Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

Ohio State University Fact Sheet

Community Development

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Tips on Effective Time Management

CDFS-1006-94

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.

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?

After this exercise, you may be able to pinpoint your own time wasters.

20 Major Time Wasters

External Internal

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 C priorities.)

Making Your To-Do List

Principles of Scheduling

How Can I Make Better Use of My Time?

Break old habits and make new ones by-

10 Good Time Management Habits

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."

Remember to-

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 your business.


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Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension.

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