First Person: Time Management Tips for Small Businesses

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These time management tips come from my experiences as a sales and marketing manager and executive followed by six years as small business owner. I'm fortunate to then have consulted for 173 clients where I observed my small business clients' issues with time management.

In the past two decades, time management has become increasingly challenging. Time feels like it has sped up for everyone. Add to all of this the pressures from Internet and smart phones with social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. It means that you are constantly distracted.

Five Time Management Tips

- Prioritize

- Crisis management

- Focus

- Delegate

- Swiss Cheese approach

Prioritize

Time management begins with knowing what your highest priority. Get clear on what your goals are. I find that until I get that clarity, my energy is scattered.

Because you can't get everything done, you need to work on the most important items first. I have to discipline myself to concentrate on the most important rather than the easiest or the most fun - or the most demanding. Likewise, avoid getting caught up with researching the latest technology or the newest marketing approach.

Use your ideal customer profile to be sure that you are going after the right market. Only participate in events where your best prospects can be found.

Crisis Management

Admittedly, there are true crises that must be dealt with ahead of anything else, like fires, injuries and missed customer deadlines. However, many times a crisis brought to you as the small business owner or manager is only a crisis to the individual seeking you out demanding your attention right now.

Though it may feel easiest to tell your employee that you'll handle it, you just put his monkey on your back. He leaves relieved because it's now your problem. Instead take a few minutes to guide him on how to manage his own monkey. He learns from this while you avoid the stress of overloading yourself.

Focus

With all of the distractions today, focus becomes ever more important. Contrary to a popular myth, most people accomplish more with solid periods of focused activity than with multi-tasking.

Here are some tips to help with focus:

- Limit your time checking emails

- Make and use to-do lists

- Jot down notes

- Organize with systems

Delegate

What I see most often in my clients is thinking they have delegated something by assigning it. Delegating means that you are managing by keeping track of you delegated. You watch the deadlines and follow up in time to ensure the person you delegated the task to is on track to complete it on time. You may use a notebook, desk calendar or time management software.

'Swiss Cheese' Approach

I learned the 'Swiss Cheese' technique years ago from Alan Lakein. You can't do everything so you do the most important. When you don't have dedicated large blocks of time, you do what you can in small chunks. Break your projects into tasks that you can do in five to ten minutes at a time. Then use them when you have holes in your schedule.

As a small business owner or manager, you have too much to get done in a day so uses these time management tips to ensure you do the most important. Prioritize your tasks so you know what will add the most to reaching your business goals. Practice crisis management, especially by ensuring people handle their own crises. Focus on your priorities. Delegate to grow your staff and to lessen your load. And break large jobs into smaller tasks to be done when time is limited.

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

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