Being a small business owner carries a lot of responsibility. You may be the only employee of your business and wear the hats for all departments in your business.

Or, you may lead a small team of people who have a lot of questions, needs and problems that need addressed regularly.

But, one thing is true for all: You have more to do than time to do it, especially to build the business you want.

Boosting your productivity is always a big growth area for a small business owner in any industry. There are a lot of time management tips thrown at you and even keeping up with those strategies can be overwhelming and distracting.

Here are 8 Essential Time Management Tips for Small Business Owners that I give most often to my business strategy clients.

 

1. ESTABLISH CLEAR PRIORITIES

Everything feels urgent in business – from a client deliverable to a team member’s question to keeping up with the lastest in your industry. Except, you are only one person and you need to be very clear on what YOUR priorities are that will move the needle in your business. I work with my clients on creating Brave YES Power Moves for this very reason. Time is limited for all of us and we need to use what time we do have to create momentum and sustainable action that generates visibility and revenue.

Take time to establish what is most important to you to design and run the business you truly want. Often, what got you to this point now is not what will get you to where you want to be. Set priorities for the business you want not the one you have.

IMPORTANT: Your top priorities and majority of your time really should be spent in your Zone of Brilliance — the actions that only you can do best — because you are the strongest lead magnet for your business – no matter what role you have in the day to day – and you need to be focused on the bigger picture of marketing, connecting and networking.

2. WEED OUT THE URGENT VS. IMPORTANT

The urgent will absolutely try to take over your time and energy. It always does. Urgencies in business tend to be client deadlines, putting out fires, responding to emails and other shoulds of keeping up with the daily running of a business. You may find you are drawn to doing the urgencies because they often are easier to get done in a short period of time. The next thing you know you’ve done nothing but “right now” tasks and nothing for building the business you want.

Urgencies especially take over when you go into your day or week without a plan that prioritizes your big picture priorities. Without a clear understanding of what’s important for your business outcomes and goals to become a reality, you will easily be drawn to putting out all the fires or maintaining the business you have right now rather than creating the one you are trying to build.

What is Important work? It is almost always the stuff you really want to be working on — the bigger picture projects and the deep focus tasks that require more of your energy and attention. For many of my clients, this includes things like writing, content marketing, speaking, networking and building out new offers and services — all of which require deep focus and time and space that is hard to find in the day-to-day of running a business.

IMPORTANT: Take a couple weeks to track everything you do in your day-to-day workday and mark it as either urgent or important and see what your actual time is being spent on before you make any major changes.

3. ORGANIZE THE CHAOS

Getting organized and staying organized can feel like a full-time job when it comes to managing a lot of projects and ideas. It’s important to have a system that both manages the many to-dos you have and creates space for new ideas to bloom and blossom.

I encourage my clients to create a system that pulls out and defines your most important priorities for the week or month and schedule in the tasks that fall under each. A long running to-do list isn’t enough to weed out the urgent in a garden of important moves to make. Once you determine what’s urgent vs. important, create a schedule that bakes deep work focus time into your calendar.

Your priorities don’t have to be scheduled hour-by-hour nor do they have to be mapped out meticulously – unless that’s your vibe – but they do need to be written down and visible in a way that you will pay attention to them.

IMPORTANT: You can only do so much so keep your projects and themes to a minimum. I suggest no more than 6 at a time and once of those should always be self-care.

4. PRACTICE CONSCIOUS UN-CONSUMING

The average consumer spent 17 hours a week watching videos in 2023. We have become a consuming culture but as business owners we must be creators not consumers.

Trying to keep up with what others in your industry are doing can be a huge distraction and lead to feelings of not enough, overwhelm and lack of focus.  If you spend any time consuming in your day or week, you may be finding yourself trapped in Beginner’s Mindset, which is a place business owners often end up while trying to grow their business.

Practicing conscious un-consuming and learning to establish self-trust in your business as a leader is vital. In order to make your own priorities happen, you’ll need to ensure lots of focused time blocks without interruptions. Trusting yourself is a huge productivity booster as well since rumination and self-doubt absolutely waste your precious time.

IMPORTANT: Rather than haphazardly scrolling the news, articles and social media to keep up with trends, build conscious consuming into your week with a dedicated time block.

5. DO, DELEGATE, AUTOMATE OR DELETE

The ultimate business investment and productivity booster is taking things off your list. Unfortunately, you may feel there isn’t much to take off. However, when I work with clients, we almost always find places to trim to save time, money or energy.

Once you decide what remains necessary and essential, it’s time to figure out what to delegate to others and what to automate. Most of my clients have very small teams – or no teams – and automation is a game changer.

After you delegate, automate or delete, what’s left is now on your DO list.

IMPORTANT: Don’t automate anything that creates more friction between you and potential new clients from working together.

6. SET BOLDER BOUNDARIES

Owning a business and being self-employed should feel like freedom and ease. And yet most business owners are exhausted and burned out from working far more hours than you would at a 9-5.

Boundaries are the guideposts that will keep you in your lane and on your path to the dream life and business you want. Without boundaries you are likely to chase shiny objects or overdo for others, neglecting highest priorities and needs.

Boundaries are protection around your time, energy, money and resources. A good boundary is only as good as it’s enforced, though, so the courage work is always in maintaining the boundary and trusting you will be better off in the end.

IMPORTANT: Don’t just set boundaries with other people and time spent with and around them. While that’s a great start, you also need to set and establish clear boundaries with yourself so you make time for the priorities you want to focus on right now. Learn about setting Bolder Business Boundaries here.

7. FIRE UP YOUR PASSION

We make time for what we are most passionate about and what we really want to do. So if you keep losing momentum and getting lost in your day, do what you need to do to get your passion back for the project you want to make happen or the work you want to do. Sometimes procrastination isn’t so much about not having time but about not remembering your WHY for the project and not having a clear plan of action that gets you excited to do the work.

Your passion fuels your energy and your energy fuels your business momentum. If a task feels boring, find a way to make it more exciting or meaningful. Add a ritual in to make it feel more appealing or cozy. Nothing should ever bore you to tears in your own business.

This is why I work with my clients on scaling your joy — not just your revenue and visibility. 

IMPORTANT: Passion is a momentum driver but it can also lead to more new ideas. Instead of jumping on all new ideas, take your new ideas and put them in a container for safe holding. When you finish another project or see an idea through to completion, you can pull out a new idea to work on.

8. PRIORITIZE MENTAL SPACE AND REST

It’s so easy in the business world to put your head down and become immersed in a project and deadlines. However, once your mind, body and spirit are exhausted you aren’t being as clear-headed, productive or efficient as you could be. This is why I encourage my clients to prioritize mental space and rest that almost always involves getting out of your everyday work space. Allowing for time to breathe and soak in time to feel into your whole body gives your brain the ability to unhook from shoulds, deadlines and constant stress. Pause long enough to create a lot of headspace to think, dream, imagine, and sort out the next priority.

Pausing and taking time out of your office and away from your day-to-day is also a form of Radical Wellbeing by allowing you to get rest from thinking, decision fatigue, overwhelm and deep focus work. It’s an essential self-care and productivity strategy that will make getting back to the big picture in your business easier.

IMPORTANT: Radical Rest comes in many forms not just in laying around. Your business needs you to take a rest from the day-to-day activities to immerse yourself in your creative passions, spiritual wellbeing and social networking. Explore what other forms of rest and recovery you need to be your best self.

To have the business you want, stop putting all your energy into the business you have right now. Dedicate time and energy to investing in the projects and priorities that are going to move the needle in your business.

YOU are the only one who can do those things that matter most. So make time for them and start with these essential practices.

About Shawn Fink

Shawn Fink (she/her) is a business design strategist and courage coach who helps build vibrant, mission-driven businesses & energize the visionary founders who run them.

She’s the founder of the Brave YES Business Advantage™ Framework. A Team Facilitator. Keynote speaker. Writer. And a former journalist.

Download Shawn’s Brave YES Business Advantage™ Checklist.