Time is money, and no one knows this better than home-based business owners. You work, you get paid. And if you don't work, well, no one will magically deposit a paycheck into your bank account twice a month.
For most home-based business owners, that's plenty of incentive to manage their time effectively. But how can you make the most of each work day? Start with these 10 tips:
- Plan tomorrow today. Even the most successful and conscientious small business owners need help handling all they need to accomplish. Planning tomorrow's schedule today is a great way to get ahead. At the end of each workday, jot down a to-do list of things you want to accomplish tomorrow, in order of priority. That will get you prepared for tomorrow, and you'll avoid wasting time deciding or worrying about what should come next.
- Get your priorities straight. Prioritize your tasks. All your activities can be broken down into categories in order of importance. If you need to be networking and finding new business leads, set a time frame for that task. Then set aside time for growing and expanding current business. Then check off all the other tasks that need to be completed by the end of the day.
- Maximize downtime. Keep a notepad or tape recorder with you whenever you're away from the office. Jot down or record good ideas whenever they occur to you. Your cell phone also is a great tool. Call yourself and remind yourself of what you need to get done. If you’re traveling, bring your laptop and cell phone with you to the airport, and catch up on email and calls while you wait.
- Emulate the early bird. Set your alarm clock for an hour before the rest of the family is due to get up. Get up and get an early start crossing off to-do items on your checklist.
- Take breaks. Set aside time for breaks during the day to recharge and reenergize. It’s amazing how much something as simple as a half-hour walk or lunch (not at your desk!) can do to clear your mind and help you refocus on your goals.
- Strike a balance. The key to time management is balancing your activities so that your life is not all work and no play. You have to make time to do the things necessary to keep your business growing, but don't do it at the expense of the things you need to do to keep yourself growing.
- Pay attention to the little things. It’s the little things that can trip you up and waste time. For example, using dial-up for your computer instead of a high-speed connection to the Internet costs you time. Connecting a fax machine to your main phone line every time you need to send or receive a fax costs you time, as does going back and forth to a printer set up in a different room. Each of these items may only take a few seconds here or there, but in aggregate they can add up and cost you big chunks of your day.
- Take out the trash. Throw away everything you don't need as soon as it lands in your mailbox. This will keep junk email and snail mail from piling up and becoming a major distraction.
- Stay focused. Yes, the laundry is piling up, and the dishwasher needs to be emptied. But the truth is there will always be things that you could be doing instead of working. But to run a successful home-based business, many times you'll just have to ignore these distractions and stay focused on the task at hand.
- Separate church and state. To manage your time working at home efficiently, you have to delegate what hours are for what. Explain to family — especially children — that you aren't choosing work over spending time with them, but that you have to work during work hours. Once the workday is over, focus entirely on your family, and don't let business intrude on your time with them.