Managing A Business: How to Prioritize Your Time

The topic of time management never goes out of vogue. It remains among the hottest business and self-improvement topics — a universal theme for books, seminars and even apps —how to use time effectively.

But for entrepreneurs and small business owners, learning to prioritize time can translate into more customers and business growth. 

Check out these tips on how to better manage your time — to become more organized and less stressed as you run a successful business.        

Identify what’s most important

OK that sounds simple, but the point is to understand your bigger goals to better define and focus the day’s priorities based on significance.

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least,” wrote the 18th century poet, novelist and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Jake Gibson, co-founder and former COO of NerdWallet, warns business owners, particularly start-ups, against prioritizing based on situations. 

“A better way to think of prioritization is not tasks but themes,” Gibson writes in an article. “What are the two or three principal things that will drive growth? You really have to understand the key drivers of your business and anything that doesn’t move those drivers isn’t a high priority.”

When Kevin Kruse interviewed hundreds of successful people — from entrepreneurs and billionaires to gold medal Olympian athletes — for his book 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time, he discovered some common themes. 

“Actually highly successful people don’t think about time much at all,” he writes in his New York Times bestseller. “Instead, they think about values, priorities and consistent habits.”

Set your MIT 

Align your tasks and build habits to support the goals you’ve set to sustain and grow your business.

According to time management guru Stephen Covey, author of the bestseller 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.”

One method to this end, writes Kruse in a blog on his website, is to identify your most important task each day, or MIT. “Ultra productive people know their Most Important Task (MIT) and work on it for one to two hours each morning, without interruptions.”

He shared the advice from Tom Ziglar, CEO of Ziglar Inc., a personal development and training company, “Invest the first part of your day working on your No. 1 priority that will help build your business.” 

Plan around your best time of day

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos talked about this at the Economic Club of Washington D.C. — he organizes his day around what he knows to be his peak time of brain power. He said he makes sure to get eight hours of sleep and eases into his day with a morning routine before making key decisions.

"I like to do my high-IQ meetings before lunch," Bezos reportedly told the group. "Anything that's going to be really mentally challenging — that's a 10 o'clock meeting. Because by 5 p.m., I'm like, 'I can't think about that today. Let's try this again tomorrow at 10.'"

Designate work “themes”

Creating work themes for specific days of the week lets you maximize efficiency and effectiveness. It’s a powerful tool that allows you to “batch your work,” says Kruse, who lists it as Secret No. 12 in his book.

“Highly successful people often theme days of the week to focus on major areas,” Kruse writes.

For example, designate Mondays for meetings — whether it’s a day to meet with employees or for check-ins with vendors or even key customers. Kruse uses Friday afternoons for financials and general administrative items “to clean up before the new week starts.”

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs implemented work themes — Wednesdays were for advertising and marketing, wrote Kruse in a Forbes article Also, according to Kruse, assigning themes to days of the week helps Jack Dorsey — the CEO of Twitter and Square — run two companies at once.

“It establishes a cadence — a rhythm — of focus and attention,” Kruse says of theming days.

Set times for “processing” emails

Taking time to check emails becomes an easy distraction from your priorities. So while they obviously need your attention at some point, it’s more efficient to schedule specific times of the day to tend to emails.

“The most productive people don’t check email throughout the day,” according to Kruse. 

“Instead, like everything else, they schedule time to process their email quickly and efficiently. For some that’s only once a day. For me, it’s morning, noon and night.”

Say no to interruptions

“Throughout a given workday, others frequently ask for our time or resources, distracting us from more important priorities,” says Amy Jen Su, entrepreneur and author of The Leader You Want to Be: Five Essential Principles for Bringing Out Your Best Self—Every Day.

That’s why it’s important to set aside 15 minutes first thing each morning to jot down the three things you hope to accomplish that day,” she writes in a Harvard Business Review article. “Then as requests come in, consider the impact on your priorities before offering a knee-jerk automatic yes.”

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