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Time is a precious commodity for all of us, perhaps none more so than today’s small business owner. Yet managing the time we have available to us can be a daily challenge for even the most successful entrepreneur.

Business success does not equate to smart time management, but yet growing and developing this initial success into a larger and ultimately more complex business, does require good time management from the people at the top.

Below then, are my five essential tips for smarter time management.

1. Stop Procrastinating and Get Started

Perhaps you have a difficult bid or proposal to write, or a laborious accounting job to do. Whether you work in an office or can work from home, you’ll know how much time can be wasted not quite starting a job that has to be done. Reading email, checking LinkedIn, scanning the latest industry newsletter; all take time and are very often displacement activities to avoid getting down to a difficult job.

Procrastination is the enemy of productivity, so switching your phone onto silent, shutting down email and social media and just getting your head down can often be one of the best methods out there.

2. Use Smart Time Management Techniques

There are a number of clever time management techniques out there. The Pomodoro technique for example, involved chunking your time into twenty minute segments. It’s far easier to get to grips with a job if you tell yourself you’re only going to spend twenty minutes on it. Sometimes the twenty minutes will be sufficient to lead you into spending more time and making substantial progress. Sometimes you will be glad to stop after twenty minutes but you’ve filled your quota and won’t be so reluctant to do the same thing again, maybe later in the day, maybe tomorrow.

The Eisenhower Method involves ranking all outstanding tasks as either important or not important, urgent or non-urgent. The logic then goes that you should focus on urgent and important tasks first, then important and non-urgent, then urgent and not important. Finally, the non-urgent and not important tasks will come last.

3. Turn to the Cloud

The amount of time that business functions like finance and payroll can take up is staggering; time that would be better spent on business development and long term strategy. Cloud accounting software like Xero and Freshbooks allow you to automate all sorts of periodical accounting tasks like bank reconciliations and expenses logging. They are also accessible across multiple devices, meaning you can get up to speed with your business’s financial position on the commute to work, instead of in the office.

4. Avoid Dreading Multitasking

People love to boast that they’re able to multitask. Whilst this is true with some people, it’s almost always to the detriment of the task they were originally doing. Multitasking is often just a case of undertaking two tasks inefficiently and poorly instead of doing one task well.

In the long run, multitasking leads to inputting errors, mistakes and poor quality output and will actually waste your precious time instead of saving it. There are ways of automating certain activities of course, using tools like cloud accounting software, but when it comes to those tasks that require a human input, one at a time is best.

5. Try Talking, Not Typing

For people who are on the go traveling, going to see clients or suppliers, having to type email or use a word processor is time-consuming and inflexible. Get talking instead. Android and Apple phones both have great apps that you can use to dictate the text you want and voice recognition has come on in leaps and bounds.

This technology is more advanced now than people realize and it can genuinely save time as it allows you to literally pour your thoughts out directly into a document or recording you can utilize later on. Even if just 20% of your babbling is useful to you later, then it’s time well spent as dictating will allow you to use up lots of small segments of time that would otherwise be wasted.

6. Lists Still Work

However high tech your productivity hacks, lists work. Instead of diving straight in, take five or ten minutes every morning to put together a list of the things that you really want to get done today. There are techniques of managing your time in this way that we’ve already discussed but more often than not, a list remains the backbone of any good time management strategy.

Once you have a list, don’t discard it every morning, but rather update it by ticking off or striking through any tasks you’ve completed and adding new tasks. Add a columns that shows priority and importance (much like the Eisenhower method). As you develop this list, it will become a live document that you come to rely on.

About the Author:
Andy Hyland is a certified Xero Accountant and the owner and director of AK Tax, an accountancy and tax advisory firm based in Medway, Kent. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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