Did you know if you google “time management for busy entrepreneurs” there are 1,170,000 results? You would think with all that advice available to small business owners, time wouldn’t be an issue you are still struggling with. There are only so many hours in a day, and there is never enough time. But is that really true?
Yesterday I went to a local café for lunch. The owner, a talented chef, passionately described the daily grind of owning his own restaurant. He starts his day at 6 AM, and it ends at 6 PM. And that’s a short day. He is cooking, cleaning, managing employees (when he can find good ones), responding to customers on social media, ordering supplies, and dealing with his finances. The list goes on. Then he goes home to his wife and young child. His wife works too so there is another set of tasks waiting for them at home.
Everyone has 24 hours each and every day, so why do some busy small business owners have more time than others? Time management is a mental game. It’s about disciplining your mind, organizing your tasks, focusing on what’s most important in any given moment, and setting boundaries to protect your time. I want to share with you a systematic way to better manage your time because managing our time is really about making the right choices for our lives. Manage these 5 E’s and you’ll find yourself feeling more in control of your time.
The ME Items
The ME items are those tasks that can onlybe handled by you. If you think through the course of your day, you’ll probably find there are not a lot of ME items, but there certainly are some. In your business life, what tasks do you feel depend on your expertise? My fiancé is a master closer. When customers meet with her, they love her, and she almost always closes the deal. Could she hire a salesperson to handle sales? She could, but it’s not in the best interest of her business. However, all other items like marketing, administrative tasks, billing, public relations, and website design don’t have to be handled by her.
What are your ME items at home? My ME items include being a mom to my children, an amazing partner to my fiancé, and any task involving self-care. I’ve thought about outsourcing my exercise, but I don’t think that would be too effective. Make a list of the ME items in your life. Focus first and foremost on these items.
The WE Items
The WE items are tasks you can share responsibility with another person. Unless you have a trusted business partner, chances are you are alone when it comes to being CEO of your company. But you might have a right-hand man or woman that you can depend on to know the intricacies of your business. This person may know you and what’s going on in your business so well that he or she can jump in and pick up where you left off. My fiancé and I have this type of business arrangement on some tasks.
Who do you share responsibilities with at home? Is there a clear arrangement for handling the many personal and family tasks? For instance, my fiancé and I work together on housecleaning, laundry, and paying bills. Depending on the time constraints we both have, we pitch in and share these tasks. Now, there are certain tasks that belong to one person. My fiancé can count on me to get together all our vitamins for the day and I know I can count on her to make the coffee. Look for opportunities to enlist the help of a spouse, child, trusted business partner, or other family member. Have an agreement that the WE items will be shared, and talk about how and when these tasks will be completed.
The HE/SHE Items
Now, let’s face it. There are some tasks that you can completely delegate to someone else. You may have to train someone to handle the task and he or she may not handle it exactly the way you would do it. You might even have to pay some money to get the task accomplished, but none the less, it’s possible to unload some tasks.
Sit down and make a list of all the tasks you could delegate to someone else. For the moment, put aside all excuses. “I don’t have the money.” “That task is too hard.” “I don’t have the time to train someone.” “Eventually I’m going to get to it.” All these mindsets are blocking your ability to see your time differently. Shift your beliefs. Time is money. Long-term gains often require short-term sacrifices. You don’t have to delegate everything today, but learn to let go of control so you can feel the peace of mind that comes from emptying your plate.
The THREE Items
What three items can you agree will be non-negotiables in your life? A non-negotiable is a rule you set to protect your time – a boundary or promise that is never or rarely broken. Some examples of non-negotiables include:
- Every night from 9:30 to 10:00 PM, I will plan the following day
- I will add 15 minutes to every appointment to allow for unplanned interruptions
- Every meeting will have a written agenda
- I will schedule (3) 1-hour exercise appointments in my calendar every week
- Wednesday night is family night – no other commitments allowed on Wednesday nights
- Sunday is a day of rest – no work allowed
- The 1st and 3rd Friday of every month is date night
- Children are allowed to participate in one extracurricular activity per semester
- I will say yes to only one social activity per week
- From 8:00 to 9:00 AM, I will not take phone calls; it’s a time to catch up on paperwork
The UGLEE Items
I know. I spelled ugly wrong, but these are the 5 E’s. The uglee items are the time wasters that you want to avoid. What are those tasks in your life that are a complete waste of valuable time? Perhaps you use these items to avoid doing other things, or maybe they are just tasks you need to set better boundaries with. For me, it’s playing games on my phone when I’m bored. For you, it might be getting caught up on Facebook or streaming a game or favorite TV show on your computer screen. It’s not that these tasks are not important at times; it’s just that there needs to be a limit…a strict limit. Remember managing our time is about making choices with our time in every moment. Always ask yourself, “Is this the best use of my time right now?”
Gotta go now…need to catch up on Words with Friends. Just kidding.
Lori Lear is a virtual office manager, freelance writer,
The 5 E’s of Time Management for Busy Entrepreneurs
September 1, 2016