Ohio State University Fact Sheet
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Tips on Effective Time Management
Small Business Series
Karen M. Williams
In a small business, poor management of time will prevent the
business from reaching its full potential. Many demands are made on
you because you are totally responsible for operating the business.
The workday can be long, tiring and frustrating due to poor planning
and people controlling your time and work. Time is wasted doing
things that should be done in a few moments or not at all. All of us
have the same amount of time; the challenge is using this resource
effectively. What follows are suggestions on using your time more
effectively so your business will achieve optimum performance.
- Avoid crises (no fire fighting)
- Gain a feeling of accomplishment
- Do the things that benefit you and your business
- Enjoy your life. Do only things that matter.
Where Do I Start?
The best place to start managing time better is with yourself! Resolve
to manage your time and not let time manage you. When you face the
fact that you may be the cause of some of your time problems, you are
ready to change your habits.
Where Does My Time Go?
Time management problems often stem from poor work habits; therefore,
you need to analyze how you spend your time. It's a good idea to keep
a log for several days, listing your activities and how much time you
spend on them. After three or four days, look at these activities and
ask yourself: What major activities or events cause me to use my time
ineffectively? Which tasks can be performed only by me, and which
activities can be delegated, better controlled or eliminated?
this exercise, you may be able to pinpoint your own time wasters.
20 Major Time Wasters
- Telephone interruptions
- Lack of information
- Excessive paperwork
- Communication breakdown
- Lack of policies and procedures
- Lack of competent personnel
- Red tape
- Failure to delegate
- Unclear objectives
- Failure to set priorities
- Crisis management
- Failure to plan
- Poor scheduling
- Lack of self-discipline
- Attempting to do too much at once
- Lack of relevant skills
How Should I Direct My Time?
By using goals, of course. If you specify your destination before you
begin, you will make the best use of your time. Being specific is no
more than setting goals. Without goals you become sidetracked easily
and waste time.
Set Goals and List Priorities
Determine what you really want to accomplish. This requires setting
long-range goals and allocating specific blocks of time to each.
Goals should be put in writing and reviewed frequently. A goal that
is not in writing is merely a dream.
To make these goals operational,
a daily "to-do" list should be used. Each workday should begin with a
plan of tasks and the priority of each task. In budgeting your time,
allocate part of each day to tasks that will lead to accomplishment
of your goals. That is, block out part of your day or week for major
projects to ensure that you have time to do the important things.
Remember the 19th-century Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto's 80/20
rule. This rules states that 80 percent of all that happens at work
is really the result of 20 percent effort. For example, 80 percent of
the dollar value of an inventory is often found in 20 percent of the
items. Eighty percent of all telephone calls come from 20 percent of
the callers, or 80 percent of meals ordered in a restaurant come from
20 percent of the items on the menu.
With your goals, you can be 80
percent effective by achieving 20 percent of your goals. If you have
a daily to-do list of 10 items, you generally can expect to be 80
percent effective by successfully completing only the two most
important items on your list.
To be effective, you must concentrate
on the most important items first. Therefore, proceed through the day
from the most important to the least important items. Make this a
daily habit. (You'll find that you will complete the A as well as the
Making Your To-Do List
Principles of Scheduling
- Block time-Reserve a block of time that cannot be interrupted and
use this time to accomplish tasks that need your attention.
- Use the power of habit to accomplish tasks in your to-do list.
- Force yourself to stay with an activity until it is completed.
- Identify and use prime time, both internal and external. Don't
schedule heavy-thinking projects from 8 to 10 a.m. if you are an
- Do not schedule all of your time. This unscheduled time will help
in case of emergencies.
- Bring big projects into manageable bites. For example, plan only
to do sit-down projects and make a list of all your potential
business contacts. Another day put together an address and telephone
list. Then plan to call three to four persons a day.
- People tend to schedule the urgent but not the important. Include
time for planning, preparation, thinking, socializing, recreation and
- Include activities that relate to your long term goals. These may
be family, personal or spiritual goals. These may be important to
your health or your relationship with family and non-business friends.
How Can I Make Better Use of My Time?
Break old habits and make new ones by-
- Setting up a routine that contrasts with your old way of doing things.
- Not allowing an exception to occur until the new habit is firmly
- Take time to start changing old habits now-don't
10 Good Time Management Habits
- Consolidate similar tasks-group similar jobs and do them concurrently.
This eliminates a lot of sporadic behavior.
- Tackle tough jobs first-quit doing petty tasks and tackle the big jobs
first. Remember the 80/20 rule. You will find you will be able to
finish big jobs without stress.
- Delegate and develop others-delegation is not a dumping ceremony.
Break the "Do-It-Yourself" habit and let others learn to
share responsibility in operating the business. You will find you
have more time for major tasks.
- Learn to use idle time-when there seems to be down time, read a book,
write a memo or plan what needs to be done in the business. Get
control of the paper flow-handle each piece of paper only once-throw
out junk, and don't pick up a piece of paper unless you plan to use
- Avoid the cluttered desk syndrome-a clear desk helps you to think
clearly, locate papers easier and keep your mind on the task at hand.
- Get started immediately on important tasks-no matter how much you
hate doing a task, do it. Remember, you must change old habits. Try
rewarding yourself at the end of the day. This will motivate
- Reduce meeting time-ask yourself if a meeting is necessary. Will a
phone call do just as well? If a meeting is a must, try a standup
one; this will guarantee that the important issue is addressed. Take
time to plan-without it, how will you know what needs to be
accomplished for a day, week, month or several years?
- Learn to say no. This requires practice, but the more you say it, the
less guilty you will feel and the more jobs you are committed to.
In conclusion, your ability to manage time effectively could separate
you from unsuccessful business people. Unless you manage your time,
you will be unable to manage much else.
As one anonymous author said, "Time and tide wait for no one."
- Start with yourself and analyze how you waste valuable time.
- Decide to change poor working habits by replacing them with
- Set yearly, monthly, weekly and daily goals and then develop
strategies to reach these goals.
- Write a to-do list with the 80/20 rule in mind-do the most
important things first.
Don't get discouraged; it may take years to become proficient at
managing time. The point is that the little positive changes you make
on a daily basis will prove beneficial when, a year from now, your
stress level has diminished and you are enjoying owning and operating
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