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How the Strongest Business Leaders Do Twice as Much in Half the Time Start early, stay focused and know when to go home.

By John Rampton Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Entrepreneurs and small-business owners rarely clock in and out during regular business hours. They work weekends, take late shifts and do whatever it takes to get (and keep) their companies running smoothly.

Unfortunately, all that work can lead to poor work-life balance for those at the top. A survey by Sage Small Business found that small-business owners today work longer hours than they did in 2012. Owners are even sacrificing their own pay to work longer hours and keep their companies afloat.

Running a small business isn't easy, but it doesn't have to take every hour of the day. Follow these tips to save time during the day, keeping your workday as short as possible.

Related: What a 30-Hour Work Week is Really Like

1. They prepare for the unexpected.

Owners of small companies know that no day ever goes exactly as planned. A major client might call in with a big issue, a key employee might call out sick on a bad day or a short window of opportunity might appear out of nowhere. Leave blank spaces in your schedule to create the leeway you need to respond to unexpected events.

Related: Is Your Business Prepared to Handle an Unexpected Emergency?

2. They make and follow a schedule.

In tandem with the point above, make a schedule and stick to it. Your schedule is more than a to-do list: It provides an excuse to focus on one thing at a time. To-do lists invite stress into your life ("How can I get all this stuff done this week?"), but schedules relieve stress by providing a clear path forward.

Most days, the extra time you allot for unexpected events won't get filled. Use that cushion to catch up on emails or turn off your phone and spend some time reflecting.

Related: Want to Be Successful? Stick to a Schedule.

3. They leverage their high-energy time.

Ariely research shows that people are most productive during the first two hours they're awake. For most people, those two hours get wasted on the news, traffic and other mindless tasks. Make the most of each day's start by planning ahead the evening before. Create a short list of tough tasks that will require your complete focus. Alternatively, use your mornings to channel that productivity into creative energy to tackle some of the more nebulous problems your company faces.

Related: 8 Steps to Having Wildly Productive Mornings

4. They automate the easy stuff.

If you spend a couple hours each week tracking and paying your monthly bills, you're wasting time. Automate your payments to save hassle and avoid potential late fees. You can still review your charges later if something looks awry, but there's no need to waste your valuable time filling in credit card information on a dozen different payment sites.

Related: Want to Save Your Business an Hour a Day? Automate These 11 Tasks.

5. They start and end on time.

People in charge spend a lot of time in meetings. Save time by setting -- and sticking to -- firm start and end times for yours. Research from the University of Nebraska Omaha shows that only 49 percent of meetings start on time, and most of the time, the boss is the one holding up the works. A delay of just 10 minutes can turn an otherwise productive meeting into a waste of everyone's time. Commit to punctuality: Not only will your team thank you, but you will also force yourself to use your meeting time more efficiently.

Related: Cultivate Punctuality to Help You Stand Out Among Coworkers

6. They delegate everything you can.

Make a list of everything you do for your company. Then, determine which tasks on that list can only be completed by you. Most leaders spend a lot of time doing work that other people could do just as well. Delegate those tasks to spend more of your time focusing on the things that truly require your attention.

Related: The 3 Tasks All Entrepreneurs Must Give Up Immediately

7. They set a time to shut down.

According to research from Stanford University, people can't work more than 50 hours per week without a sharp decline in productivity. This decline is so steep that people who work more than 55 hours per week see no benefit from their long days, regardless of whether they work 56 hours or 80.

Pick a time to stop working and go home, then follow through. You need those hours away from the office to recharge. If you don't let yourself get away from the desk, you not only endanger your health -- according to a study published in the European Heart Journal, more than 55 hours of work per week can cause heart attacks and strokes -- but you also limit your effectiveness when you're supposed to be on the clock.

Saving time as a small-business owner isn't about cutting corners; it's about making the most of the hours you work. By setting a better schedule, delegating tasks and limiting your work away from work, you can get more from your time at the office and achieve more in business and in life.

John Rampton

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Entrepreneur and Connector

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the calendar productivity tool Calendar.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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