Good time management is an essential skill for running your own business. It will enable you to work smarter — not harder — so that you can achieve more in less time.
Some of the most important time management skills include:
- Setting goals / Planning
- Motivation / Focus
- Stress Management
But I’m not going to delve into each and every one of these skills; there’s already so much said about them online. Instead I’m going to focus on what I believe is the most practical way to improve your time management skills, which is to:
It works for me. And in this article I list examples of “low impact” tasks that I’ve eliminated from my routine in order to better manage several online businesses, and still maintain a social life outside of work.
Time As A Resource
How much do you value your time? How much time do you have?
Time is a business resource. And like other resources, it is exhaustible and expensive. How you use or abuse time can make or break your business.
There are only so many hours in a day. And the only way to increase the number of hours spent working towards your goals is to:
- Hire employees or freelancers. Just be aware that aimlessly throwing money at the situation is a recipe for failure; a successful business starts with vision, energy and direction from the founders.
- Use your time more effectively. But know your limits; some projects cannot be tackled alone, no matter how efficient you are.
The latter — using time effectively — is something you can control no matter how much money you have available to invest in your project.
Where to Focus Your Time
You can’t do everything you’d like to do. But you can continually focus on the things that work towards your goals, and eliminate those that don’t.
So to improve your time management, you need to concentrate on everything which falls into that valuable 20%, and cut out the rest.
Start criticising yourself and your business to identify weaknesses.
Acknowledging Work That Has An Impact
I’ll tell you a little bit about myself and how important its been for me to acknowledge the work that makes a real impact to my business…
Competitiveness is my biggest strength. I’m hard-working, persistent, and don’t like underachieving. While I’m never the most talented at what I do, I aim high and, for that, I tend achieve a good results anyway. Compensating for my shortfalls by out-working others has always been my strategy.
However, that strength has proven to be a double-edged sword.
I used to believe that the key to success was to get things done no matter what. My thought process was simple: if I do everything, I won’t miss a trick.
But I was missing a trick. Most of the things I did were keeping me busy for no good reason; they didn’t grow my business; they wasted resources. I was giving very little regard to what mattered.
After a decade of working for myself I’ve learnt to prioritise based on impact. You can do this, too.
Examples of High Impact Tasks
High impact tasks result in your goals being achieved. When you concentrate your working hours on them, you’ll become more productive and efficient in the longrun.
Here’s a list of high impact (productive) tasks that I identified in my online business.
Selling Physical Products
- Researching new items to sell via the Amazon FBA program.
- Liaising with Alibaba suppliers to improve my existing products.
- Optimising Amazon ads campaigns for my most best-selling products.
- Writing blog posts on topics that website visitors have shown a keen interest in.
- Answering customer enquiries and/or complaints about products they’ve purchased from us.
- Stockpiling products at a storage unit in order to prepare for Christmas sales.
- Re-writing weak product descriptions/images in order to maximise the number of sales produced via our e-commerce site and Amazon.
- Optimising under-performing blog posts (those with the potential to substantially increase my site’s popularity).
- Reaching out to external sites to exchange links to improve my SEO.
- Writing a monthly newsletter for email subscribers.
- Taking a much-needed break from work rather than doing pointless tasks.
Examples of Low Impact Tasks
Being conscious of all the tasks that eat away at your productivity will have a positive impact on how well you spend your time.
In this section I provide a list of low impact (pointless) tasks from my business. I can’t claim to have entirely eradicated each of them, but I’ve cut them down drastically.
- Making my spreadsheet look prettier when doing so won’t save me any time in obtaining the information I need from it.
- Recording more than what’s necessary in my spreadsheets (because that’s how I started out doing my admin, and want to keep my records consistent).
- Tweaking the colours on my website theme because I’m fed up of looking at the existing ones.
- Changing my perfectly good logo for a new version, even though it could undo a certain amount of brand recognition.
- Monitoring website stats on an hourly basis because, honestly, I love that moment when one of my more obscure posts starts trending.
- Over-optimising my site right down to the smallest minutia because that’s what you’re ‘supposed’ to do — not because it improves my results.
- Updating blog posts that nobody reads, purely because it bugs me that my archives are no longer relevant.
- Persistently using social media because other people have made a success out of it, and not because it’s helping my business (FOMO).
- Planning tasks, not sticking to them, and then re-planning again.
- Answering calls/emails/social media messages because of politeness, and not because it has any upside to my business.
Managing Time With Objectives & Tasks
Managing several projects takes a lot of work. So I’ve developed ways to structure my time.
A Simple Method
Personally I don’t go to town with making colourful schedules, producing gannt charts with hundreds of milestones, or even scheduling deadlines into a calendar. I simply:
- Write down the overall goal I want to achieve across all businesses/projects. For example: “to earn £x,xxx,xxx amount per year, without the need to work weekends, or compromise my social life”. One sentence.
- List several objectives that work towards that overall goal, and can be accomplished within a three month timeline. For example: “increase traffic on NicheCarve.com in order to earn £x,xxx+ per month in affiliate commission”. I keep this general and non-descriptive.
- List specific tasks needed to accomplish each of the objectives. A single task for the above objective might be: “find & contact the top 20 Amazon FBA blogs to ask if they’re interested in exchanging links. For those interested, negotiate a mutually beneficial arrangement. Edit the relevant pages”. Tasks like this warrant a spreadsheet to keep tabs on progress.
And that’s it. I don’t map out every single day or week; I can’t afford to be too rigid. I have day-to-day tasks to carry out, with regular (often unpredictable) events to respond to. The rest of the time I’m working towards each of those three month objectives.
Staying On Track
If I feel myself veering off-track, I refer back to my list and ask myself: “is what I’m doing working towards my objectives?”:
- If not, then I’m either wasting time or, at best, working towards a future objective that’s not currently on task. The latter is commonly known as ‘jumping the gun’ — another poor use of time. Sticking to immediate objectives and building up from there is far more efficient.
- If it is, then I may revise my objectives to incorporate new tasks.
While my specific time management structure almost certainly won’t work for your business, hopefully it inspires you to start filtering your workload and managing your time better.