Some people have natural time management skills and their lives are perfectly organized. They seemingly can finish everything they need to well before the deadline, and still look happy and relaxed. If you belong to the other group of people, those that end up stressed up because you never have time to finish things on time, don't worry. Time management can be learnt and there's plenty of systems to improve your time management skills and reduce your stress levels as a small business owner.
Make a list of your tasks
The key to better time management is better organization. If you don't know what to do you won't be able to organise your time the most effective way. So first of all, make a list of everything you need to do. Try to keep it simple, and if a task looks very complex, such as "Write a business plan" divide it in several smaller tasks such as "Research Competition", "Find growth statistics for similar business", etc... Learn how to avoid stressing yourself as a freelancer by looking at your tasks one at a time, instead of a giant mountain of things to do.
The first thing you need to learn to improve your time management skills is prioritising. Not everything is urgent and important and must be done yesterday (or won't be, if you get better at managing your time). Each time you need to add a new task to your list decide whether it is important/not important and urgent/not urgent. You will deal with those tasks differently depending on those two attributes:
- Important and Urgent: Schedule a time as soon as possible to do it yourself.
- Important, but not urgent: Schedule a time later on to work on it, making sure it's early enough for the task not to become urgent.
- Urgent, but not important: Look and see if you can delegate it to somebody else so it's done as soon as possible. Otherwise, treat it as important and consider finding help in the future.
- Not important, not urgent: Put it on a list of things to do if you have free time. Generally speaking, if something isn't either urgent or important there's little value to doing it.
After prioritising your tasks you probably have a better idea of what must be done right away and which things can wait. Dealing with urgent and important tasks is easy, but important and not urgent tasks have an enemy called procrastination. This means having a tendency to leave non urgent tasks for later, until they suddenly end up being urgent and your stress levels soar. To avoid that you'll need to learn to schedule your day. Schedule time for each tasks considering the time of the day and your usual feelings around that hour. For example, you may feel more creative during the afternoon, and more awake and alert in the morning, so schedule bookkeeping first thing in the morning and writing letters for after lunch.
Measure your time
Most time management methods such as the Pomodoro techique demand that you schedule your work in periods of a specific lenght, and focus only on the task at hand during that time. If you aren't too keen on timing yourself look at it this way: Forcing yourself to focus on one task, and only one task at a time, means that you won't get distracted and won't make silly errors or lose track of what you are doing. Consider using some sort of timer to indicate to others that you aren't available, and avoid silly distractions, such as reading emails as they come, browsing just for the sake of browsing (and not research) or chatting with somebody on Facebook or IM.
Improving your time management skills means that you'll accomplish more in less time, and as a business owner that can be key both to your small business success and your personal health. Before handing in your notice, consider if you are ready to start a home business or you should work on improving other areas of your character and skillset to improve your chances of success.