10 Time Management Tips to Grow Your Small Business

What is Time Management?

Time management is the process of planning, organizing, and consciously controlling how much time you spend on which specific tasks, and prioritizing those tasks to increase your productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness.

As human beings, we’re not great at managing our time. It’s also one of the hardest parts of running a small business. Poor time management can have real life consequences for your company, your employees, and even your customers.  

Juggling multiple urgent deadlines makes it more difficult to know what tasks are important. It’s easier for you to drop the ball and, ultimately, lose business. Poor time management can result in: 

  • Poor quality products – When we rush our work, we can overlook big problems in the quality of our goods and services.
  • Poor reputation – Even if your products are perfectly manufactured, disorganized customer support can drive your business to your competitors who are easier to work with. 
  • Poor workflow – Without time management you may spend twice as long on tasks resulting in lots of wasted time. You may feel like you’re running, but you aren’t going anywhere.  
  • Increased stress and burnout – Last minute deadlines, unhappy customers, and slow growth will affect your mental health and lead to burnout.

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Adopt a Time Management System

Luckily, you don’t have to build a perfect time management strategy from scratch. There are a number of simple techniques that can help you organize your day and tackle the most important work first.

Lightbulb icon SMART goals


Originally created in the 1980s to help businesses set and achieve their goals, it’s also a great way to organize your time. Instead of trying to accomplish every task that comes across your plate, prioritize tasks that help you accomplish your biggest goals. For a goal to be SMART, it has to meet these criteria:

Specific – Set goals that are specific and clear. Instead of “I want my customers to love my product,” narrow down your focus to, “I want to increase my customer satisfaction score (CSAT) from 85% to 95%.”

Measurable – Ensure that your goals can be measured. Qualitative data has its place but quantitative data is how you can track your progress. For our CSAT goal, tracking your progress as your score increases from 85% to 87% to 90% is exciting and helps you stay focused. 

Attainable – Make sure your goals are achievable and realistic. If your CSAT score is currently sitting at 60%, you’ll find it hard to raise it to 95%. Instead, examine the feedback you’re receiving from customers. Perhaps shipping is always late or your product arrives damaged. Improve delivery, which will ultimately help you with your customer satisfaction as well. 

Relevant – Make sure that your goal is relevant to your success. Perhaps you sell one-time products or services and don’t need repeat customers. Is increasing your CSAT score from 85% to 95% really going to make a difference to your revenue? 

Time based – Deadlines work. Otherwise, we push off larger projects in favor of easier to achieve small tasks that we can tick off our to-do list quickly, but don’t move our businesses towards greater success. CSAT scores can’t change overnight. You need time to come up with an action plan and for your work to come to fruition. Consider a 12 months deadline to increase your CSAT from 85% to 95%.

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Eisenhower Matrix

How do you manage your workload on a monthly or weekly basis? The Eisenhower matrix is a straightforward way to decide where to focus your daily energy. Go through your list of to-dos and sort them into these four categories: 

Important and urgent – Do these tasks right away. To improve your CSAT score, rectify the biggest problems first. If shipping delays are a frequent complaint, talk with your courier service or switch to another provider ASAP. 

Important but not urgent – Decide when to do these tasks. To improve customer satisfaction, go straight to the source – your customers. Sending a survey to all past customers is important but not urgent. Schedule time in the next week to create a survey and email it to your customer base. 

Urgent but not important – Delegate these tasks if possible. Answering individual customer complaints should be a priority but perhaps not for you as the business owner. Delegate this job to an employee who can help each customer while you work on a larger CSAT strategy. 

Not urgent and not important – Set these aside to do later. Some tasks are just not going to move the needle on your goals. Updating the copy on the thank you cards you put into each delivery box can add a personal touch, but it’s neither important nor urgent for now. If you have the time, you can work on that task in the future.

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ABCDE Method

If the Eisenhower matrix doesn’t appeal to you, no worries, there are more options, like the ABCDE method, which is all about the consequences of your activities. This method asks you to prioritize based on the magnitude of the consequences if that task is done or not. These consequences can be both good and bad. 

Using the same example from SMART and the Eisenhower matrix, your ABCDE will look like this:

A activity – These tasks must be done because the consequences are big. Fixing shipping delays will directly impact your CSAT scores and the goals you set for the business. 

B activity – These are tasks that you should do because of milder consequences. Sending out a survey to better understand your customers needs will help you improve their customer experience. 

C activity – These tasks are nice-to-have with no consequences either way. For example, reading up on the latest customer satisfaction best practices. 

D activity – These tasks can be delegated, like answering customer support tickets. Someone else can do it faster and more effectively than you can. 

E activity – These tasks don’t matter in the long run. Instead of reviewing survey results daily, cross that off your to-do list and review survey results once a month.

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The Four Ds for Time Management Success

Lastly, the four Ds might be more your style. It has the same prioritization goals as the ABCDE and Eisenhower Matrix but it lets you remove stuff from your to-do list earlier in your planning process. 

Do – Just do it. Start working on a task and focus all of your attention. Don’t look at your emails and don’t answer the phone. Aim to complete each task within 30 minutes before you move on to another task. Some work will take longer, but you’ll be more in the zone once you’re 30 minutes in and can continue until you complete the activity. 

Delete – Remove items from your list of tasks without mercy. Some things are not worth your time as a business owner. Delete and forget about them. If someone is asking you for something over email, respond letting them know that you can’t help them at this time. 

Defer – Throughout the day you’ll receive emails and messages asking for more of your attention. Don’t be distracted from your “Do” activities. Defer new tasks until later when you have time to focus on them, instead of getting distracted throughout the day. 

Delegate – Anything that is not on your Do or Defer list, can be delegated to someone else who can complete the work faster and cheaper than you can. 

10 tips for Better Time Management

Now that you’ve chosen a system that works for you, you’re on your way to a more efficient, and more successful, future. Here are ten best practices that will help you along the way. 

  1. Use time management tools – There are numerous free and low cost apps that can help you keep on top of your workload but if traditional pen and paper work well for you, that’s great. 
  2. Track your time for a few days or a week – start tracking how you spend your time by writing down the tasks and activities you focus on throughout the day. You can also utilize a productivity app that can sync up with your calendar to make this easier. 
  3. Calendars are your best friend – Track all of your activities in your calendar, not just meetings. Block out time to complete tasks. Not only will this set aside time that you’re unavailable for meetings or calls, it will also help you focus on completing the work in a set time frame. 
  4. Delegate or outsource – Some tasks aren’t the best use of your time, even if they are important. Consider delegating those tasks. Make sure your employees or freelancers have a process to follow for ease of mind.
  5. Avoid multitasking – Distractions come at us no matter how much we try to focus. While working on a task, like writing a proposal or sorting through your finances, close your email inbox and put your phone on do-not-disturb mode. Every notification takes you away from your work and out of your flow. 
  6. Delay responding to requests – Everyone wants some of your time. Make sure that you prioritize important and urgent work first. Instead of responding to emails and phone calls as they come in, set aside time every day to review requests. It helps you avoid agreeing to something when you actually don’t have the bandwidth. 
  7. Create agendas for your meetings – Before meetings, create an agenda including everything you want to cover. This keeps everyone on task and helps avoid more meetings about the last meeting. 
  8. Schedule a Monday meeting for yourself – I find this to be a helpful way to start the week. Every Monday, I spend up to an hour going through the projects, deadlines, and tasks that I need to accomplish for the week. This way I don’t forget anything important coming up and can prioritize accurately. 
  9. Time boxing –Timeboxing means setting a fixed amount of time in your calendar for a particular task. You should treat it like a formal meeting – no last minute rescheduling and no interruptions.
  10. Work on the most important or difficult tasks first – Some tasks we don’t enjoy doing even though they’re necessary for our business. Completing these first makes for a less stressful day. 

Practice, Practice, Practice Your Time Management

Effectively managing your time requires continuous work. When we’re busy it’s easy to drop our good habits and focus on every distraction in front of us. When this happens, go back to your favorite time management system, and map out your priorities so you can stay on track.

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A special high five to Tahera Ali Khan for her outstanding research and contributions to this article. We love working with and supporting like-minded entrepreneurs. Thank you Tahera! ❤️

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