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Small Business Owner’s Guide: The Value of Your Time

February 21, 2024

In the wise words of Miles Davis, "Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing."

This statement couldn’t be truer for small business owners. You have everything to get done, but there are only so many hours in a day or week to do it. If you're feeling overwhelmed and turn to the internet for advice, you're likely to find a plethora of management strategies promising perfection—for a price. These can often be too vague or not easily actionable.

Time management can have a profound impact on our productivity, but most of us don’t really have a good grasp of what that looks like at the end of the day.

A Look at the Statistics

Let's directly address the statistics that shed light on the current state of time management among small business owners:

  • 80% of the total time on a workday is spent doing tasks with little to no value and only 20% is spent doing something of importance for the company. (Reverse Pareto Principle anyone?)
  • If a business owner spends 10-12 minutes planning their day in the beginning, they’ll save up to 2 hours of time that would have otherwise been wasted.
  • 3 hours per day are spent by the average manager on handling unforeseen interruptions and problems.
  • Business owners spend only 32% of their time working ON the business.
  • Business owners only spend 34% of their time on activities that are both important and urgent.

Those are some eye-opening stats right?

The Challenge of Procrastination

Adding to the challenge, the American Psychological Association reports that 20% of adults regularly delay tasks, affecting their efficiency.

Sometimes we wait because we just don’t care enough about the task, but other times we care a lot – and still end up doing something else.  Research indicates that procrastination can increase when tasks are perceived as harder or more unpleasant, as the mental effort required is intrinsically costly. People tend to choose easier tasks over harder ones due to the higher subjective costs associated with the latter.

This habit of procrastination can significantly impact the productivity of small business owners, further complicating the management of an already tight schedule. Breaking tasks down into more manageable pieces has been suggested as an effective strategy to reduce procrastination by making work seem less daunting.

The Consequences of Mismanaged Time

Despite these stats, 49% of working professionals have never conducted a time audit to see and analyse how they spend their time. This oversight leads small business owners to wear multiple hats, taking on an average of 4.2 roles, including that of leader, communicator, marketer, and financial manager. As a result, 70% of small business owners report working more than 40 hours a week, with 19% of them working over 60 hours a week.

Keeping track of how you spend your time can help you identify the gaps and delegate work in a better manner. This way you can allot more of your time to working ON the business rather than IN it. 

Working ON the business involves more strategic activities for the company that leads to growth, improves profitability, and higher morale of the employees. The decision-makers should be spending more time working on these tasks. 

Put simply, time management is the art of optimising your time to achieve your goals. 

What Can You Do?

Define Your Business Goals

First, it’s crucial to define your business goals, this may be reviewing goals you’ve set and taking an honest look at what it takes to achieve them. You cannot effectively prioritise your time without a clear understanding of what you’re working towards. Whether it’s improving revenue, raising customer satisfaction rates, or building brand recognition, knowing your goals helps you understand where your focus should be.

Reflect

Consider these direct questions about your and your team's use of time:

  • What tasks are taking up most of your team’s time?
  • How long does it take to complete a specific task? And are you allocating too much or too little time for it?
  • Are there projects that aren’t worth spending time on?
  • Could there be higher-value tasks or projects your team could be working on?

These reflections can drive adjustments that better align your daily tasks with your strategic objectives.

Adjust

Decide what you want to do about those answers if they don’t clearly and directly align to those business goals you just defined – and make you the most impact.

  • Choosing and sticking with a time management technique can make a significant difference. Eisenhower Matrix, Pomodoro method, Time blocking, there is no end to methods for reigning yourself in. But it will, ironically, take a bit of time to get settled into one that is going to work the best for you personally. While individuals typically experiment with 13 different methods for managing their time, yet only 18% adopt these techniques.
  • Automate your repetitive tasks, like payroll. Leverage your technology to reduce the time you are spending on tedious stuff. Or in some cases – reduce the sheer amount of tech you are using, and narrow down to just a few core platforms that can do everything you need without having to constantly move between them all and lose your train of thought or ‘groove’ in the process.
  • Evaluate what you could outsource - at a cheaper hourly rate than what you pay yourself to do those tasks. More than a third of small businesses currently outsource a business process, while 52% are already planning to do so. You are costing yourself more than you realise in the time you lose not doing strategic growth activities that only you can do ,and instead paying yourself far more to do that admin/marketing/customer service work than if you had outsourced those tasks (that anyone could do) at a cheaper rate.

Key Takeaways

For small business owners, mastering time management is not just about working harder but smarter. By taking stock of how time is spent, prioritising effectively, and being strategic about tasks and delegation, you can make more time for the work that truly matters and that will achieve your business goals. Remember, in the grand scheme of business success, "Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing."

Sources:

Time Management Statistics & Facts - 2024 - Acuity Training

Does time management work? A meta-analysis - PMC (nih.gov)

[Survey] Time Management and Business Owners | TAB (thealternativeboard.com)

Psychology of procrastination: Why people put off important tasks until the last minute (apa.org)The Psychological Origins of Procrastination—and How We Can Stop Putting Things Off - JSTOR Daily

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