Do you wish there were more hours in the day? Of course you do! You're a small-business owner with an endless to-do list, which, no matter how hard you try, never gets any shorter. It's time, once and for all, to develop a strategy to make the most of every working minute in 2014.
Change How You Think About Time
"The first step is to understand that time can't be managed," says Matthew Iscoe, marketing manager at Thriving Firm, a company that offers consulting services for accountants. "There are only 24 hours in a day, and that's true for everyone. So if you're doing a trillion things at once, it's not a time-management issue, it's a self-management issue."
"Business owners must prioritize, which is different than sacrificing," Iscoe says. "Sacrificing means going without. Prioritizing means getting the important things done first—the things that incur lasting success like networking and speaking to your clients about their wants and goals."
If you prioritize and organize tasks, you will get everything done, according to Jason Rosado, the business coach behind Distinctive Coaching.
"Change your internal thinking and mindset around time," Rosado says. "A business owner with many hats to wear, constantly changing priorities and a never-ending to-do list needs to understand that there really is enough time for everything."
Rosado says he coaches his clients to think about time differently so they don't feel crunched. "They feel less pressure, anxiety and stress, and are able to make better, faster decisions resulting in getting more done in less time and having enough leftover time and energy to really enjoy their business as well as the other really important things in life," Rosado says.
Learn To Delegate
Over and over again, the experts agree that as hard as it for small-business owners to loosen the reins, it has to be done.
"Get clear on what you as a business owner really love to do and what gives you lots of energy and enjoyment and what you do really well," Rosado says. "Everything else should be delegated to others who can do it faster, cheaper and better than you can. You don't need to have your hand in every aspect of your business."
A Facebook post here, a peek at Google analytics there, even plowing through email may be costing you precious minutes. Cindy Sullivan, a certified professional organizer, says it's important to identify the time traps in your day.
"Try logging how much time in one week you spend on those activities," Sullivan says. "You'll likely be startled to see the results. Then limit your exposure to those things that distract you and yes, that may mean turning off applications or notifiers that are constantly calling your name."
Michael Kawula, the self-described Self Employed King, goes a step further when it comes to the distractions that technology may bring.
"Stay out of email except for twice a day and likewise with social media," Kawula says. "Focus on current and past customers that can help you bring your business to the next level. I'm a huge social media advocate but I also see it as a major distraction for many owners."
Move Past Today's Deadline
Sullivan says the most successful entrepreneurs look beyond immediate deadlines.
"Take time each week to think strategically and on a higher level than what is due today," Sullivan says. "Give your planning time a high value and don't miss an appointment with yourself. The broader our responsibilities and the more diverse our activities, the greater need for planning."
Sullivan also recommends that you select one very specific type of time management planning system. Whether it's a paper planner, an online calendar or a hybrid, find one thing that works and stick to it.
Limit Your Choices
As a small-business owner, you're called on throughout the day to provide all the answers. Marnie Swedberg, a Life Maximization Mentor, says the best time-management trick is to eliminate unnecessary choices.
"The number of decisions the average executive makes in a week is staggering," Swedberg says. "To get on top of it, shrewdly reduce your options. President Obama only wears two colors of suits. With only a 'this or that' choice, he's confidently out the door sporting one of his best colors."
No matter how many suit colors you wear, there's room to manage yourself and your time. Prioritize your tasks, delegate what you can, eliminate everyday distractions and plan for deadlines. That's the formula for maximizing every moment of 2014.
Carla Turchetti is a veteran print and broadcast journalist with a passion for money matters and the stories behind the world of small business and personal finance.
Read more articles on productivity.