Innovators like Henry Ford have attributed their success to good time management. Nevertheless, a recent study found that 72 percent of small business owners are working longer days and on more weekends, while half of those surveyed find there's not enough time to get things done. With time being the most valuable commodity for small business owners, a time-management plan is essential to running a business and achieving a work-life balance.
Here's how other entrepreneurs, from freelancers to small business owners, effectively manage their time and how you can create your own time-management plan for life and business.
Set goals and manage tasks
Time management is all about setting goals and completing the tasks necessary to reach them. Rich Winley, founder of No Chains, a startup that helps users find local nonchain restaurants, believes in looking at the big picture and then breaking down tasks before tackling them.
"I'm a solo startup guy, so time management is essential for me," Winley said. "Every month, I set a goal for what we need to accomplish, and then break it down to weeks and days. That means every Sunday night before my week starts, I write down what we need to accomplish for the week."
To organize everything he needs to get done, Winley uses Wunderlist, a popular productivity app for creating, managing and sharing personal and business to-do lists. Its features include deadline reminders, progress tracking and automatic syncing across devices.
For businesses, time tracking and management tools help keep everyone focused and on the same page, eliminating wasted time searching for emails and miscommunications about which team member is responsible for which task. Wunderlist Pro, for instance, allows users to delegate tasks to colleagues and team members for faster completion and accountability. Similar collaboration tools include SweetProcess, a task-management app that documents and systemizes procedures, and Flow, a time-management and online collaboration tool that keeps tasks organized and teams in sync.
Track how you spend your time
To have an effective time-management plan, you need to know where your time actually goes. While keeping an eye on the clock works for some, time-tracking tools are much more effective for others.
Josh Leavitt, owner of web design and online marketing firm J-Leavitt Designs, uses the time-tracking app Harvest. According to Leavitt, Harvest greatly improves his efficiency by enabling him to input all of his clients, projects and tasks in one place and allowing him to easily track his hours, create invoices and bill clients.
Within a year of starting his company, Leavitt had four full-time employees and 25 outsourced workers around the globe. As part of his company's time-management plan, Leavitt began using Time Doctor, a time-tracking tool that reminds users to stay on task, monitors Internet and application use, and creates reports outlining how user time is spent.
"With Time Doctor installed onto all of my employees' computers, I was able to assign projects and track tasks down to the minute," Leavitt said."It automatically generates efficient time-use activities as well as poor time-use activities, and sends reports to both the employee as well as myself."
Time-tracking tools are also effective for managing your time outside work. Mary Agnes Antonopoulos, a freelance writer and social media strategist at Rockaway Writer who juggles up to 20 clients at any one time, uses OfficeTime to budget and keep track of how long she spends on projects. She also uses the app to prioritize her own life.
"I also have the app on my phone, and I use it for personal stuff, like working out and time with friends," Antonopoulos said. In doing so, she's better able to have time for herself and live the life she wants. "If I do not do that, I tend to push those things away and prioritize them last. Who wants that life?"
According to a study by office supplies company Brother International, each employee loses an average of 76 hours per year due to disorganization. That translates to $177 billion wasted annually searching for physically and electronically misplaced items, which could have a considerable effect on small businesses' bottom lines. This means that in order to better manage your time, you need to stay organized.
Kathryn McKinnon, an executive coach and time-management expert at McKinnon & Co., recommends three tools to help keep your business and your life organized, as well as your time effectively managed.
- Evernote: This free app, available for iPhone and Android, helps you stay organized by keeping all your thoughts, notes, ideas, to-do lists and more all in one place. "Stay organized by creating multiple notebooks and grouping notes the way you want," McKinnon said. "It has a photo feature that lets you take pictures of those handwritten notes you have piled up on your desk that you can then organize into folders so you don't lose any valuable ideas or information."
- Fantastical: This iPhone app, available in the Apple App Store, increases your productivity using your calendar. This is an especially helpful tool if you keep multiple calendars, such as one for work, home and your social life, all of which can be accessed and managed in one handy place, McKinnon said. (According to its developers, users can just type or dictate an event, such as "Lunch with John in Cupertino on Friday," and the app will schedule it automatically, saving you time.)
- CardMunch: This free app helps you organize business cards by turning them into contacts. "Networking is important for uncovering personal and business opportunities, growing your business or staying on top of your career," McKinnon pointed out. However, "It can become overwhelming if you don't have a way to organize them," she added. With a tool such as CardMunch, users simply take a photo of each business card. "Then, it uploads all your contacts to your phone, making contact management easy and efficient."