Time management skills are a must for business owners.
Time is money, as the old aphorism goes. By learning how to manage their time, owners can better organize, prioritize, strategize, and implement plans to better serve their customers and turn a profit.
Which time management skills for business are the most important?
When managed properly, time is a powerful tool that can help grow a business.
There is no one right way to develop time management skills, nor is there one skill that trumps all the others. Rather, there are several skills we recommend you develop and ways you can use to hone them.
We’ve put together a list of the 8 essential time management skills entrepreneurs should master.
Read on to learn how you can save time and earn more.
1. Decide, then move on
One of the most important time management skills you should develop is decision making.
As a business owner, you will make plenty of decisions during your working life. When you can learn to make timely decisions, this will free up more time for you to, you guessed it, make more decisions.
Similarly, poor decision-making skills lead to wasted time and wasted headspace.
Keep reading to learn how to develop your decision-making ability.
How to develop decision-making skills
Don’t be scared about making the wrong choice. Indecision is way worse than making no decision. Make a quick judgement, feel confident about your choice, and move on.
That’s right—just decide.
Decisiveness is a common trait of millionaires. As journalist–author Napoleon Hill discovered from studying over 500 wealthy individuals, a common habit of the world’s richest is quick decision making.
Interestingly, these same wealthy entrepreneurs rarely changed their minds—and only did so if they really had to.
By contrast, people who were slow to make decisions and changed their minds often were less likely to accumulate wealth.
Goes to show how much decisiveness can impact your business.
Listen and learn
Another way to become a capable decision-maker is by honing your observation and listening skills.
Learn by hearing what others have to say. Observe what other entrepreneurs are doing. Learn through other people’s experience.
No decision you’re trying to make is new. Someone else has made it before. What did they choose to do and how did it work out for them?
Next, make use of data to help you make business decisions.
The better you get at using and recognizing patterns within data, the more effective you will be at making decisions. This is called data-driven decision making.
Data-driven decision making
Every piece of information about customer preference is online nowadays—where we eat, where we vacation, and what we like to do. This data is collected and used to guide the services and products offered to customers.
Use data to your marketing advantage. Let it guide your decision making for your business.
Finally, introspection can help when making a choice.
Examine your thoughts and actions, then reflect on the results of those actions. Have you listened to your intuition in the past when making a business decision? How did it pan out?
When you can trust what your intuition is telling you, then you can learn to trust yourself and, ultimately, your decisions.
2. Strategic thinking
French scientist Louis Pasteur famously said, “Chance favours only the prepared mind.”
This is true of any business endeavour—in fact, of any endeavour. Whatever your business goals, you need to be prepared and have a strategy to forge ahead and put yourself in the best position to reach those goals.
What are strategic thinking time management skills for business?
Strategic thinking skills are any skill that helps you solve complex business problems, overcome obstacles, face challenges, and achieve goals—particularly if they’re long-term.
These types of skills include:
- Critical thinking,
- Planning, and
- Analytical skills.
How can you develop your strategic thinking skills? Keep reading.
How to develop strategic thinking skills
One of the simplest ways to hone your strategic thinking skills is to ask questions.
Pose these questions to your team, to yourself, and to your business mentors and partners to articulate your concerns, unveil your blind spots, and pinpoint areas where you need more information.
Observe and reflect
Develop strategic thinking skills by observing your environment.
Another word for environment is customer. Observe and listen to what customers are saying about your company, your products or service, and your industry as a whole.
This goes along with the introspection and listening tips above. When we do less talking and doing, and more observing and studying, we can gain insights that will give us a competitive edge and improve our customer’s experience.
Study the competition
Study what caused other businesses to fail. Learn from their mistakes to avoid committing them yourself.
There is always a lesson to be learned from another’s experience. Part of thinking strategically is recognizing pitfalls to prevent yourself from falling into them.
Understand cause and effect
It’s not enough to know how and why another business succeeded or failed, you need to understand the decisions that were made and the reasons behind them, that then lead to a success or failure.
Remember that correlation does not always equal causation. The result of a decision is never due only to that one decision.
Always ask yourself, “What were the other factors involved that contributed to that entrepreneur’s success or failure and how can my decision take those into consideration?”
The process of defining your business goals involves planning. You:
- Define the goal,
- Determine the steps you need to take to achieve that goal,
- Identify the resources (money, people, skill sets, technology, etc.) you need to get there,
- Anticipate what could go wrong including the worst-case scenario, and
- Plan accordingly.
Plan for the best, prepare for the worse
When you plan, you prepare for anything the future may throw at you, good or bad.
This skill is what made Olympic Champion, Michael Phelps, so dominant. He planned for how to handle his toughest races, those when the (almost) unexpected happened.
If you can plan effectively, you’ll be able to manage whatever life throws at you and use your time efficiently.
How to develop planning skills
Create a system
Plan effectively by creating a system that will keep you focused and organised. There are many, many, many planning tools you can use for your business. Our favourites are:
Identify and delegate
Next, identify the tasks that need to be done, figure out who’s best suited to complete them, and delegate accordingly.
Use project timelines with clear and realistic expectations to help you stay on top of your priorities and meet deadlines.
Finally, evaluate outcomes once you’ve achieved your goals. Do a post-mortem, of sorts, to see where you succeeded and where you can make adjustments for next time.
Organisational skills let you focus on various projects concurrently and use your time and energy efficiently.
Like planning, organising involves a lot of preparation and trial-and-error. It involves developing a system to achieve various business goals. Once a system is in place, workflows can run more smoothly and teamwork can improve.
One of our favourite organisational systems is Nifty.
How to develop organisational skills
First, identify your big goals and then break them down into smaller, more short-term, and more achievable goals.
Create a list
Next, create a list of tasks and arrange them by priority or urgency. Here some of the best to-do list apps:
Set a timeline
Create a timeline or schedule for each task and delegate them to people who are best suited to complete them.
A study by Geckoboard shows that 77% of small-business owners who did not have sales targets and who did not monitor their progress experienced little to no growth.
Check your timelines regularly to see if your project is on track. If you encounter bottlenecks, find the cause, troubleshoot, mitigate, and come up with an alternative plan.
Review your goals regularly. Learn from your successes as well as your mistakes.
Prioritisation involves ranking tasks or activities in order of importance or urgency.
When you rank tasks, you stay on top of which ones need immediate attention.
Knowing when to prioritise a particular task is a crucial skill for time management because it prevents bottlenecks and repetition of work, streamlines workflows, and avoids unnecessary work.
How to prioritise effectively
Make a list
Similar to planning and organising, prioritising entails having a list of your tasks and goals.
Develop the habit of looking at your team’s task list so you can quickly identify which ones need the most attention on any given day.
Assign labels—for example, high priority, priority, low priority, non-urgent, and like-to-have—to help you differentiate and easily recognize task priority.
Create a plan
Use your planning prowess developed in skill #3 to create an action plan which includes keeping tabs on which tasks to prioritise, which ones to deprioritize, which to eliminate, and which ones to reassign.
Like with organisation, we recommend you continuously monitor your team’s priorities and make adjustments based on changing customer needs and new information.
Now that you’ve learned the importance of decision making, strategic thinking, planning, organising, and prioritising, let’s talk about our 6th skill: delegation.
As a business owner, you can’t do everything yourself—you HAVE to delegate.
The ability to delegate wisely—or to give the responsibility for completing a task to someone else—is an important time management skill because it affects the speed, quality, and amount of work your team can accomplish.
When you get comfortable with delegating work, you can spend more of your time on high-level responsibilities like sales and business development.
How to improve your delegation skills
Assign work to the team members who are the most qualified, experienced, and capable at accomplishing them.
Communication with your team to ensure you’re delegating work to someone who has the bandwidth to take it on. Once someone has been assigned ownership of the work, ask them to stay accountable by providing regular progress updates.
Mentor and offer feedback to your team to ensure they feel recognized for their hard work. This also helps your employees improve their skills and grow in their role.
7. Goal setting
Goal setting gives direction to your business.
It’s a skill that improves your time management because it keeps you focused on what you want to accomplish and prevents you from losing your way.
Research shows that teams who set goals improve work performance by 12-15%.
How long should goals be?
Business goals should be both short and long-term.
Short-term goals are those you can accomplish in the near future—anytime within a year. Long-term goals take more than a year and may involve several steps.
Whether it’s for a short-term or long-term goal, as you improve your goal-setting skills you will notice you and your team can accomplish more in less time.
How to set goals effectively
Set SMART goals
Set Specific, Measurable, Aligned, Realistic, and Time-bound goals for your team to work toward.
Clearly communicate your objectives to avoid assumptions that could result in misused time.
Have a Plan B, and C, and…
There’s always a chance that things won’t go according to plan. Be ready to change directions and go with an alternative plan when Plan A doesn’t work out.
We sound like a broken record but we’re going to say it again: monitor, monitor, monitor your progress towards your goals.
Multitasking is the act of doing two or more things at the same time.
When it comes to better time management, studies have shown single-tasking is the way to go.
The benefits of single-tasking
Very, very few people can perform several tasks well at once.
As an entrepreneur, you’ll naturally be faced with the temptation to multitask, but it’s crucial to avoid it. Instead, it’s best to delegate (see above skill) and learn to focus on one piece of work, meeting, emergency, or Zoom call at once.
Single-tasking is a time management skill that can cut down on stress, give you more energy and focus, and improve how much you can get down in a day without burning yourself out to do it.
How to improve single-tasking skills
Make a list of stones and pebbles
Make a list of the important tasks (stones) you need or want to get done in a day.
Then, make a list of pebbles, those additional tasks that if you have extra time, you will get done after you’ve completed your stones.
Group tasks that can be performed together. For example, answer emails at only certain times of the day, or work on groups of tasks for one client at a time.
This will not only help clarify your goals but can and improve your productivity overall.
Distractions are the enemy of single-tasking.
Your aim is to put your attention on one single thing. Instead, interruptions pull your attention away from what you’re doing.
Do whatever you can to avoid distractions while doing important work. Turn your phone off when you’re in meetings or set yourself to ‘Do not disturb’ when you’re working on a stone that has to get done before the end of day.
How to improve time management skills for business
Practice makes progress
All the time management skills we’ve mentioned in this article will improve with time and effort. Have patience and a willingness to improve and you’ll gradually see an improvement in these skills.
There’s an app for that. Use tech to improve your time management skills. Here are a few of our favourites, some of which we’ve already mentioned:
- Google for Business
- Remember the Milk
- Focus Booster
- Microsoft 365
Choose one or two to use to keep you on top of your priorities.
Join a coworking office
When you work from home, it can be very distracting. Access to Netflix, the refrigerator, the laundry room, and other nagging household chores can mean much less productivity.
A coworking space could very well be the solution to your scheduling woes. Coworking offers a quiet office environment without being in a traditional office.
Commit to improving yourself
Better time management is the solution to procrastination, missed deadlines, hassles, and constraints.
If you can commit to improving your time allocation skills, you are well on your way to increased productivity and a better bottom line.
Final Thoughts on Time Management Skills for Small Business
In this age of remote work, time management skills are more important than ever.
Our work environment and the professionals we surround ourselves with can go a long way to helping us develop strong scheduling skills.
Backbone Executive Offices offers this type of environment.
With professional and cool office space, and an equally inspiring membership base, you can surround yourself with the right people to continue to develop your time allocation skills.
Come see for yourself—schedule a tour with us today.
Want a tour of the space?
Our community of go-getter entrepreneurs could use another one like you! Shoot us a message if you have any questions or want to book a showing.
Backbone Coworking & Executive Offices
104-32615 S Fraser Way
Abbotsford, BC, V2T 1X8