How to Manage Your Time As a Small Business Owner: 7 Simple Steps to Maximize Your Schedule

As an entrepreneur or small business owner/operator do you often feel that you aren’t able to accomplish your daily tasks effectively? Do things seem to snow ball until the back log becomes overwhelming? Is being focused and staying on task a challenge amid the day-to-day distractions common to all small business owners?

Do you find that you end up sacrificing personal and family time to sneak in a few more hours at the office, in the field, or on sales calls? Do you ever find yourself exhausted, irritable, and unable to cope with little things that may pop up personally or professionally on a routine basis?

Have you ever wondered if this is what owning and operating a small business is all about? Is there a better way?

What I have concluded from personal observations is that for many entrepreneurs, small business owners and independent professionals there is a condition of insufficient – or even a complete lack of – scheduling.

Scheduling is a system for completing crucial tasks before they become critical. A proper schedule contains a beginning, middle and end. It is not a to-do list nor is it proper time management, though it can assist with both. Creating an effective schedule and routine assures you align your business with your life, the people you work with, and the family and friends that you love.

Without a proper scheduling system and routine many entrepreneurs will experience overwhelm and burn out. Many a friendship, relationship, and marriage has been negatively impacted by a business person that was unable to balance work load with personal relationships. Without proper balance in life what is the true purpose and intention behind owning your business? You business is to be a part of your life that is fulfilling and serves a purpose in the marketplace for others; it is not supposed to be an all-consuming entity that drains the lifeblood of those associated with it.

Many entrepreneurs I have consulted with have many “reasons” for not having a well-maintained schedule. In my opinion if you find the need to have a “reason” you are just making an excuse for a bad habit. A few of the most common “reasons” I have encountered.

“I have a great memory and don’t need to write things down.”

“I work better under pressure and like to handle things as they come.”

“Scheduling just takes more time away from actually getting things done.”

In my experience, these are excuses entrepreneurs use because creating and maintaining a schedule is foreign to them. Can you imagine an all-star athlete with no training schedule, relying on their memory for everything – and randomly practicing when they feel like it?

Many small business owners started their business as part of a “quest” for freedom, and adding a schedule just seems like another burden that really isn’t necessary. The exact opposite is true. Without a proper schedule most business people find themselves enslaved to the very thing they thought would give them freedom in their life.

So what can you do to take back control of your schedule and conserve your most precious asset (time)?
Have a clear vision and mission for what your business truly provides as a service to others.
For example, one business I am aware of was founded “To provide single moms the opportunity for financial freedom.”
Share your vision with others and invite them to share theirs with you.
Determine the necessary tasks to be completed as part of the following (3) categories:
Activities – what are the most important single tasks or procedures required of you in your daily business interactions.
Routines – what combinations of activities repeated consistently (weekly, monthly) will lead to your greatest results.
Practice – what strengths and skills, if improved upon, would most impact your business and personal life.
Have and use only 1 calendar. If you have a paper-based calendar seriously consider going digital and syncing it with your iPhone/Blackberry. Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook are great options.
Eliminate the habit of working from a “to-do” or task based list.
Transfer all of your tasks in to your schedule with the exact time it will take you to complete it. If you can’t find enough time for all of them, prioritize the critical ones and see if you can eliminate the items at the bottom of your list. You will find that many of the task on your “to-do” list are actually not supportive of you or your business and have no real effect on either.
Leave 15 minutes between every appointment. This will account for distractions and interruptions and allow you to debrief from each activity.
Schedule sleep, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also include time in your calendar to spend with family, friends, exercising, and yes – personal time for having fun or as funny as it sounds – being spontaneous.
Keep notes throughout the day as activities come across your mind. Create a daily list and at the end of the day review the list to determine if any of the ideas warrant time on your schedule. If so – reserve the time in your calendar. If not – delete and move on.

In closing, creating and maintaining a schedule isn’t another task you have to complete in order to be successful. Proper scheduling is “A Way of Life”; a habit consistently used by the most productive and successful people I know.

Take time to master your schedule now, you’ll be amazed at the transformation your life and business will undergo.

As one of my mentor’s Keith Cunningham puts it, “Simple things done consistently lead to extraordinary results.”