In a recent survey of approximately 250 small business owners, conducted by The UPS Store, over and over again small business owners in every industry spoke of their lack of time. And I’ve seen it firsthand. As the daughter of small business owners, I was with my parents as they worked seemingly nonstop. But I also witnessed their entrepreneurial spirit and tireless work ethic -- something I kept in mind when pursuing my own career. The passion kept them going and contributed to their success.
Passion alone won’t do it though. Intentional steps to take charge of your schedule are crucial to making your small business work for you. Even as you read this, you may be thinking of the many things you still have to get done today. As someone who works with small business owners often, I won’t take this time lightly. Instead, let’s make it productive. Check out these time management tips.
1. Delegate, even when you don’t have employees.
Almost as common throughout our survey results as the lack of time was the perceived lack of resources. Small business owners told us they were often overwhelmed by the backend of their business, from managing payroll to making trips to the bank.
You don’t need a huge staff to get some of those crucial, but time-consuming, tasks checked off your to-do list. In our survey, we also found that many small business owners struggle to hand over responsibility, even when the resources are right in front of them. And we get it. It’s hard to give control to someone who isn’t as fiscally and emotionally invested in your business as you are.
Start with people you trust -- a family member or friend -- to lend a helping hand. Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, we all pitched in when needed. From tasks like running an errand or providing business advice, family and friends can be a tactical resource or a trusted sounding board.
2. Be strategic about combining your work life and your personal life.
Another key, but unsurprising, finding from our study was that trying to separate your personal life from your work life is moot when you’re a small business owner. Learning how to manage your two sets of responsibilities simultaneously can be a huge time-saver. It’s not so much a work-life balance, but a work-life blend. Since there is no on and off switch for work, family or personal life, how can you find time for it all?
At the beginning of my career, I was completely focused on work, rarely finding time for my personal life. As my career progressed, I learned to prioritize work, family and personal life at different times. I’ve also realized the importance of taking time off to completely disconnect and trust your team will handle things in your absence.
3. Learn how to say no.
Over time, my mentors taught me that the people who overload themselves are the ones who struggle the most and go home stressed. I struggled to turn down opportunities that might prove valuable in some way, and our survey results show small business owners are facing the same struggle.
Any time someone asks you to do something, it’s important to take a step back and ask yourself -- what value is this providing to me and/or my business? You don’t need a complex answer to that question, but you do need to be able to answer it in a concrete way. Ask yourself if the opportunity will be beneficial in terms of time spent and desired results. Many times, just knowing you'll have fun is a good enough answer. But think about the results. Trust your gut. Know how your time and resources are being spent on a day-to-day basis, and when a new opportunity or request comes in, you can make an educated decision based on the bigger picture.
Related: The Power of Saying 'No'
As a small business owner, you have the privilege and the responsibility to do what’s best for you and your business. You are creating and leading your own path to success. And believe it or not, sometimes saying no can be the right thing to do.
Managing time will always be one of the biggest challenges of being a small business owner, but with a concerted, strategic effort, you can take charge of your schedule and allow your passion and actions to drive business success.