7 of the Best Time Management Hacks

Many small business owners wear a closet-full of hats. They are the CEO, CFO, CIO, admin support, file clerk, data entry clerk, mail clerk, bookkeeper, salesperson and probably dog walker as well. So when you look at this incredible diversity of tasks, how do you whittle them down so that you are focusing your precious time and energy on the tasks that will generate the most income and grow your business?

Sure, you can do it yourself. But should you? Do you spend your time carefully cultivating relationships with the 20% of your customers who generate 80% of your sales… or are you spending half a day trying to retrieve a jammed piece of paper from the copier? Are you creating juicy web content and talking to marketing people or are you spending hours on the phone with tech support? The truth is, you may have to pony up and hire help if you’re going to succeed in business. Delegating and outsourcing streamline your inbox so you can focus your energies on the 20% of your efforts that will grow your business.

Learn to mercilessly apply the 80/20 rule. Also known as the Pareto Principle, the rule states that 20% of your efforts yield 80% of your results.

Generally, the 80/20 rule (Pareto’s Principle) is applied in business but its reach extends into your personal life. You wear the same 20% of your clothes 80% of the time. You eat the same 20 foods 80% of the time. You have 20 or so thought habits that your mind replays every day, and these thoughts generate 80% of your results (thoughts such as “I’m not good enough” or “there isn’t enough to go around.”

The most important aspect of the Pareto Principle points to an inescapable fact: HABITS drive your results. So if you improve the quality of your habits – in other words, if you AUTOMATE empowering, efficient and effective behaviors – then you can expect your results to improve as well.

How to apply the 80/20 Rule:

1. When you’re tempted to do it yourself, ask yourself one simple question: “Am I paying myself $10/hour or $1,000/hour?” If you’re doing work that you could outsource for $10/hour, you’re missing out on the $990/hour you would be making after you paid your employee.

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When you look at it that way, it makes sense to outsource and to hire staff to help with the $10/hour stuff so that you can focus on that magical and lucrative 20% of your actions that make $1,000/hour. Hire help. You don’t need superstars in their field who demand exorbitant salaries. You just need enthusiastic, reliable, competent people who are willing to learn.

2. Take time every day to DO NOTHING.

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Yes. do nothing. Taking a mental break during the day is essential. You can’t drive a car without filling up the tank! Go for a brisk walk to re-energise yourself, or meditate to manage stress, give your brain a chance to process pressing problems, and let your intuitive voice be heard. As the Dalai Lama says, “If you’re busy, meditate for half an hour. If you’re extremely busy, meditate for an hour.” It may seem counter-intuitive but the clarity of thinking, focus and self-mastery will serve you extremely well.

3. Work with your natural rhythm.

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Some people are extra productive in the wee hours of the morning. Others don’t hit their stride until midday and of course the night owls don’t rub the sleep from their eyes ‘til after sunset. If you optimise this magical time slot by focusing ONLY on what you do best or on strategic tasks, you’ll make incredible progress toward every one of your goals.

4. Prioritise your tasks (the ones you haven’t outsourced yet) according to whether a task is important (moves you toward your goal) or urgent (time-sensitive). Take a few minutes at the end of each day to plan the next day. Don’t do it in the morning because it’s tempting to get sidetracked. Do your planning at the end of the day so you can hit the ground running first thing in the morning according to this hierarchy:

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(Credit: Yohanes Hendra)

  • Important and urgent: These are the things you should focus on as your #1 priority, come hell or high water.
  • Important but not urgent: After you’ve finished with #1.
  • Urgent but not important: This is the stuff to watch out for! These tasks are the squeaky wheels but they often end up being time-suckers that ultimately don’t progress you toward your business goals – an example is a broken piece of office equipment that you spend hours trying to fix… meanwhile you’ve exhausted yourself to the point you don’t have the energy to make important sales calls.
  • Not urgent and not important: Don’t bother. If you feel it must be done, eventually, okay, fine, but only if you’re sitting around with nothing to do – which won’t happen if you mind #1 and #2 – those make up the 20% of tasks that have the highest ROI! Let go of your need to get it all done. You won’t, so don’t kill yourself trying. Focus your energies on #1 and #2 and never lose sight of what is truly important.

5. Never procrastinate (no matter how intimidated you are), and finish what you start.

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There’s no point procrastinating unless you want to hand your success over to your competition. And there’s no point in starting something and not finishing it. Half-done is worse than not done, because of the time you wasted getting halfway and then dropping the ball! Guaranteed, you will never have the “extra” time you need to finish an incomplete project later on!

6. Be organised. Chaos and clutter eat up a lot of your precious time so take a few minutes at the end of every day to organise for the next day.

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(Credit: Mind In Progress)

7. As you prioritise your actions, keep this in mind: if an action is familiar and comfortable, it is not necessarily generating the best results.

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(Credit: Madeline Rodgers)

An action that is familiar, it is efficient – it’s a habitual action and you’re very good at it. But ask yourself – is this efficient action also EFFECTIVE? Is it getting you the results you want? If not… it’s time for a new approach, one that makes you nervous. Don’t worry, you’ll quickly become desensitised to it. Just beware of getting into a rut (“this is how I’ve always done things”) because the more resistant you are to change, the harder it becomes to succeed. Being flexible in your approach is the hallmark of a successful entrepreneur!

All goals are achievable if you direct your energies in the right way, in the right amount. And remember – if you establish empowering, efficient and effective habits, you will automate your success!

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