Last week, I contacted several late-blooming entrepreneurs and asked them to share time-management tips that help them run their business. As the responses began arriving, it wasn’t long before a theme emerged.
Focus is king.
“Establish your goals and objectives and then focus like a laser on accomplishing them,” said Bill Cheeks of ABBA Associates, which conducts personal finance seminars. “I do not get confused or sidetracked.”
That’s easier said than done. A client pops in. Your computer freezes. A big product order arrives suddenly. The overnight delivery guy needs a signature. Interruptions and the unexpected are inevitable for entrepreneurs.
And then there’s the never-ending list of tasks associated with running a business. “Trying to do too many things at once can scatter your focus and make you feel as if you’re just bouncing around, unsure of the best direction to take,” said Sharon Dillard of Get A Grip, a franchise company that refinishes kitchen countertops and bathtubs.
How can you maintain the focus needed to get things done? Start by borrowing some ideas from people who know how. Here are ten of their tips:
1) Limit your to-do list. “I keep lists of no more than 10 items and cross them off as they are finished,” said Licorice International’s Ardith Stuertz. Some people prefer lists that are even shorter.
2) Break down tasks. Sharon Dillard’s advice? Start with one major goal or project — then break it down into small, bite-size steps.
3) Get organized. Avoid the annoyance and distraction that comes from being unable to find things when you need them. “I take meeting notes and place them in separate folders – online and/or file folders for each client or project,” said Bruce Summers, a personal historian.
4) Plan in advance. “I’m a big believer that poor planning leads to poor performance,” said Patemm’s Grace Welch, whose company specializes in baby changing pads. Welch, a mother of four, also uses check lists and a white board to keep track of family activities.
5) Have a separate home office. Some home-based entrepreneurs can concentrate while working at a kitchen table or in another high-traffic area. If you aren’t one of them, take action.
6) Share your calendar. This is another tip that’s important for home-based operations. “Keeping my schedule known to everyone in the house helped tremendously in concentrating on my business tasks at hand and minimized interruptions,” said Mike Kane, owner of Michal Austin Kane Photography.
7) Prioritize. Elizabeth Erlandson, Ardith Stuertz’s business partner at Licorice International, sees this as an essential skill. “I don’t waste time on things that I am not good at or that others can do much better than I can,” she said.
8) Keep it simple. RetiredBrain’s Art Koff limits his use of tech-based time management tools even though he considers himself “very net literate and technically savvy” for an almost 80-year-old entrepreneur. But he does like to meet with his business partners via online meeting hosting sites, which streamline document sharing and save time.
9) Don’t procrastinate. Dreaded action items can be distractions when they’re hanging over your head. “Start with the hardest task on your to-do list,” advised serial tech entrepreneur Jim Kelly. “If you leave the hardest to the last, you’re sure to run out of time.”
10) Delegate fully. “Leaders want to give responsibility, not authority,” said SavvyRest’s Michael Penny. “I try to give both.” Ultimately, this increases focus because people don’t have to interrupt you to ask permission to do something.
Have other time management tips to add to this list? Please feel free to share them below.