Developing entrepreneur time management skills is a constant work in progress. Successful entrepreneurs know that no matter what they do, it will never feel like there’s enough time to get everything done. How, then, do they stay sane while being efficient? The first thing they understand is that they don’t need to get everything done—just the most important things. 

There are an unlimited number of time management strategies. Identifying what works for you is a process that will mean the difference between success and failure. It’s easy to try a new strategy and quickly become overwhelmed, then frustrated, and then give up before giving it enough time to understand whether it will work for you or not. We suggest trying one thing at a time for a minimum of 90 days before counting it out.

Effective Entrepreneur Time Management Tips 

Energy Management is The First Step to Effective Time Management

Until you develop an entrepreneur time management system that works for you, overwhelm will creep in and deplete your energy. When your energy is depleted, you’re less likely to be able to stick to a plan. That’s why we believe strongly that energy management is the first step to effective time management. 

Start by paying attention to what types of tasks you do best at specific times of the day. For example, creative tasks come easily to both of us in the morning. By the end of the day, it’s difficult to focus, so performing routine activities that don’t require a lot of brain power works best for us. When you learn when your peak energy times are, you’ll be able to create a schedule to match, thereby conserving energy and creating more flow and ease in your daily schedule.

Schedule Downtime First!

In the spirit of conserving energy, make sure you block off downtime on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis before your calendar fills up with busy work. This simple practice of putting yourself first goes a long way to lifting your spirits. When you know you’ve put yourself and your own well-being first by intentionally building in downtime, it gives you the gift of space and time to rest and recharge. It also eases the feeling of overwhelm when you can look at your calendar and see that you have breaks built in. Those downtime blocks are like islands of calm in a sea of chaos, and they give you something to look forward to. You’ll feel empowered knowing that you can make it through anything when you have regularly scheduled downtime built in to rescue you.

The goal of most people is to live life in a way that’s meaningful to them. Whatever that is for you, scheduling the time you need to make sure you’re able to do that is going to have you feeling like the luckiest person in the world. You come first. Your life comes first. So, put things into perspective and schedule everything around what matters most to you.

How to Perform a Time Audit For Good Time Management

Have you ever heard the saying, “What gets measured gets managed?” There’s a lot of wisdom in that. When we get distracted and shift our focus from one thing to the other, it’s like we’re a tiny boat being tossed at sea. We give up our position of power, and instead of working proactively, we’re forced to work reactively, which quickly leaves us wondering how things got so out of hand. 

Constantly switching tasks creates a lot of context switching, and that’s one of the most common culprits when you feel like you’ve been super busy, but nothing meaningful has gotten done.

Time management begins with personal management. To make lasting change, you’ve got to shift your focus to that of the observer of you as you go through your day-to-day life so that you can become aware of any patterns that might need tweaking or eliminating. Unless and until you do that, you’re playing a guessing game and diminishing your chances of reaching your time management nirvana. Let’s think of this as a personal awareness campaign.

Time tracking is a great place to start, and it’s something we use at Encore Empire to help with decision-making. If you’re one to feel restricted or boxed in easily, you might resist the idea of time tracking, but we encourage you to give it a try, and here’s why: 

  • It reveals patterns that you wouldn’t otherwise see.
  • It allows you to confirm what you got done in a day/week/month.
  • It gives you invaluable data about how long specific tasks or projects take. 

This isn’t only good for your general time management knowledge, it’s also good for your bottom line. You’ll be better able to forecast the time and cost of starting a new project or hiring help. You’ll have a clear picture of where your time is going and what you can delegate to someone else. You may be doing things that you’d like to take off of your plate. Having a true read on the length of time tasks take allows you to develop a clear job description, including the number of hours needed per day/week/month. 

There are several ways to track your time. Our favorite tool is Clockify. In the spirit of trial and error and giving things enough time to test them out, we’ve tried several time-tracking tools, and Clockify is what works for us. Most project management apps include a time-tracking component. Some others to try out are:

Hive is another option, and they wrote an in-depth article showcasing 26 time-tracking tools.

The Art of Time Blocking

Once you’ve gained some awareness of your patterns, you can use that knowledge to create a schedule that allows you to work in a manner that’s aligned with your strengths and weaknesses. In keeping with our energy management tips above, the first thing to block off is your downtime. 

The way we do this at Encore Empire is by blocking off Mondays and Fridays. Our calendars show availability Tuesday - Thursday only. 

  • Monday is our CEO day when we work on our business. This is when we strategize, forecast, and assess data. 
  • Fridays are our free-flow or focus days. We’ve built in time to focus on whatever we need to on Fridays. 

Knowing that we have this structure in place is so liberating! 

We take things a step further by blocking off the fourth week of every month as an island of calm. Clients always come first, and we are available to our clients Monday - Friday of every week, but we reserve Tuesday - Thursday for public-facing activities such as coaching calls, live videos, and interviews. We don’t schedule coaching calls at all during the fourth week, and if we decide to do public-facing work, it’s on a case-by-case basis. 

Time blocking allows us to create these boundaries for ourselves and gives us the time we need to rest and recharge. Knowing that we have put ourselves first helps us maintain excitement and drive to do the work that we love. We highly recommend carving out time blocks that make the most sense for you. You won’t regret it.

Next, use the data you collected during your personal awareness campaign to block off the times during the day when you’re most creative for your creative work. For your structured work, such as administrative tasks, prospecting, etc., you might want to split that time up throughout the day. 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes mid-day, and 30 minutes at the end of the day. You know yourself best, so do what works for you.

Some common blocks of time for the small business owner are:

  • Free Time
  • Client Work
  • Focus Time
  • Administrative
  • Marketing 
  • Sales 

The number and variety of time blocks you use is up to you. 

Be sure to incorporate a time limit when warranted and short breaks throughout the day. Time limits come in handy when you’re performing a task that you might get sucked into, such as prospecting and engaging on social media. How many times have you intended to check replies for a few minutes only to have hours pass by with doom scrolling? It happens! Setting time limits and using an audible timer helps bring you back to more important tasks.

As mentioned previously, plan on giving your new schedule a try for long enough that you can clearly see what’s working and what’s not before changing anything. If you begin to change things too soon, you’ll simply be creating more work for yourself with little reward. The hardest part of developing good time management skills is developing personal management skills! Don’t allow your initial discomfort at trying something new to derail you. 

Improving entrepreneur time management skills should be approached as an experiment. When we’re experimenting, we lean into curiosity, and that helps remove the pressure to be perfect. Of all the new skills you can learn, you will want to learn them the way they are taught, and then if something doesn’t seem to fit into your lifestyle, determine if there’s a way that you can tweak it so that it does. Ask yourself, “How can I make this fun?” 

We encouraged one of our clients to ask this question when time blocking didn’t work for her, and she realized that she’s much more productive when she has an accountability partner. This led her to use a great service called Focusmate, and her productivity skyrocketed. She’s now able to get everything done that she needs to and then some. Prior to this, she believed there was something wrong with her. That everyone else got it and she couldn’t. Rarely is that the case! 

If you’re feeling that way, it’s an indication that you need to dig deeper into what is going on. Are there stories you’re telling yourself or past experiences that have left a negative impression? Don your Sherlock Holmes hat and magnifying glass and start sleuthing.

Prioritization is Where Efficiency Meets Productivity

Earlier, we said that successful entrepreneurs understand that they don’t need to get everything done. They know that they simply need to learn how to prioritize their tasks to get the most critical tasks accomplished first. 

We like to work with the power of three when future casting and reverse-engineering. We do this by identifying the top one to three goals for the year and breaking them down into quarters. Next, we identify the top one to three goals for the quarter, the month, the week, and the day. This practice allows you to stay focused on the most important work.

The truth is that you will always have more on your to-do list than you can accomplish. By learning to prioritize the most important things, you begin to incorporate the Pareto Principle into your life. The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, states that for many phenomena, 80% of the result comes from 20% of the effort. We can translate this into focusing on 20% of your to-do list will give you an 80% return on your investment of time.

To-do List For Busy Entrepreneurs

Let’s take a look at what might constitute the top 20% of work that a typical entrepreneur should prioritize:

Critical tasks for business owners

  • Know Your Numbers (https://encoreempire.com/offer-pricing/). There’s nothing more important for business owners to grasp than understanding their numbers. This includes client acquisition costs, overhead costs, and revenue and profit values and percentages. 
  • Goal-setting - Once you know your numbers, you’ll be able to set realistic goals to help you achieve revenue goals.
  • Relationship building - We’ve heard it said that business grows at the speed of relationships, and that is so very true! As a business owner, your primary job is to build relationships to expand collaboration opportunities, gain referral partners, and build a network that supports you.
  • Visibility Activities - If nobody knows you exist, it’s going to be tough to build a sustainable business. Visibility activities include hosting events, being featured on podcasts or other interview platforms, and speaking.
  • Leadership Activities - As a business owner, you are a leader. Have you embraced that role? Leadership activities include leading the conversation in your industry via your content and messaging. Creating opportunities for growth in your market and innovating.
  • Client Acquisition and Delivery - Client acquisition and delivery begins with you. At some point, you may have a team that handles this, but a common mistake is when a business owner hires a sales team before they’ve fine-tuned their sales process. One of the most critical tasks for business owners is to develop their client acquisition process to the point where it’s a rinse-and-repeat system that works. Only after that will you be ready to hire a sales team and train them to be effective.

Specific tasks for business growth & sustainability

  • Attract - You’ve got to attract the right people at all times. Methods that you can use to do this are SEO, visibility activities, organic social outreach, or paid ads.
  • Relate - Once you attract the right people, you need to relate to them. We teach our clients how to connect with them on an emotional level. This quickly allows your audience to know that you understand them. 
  • Support - Nurturing your audience is something that every successful business does. It’s said that only 3% of your audience is ready to buy at any given time. That means that you’ve got to support them by bringing value based on what’s most important to them.
  • Convey - We convey to our audience how they can work with us. When you’ve attracted, related, and supported them correctly, all you need to do is convey how they can take the next step. We never need to convince anyone. When you’re able to distinguish between the two, your sales process becomes enjoyable. If you find that you are spending time convincing people, that’s a sure sign you aren’t speaking to the right people.
  • Thrill - When someone becomes a client, it’s your job to thrill them! Too many people in the online world pour all of their energy into marketing and selling and forget about the most important aspect - delighting your clients so that you can retain them, gain referrals from them, and build sustainable relationships.

Productivity Tip: Keep a 5-minute list

We know that the critical tasks should take priority over other tasks to gain maximum efficiency. We also know that life happens! 

There are so many short spans of time in between appointments that we can leverage if we keep a 5-minute list. Successful people leverage their time, and to do that, you need to have a list that you can refer to when you have five, ten, or fifteen minutes to get something done. When you identify quick tasks you can do whenever the opportunity arises, you avoid wasting time trying to figure out what to do. Some ideas for a 5-minute list are:

  • Check email or messages
  • Send emails or messages
  • Reply to comments on social media
  • Pay bills
  • Make appointments
  • Order groceries
  • Order lunch/dinner

There are so many little things we all have to do that making a 5-minute list will be easy, and you’ll be glad to have one once you do.

These are just some of the effective entrepreneur time management skills that successful people use. To summarize, choose one new skill or strategy and give yourself enough time to work through implementing it to see how well it fits into your life. It’s all about you! When something doesn’t seem to fit, dig deeper to discover why. Finally, take what works and leave the rest. If you find that one aspect of one strategy works really well, and another from a completely different strategy does too, combine them. This is about developing your optimum time management process.

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Carmen Reed-Gilkison

About the author

Carmen Reed-Gilkison is a certified Online Business Manager and Whole Person Certified Coach with 25+ years of marketing experience.

Deirdre Harter is a Certified Public Accountant with 20+ years of experience auditing and advising businesses of all sizes about how to build sustainable profitability in their companies.

They are also the co-founders of Encore Empire. Click here to learn more about their mission to help female entrepreneurs who happen to be over forty step into their power

To send a message to Carmen and Deirdre, click here

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