driving home again, stunned at just how quickly the day has passed and plagued by thoughts of all the work you didn’t do.
Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone! Business owners all over the world struggle to manage their time effectively, leading to feelings of frustration and demotivation. But the good news is, there are a few simple steps you can put into place that will make managing your time at work a little easier…
- Pinpoint how you’re currently spending your time
One of the best ways to start managing your time more effectively at work is first to determine exactly where the majority of your time is being used up. Are you spending hours trawling through emails? Or do you spend most of the day ploughing admin that insists on building up, no matter how much time you dedicate to it?
To determine where your time is going, monitor the tasks you complete each day for a week. This will help you to see how much time specific tasks take, and you’ll be better able to organise your days to accommodate them. Instead of cramming several lengthy tasks into one day and running out of time to complete any of them, you’ll have dedicated time set aside to complete lengthy tasks, and the rest of your day can be spent catching up on tasks that aren’t so time-consuming.
Figure out how you’re using your time first, and then put steps in place to use that time more effectively.
- Prioritise your tasks
Everything seems important when you’re running a business, and it can be difficult to work out what to prioritise. Is credit control more important than all that admin you need to wade through? Is creating content to keep your business blog updated more important than that data entry task you’ve been avoiding?
You’ll probably find yourself running in circles looking for the answer, and even then, you may not find one! Not knowing what to prioritise when it comes to workload can be incredibly frustrating and is likely to throw your time-management off-balance.
To make the prioritisation process a little easier, try categorising the tasks you need to complete. Consider:
- Urgent tasks – these are tasks that need to be completed as quickly as possible. You can determine which tasks this applies to by considering the consequences of not completing the task on time. Will late completion impact other people and their work? Will late completion have an immediate impact on your business? If the answer to either is ‘yes’, the task at hand is urgent and should go straight to the top of your priorities list.
- Important tasks – these are tasks that are similar in importance to urgent tasks but don’t necessarily require immediate attention (i.e. no one will be majorly impacted if you don’t complete it right this second). These tasks should be completed once you’ve completed the urgent tasks you’ve already identified.
- Tasks to delegate – not every single task on your to-do list has to be completed by you. Identify tasks that could be completed by someone else on your team or an outsource professional and delegate these out. Tasks will still be completed to a high standard, but your time will be easier to manage and can be better spent on tasks you need to do yourself.
For more information on how to prioritise your tasks like the time management expert you’re about to become, check out this info on the Eisenhower Matrix.
3. Create and stick to a daily schedule
Sitting down to a day of work without planning it ahead of time is like trying to construct flat-pack furniture without a set of instructions. While not impossible, it’s likely that it would take you far longer than is necessary, again making it difficult to manage your time effectively.
Instead of winging it, try creating a daily schedule. This should include all the tasks you need to do for the day, as well as blocked out timeframes to complete them in. This way, you’ll know exactly what you need to do, exactly when you need to do it, and you won’t be tempted to flit from one task to another.
One of our top tips for creating your schedule is to ensure you’re giving yourself enough time to complete each task. A common mistake made when scheduling work is tight timeframes that leave you feeling rushed and stressed. Give yourself plenty of time – if you finish sooner than expected, great, you can add another short task to your day. But if the task takes longer than expected (isn’t that always the way?), you won’t find yourself rushing to get it done.
4. Don’t multitask
Multitasking is a myth. While doing three things at once may make you feel like you’re ticking things off your to-do list, what you’re actually doing is wasting your time. The human brain works best when it only has to focus on the task at hand. Splitting your attention between multiple tasks slows you down and can often mean more mistakes are made, costing you even more time in the long run.
It’s far more effective to dedicate set times to specific tasks – not only will you be more likely to finish them on time, but they’ll also be completed to a higher standard.
(And yes, not multitasking involves not checking your inbox ten times when you should be focusing on something else!)
5. Get rid of distractions
We’re all guilty of getting distracted at work. Our brains aren’t infallible machines – we’re human beings who have thoughts other than ‘must finish this admin’ or ‘must complete this data entry.’ Text messages, phone calls, emails, social media, that colleague across the office you always like to chat to, the call of the coffee machine in the kitchen… distractions are everywhere! And while it’s okay to be distracted once in a while when you’re trying to manage your time effectively, it’s a good idea to reduce distractions as much as possible.
Start small – switch your phone to silent or turn off unimportant notifications, close your inbox while you’re working on essential tasks and shut down any tabs you’re not actively using so you’re not tempted to engage in a bit of internet browsing. Doing so will allow you to give your full attention to the task at hand – you’ll be surprised at how much quicker you’re able to get things done!
6. Invest in a Virtual Assistant
While it is possible to effectively manage your time by implementing some of the steps above, it isn’t always enough. Particularly if your business is growing quickly or you’ve found yourself with fewer staff members than you’d like, your workload may simply not be compatible with the time you have.
Investing in a Virtual Assistant could eliminate this issue, leaving you with plenty of time to focus on running your business. Virtual Assistants are able to step in to take time-consuming tasks like credit control, content creation, admin and data entry off your hands. You’ll be given peace of mind that all outsourced tasks are being completed to excellent standards by professionals who are experts in their fields, and you won’t have to worry about not having enough hours in the day.
If you’re struggling to manage your time effectively, please do not hesitate to get in touch. We offer flexible, affordable Virtual Assistant packages designed specifically to support you and your business – we’re looking forward to working with you!