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As a small-business owner, the demands on your time are constant. Even if you don’t have a family to consider outside of work hours, you wear multiple hats at all times. You’re responsible for the vision of the company and may have to shoulder most or all of the execution, as well. And, if your business is in its early days, you also may have to roll up your sleeves and do the dirty work yourself.
No matter where you are in your entrepreneurial journey, there are several ways to buy back your time, including these four mental shifts that can change how you manage your business.
1. Protect your focus and vision above all else
As the head of your business, you're responsible for communicating the company’s vision to your employees and clients.
Yet entrepreneurs often fall into the trap of "wake up and work,” says Atlanta-based Alzay Calhoun, an advisor to small-business owners, who says his clients are used to beginning each morning in a “mental scramble” of activity instead of taking the time to effectively set their goals for the day.
“Your brain is an incredibly powerful tool, but it needs rest to function best,” Calhoun says. “Your daily routine should optimize your thinking, not your work.”
To reset poor habits, Calhoun advises business owners to prioritize time for intentional reflection and meditation each morning, then establish their most important goals for that day.
Project management software such as Asana or Trello can be customized to help you track your priorities or break down big projects into more manageable steps. And if you're working with a team, these tools allow you to assign tasks to different members of a collaborative project and communicate throughout the process.
2. Sell your value, not your time
Calhoun emphasizes to his clients the importance of selling solutions, not their time. When entrepreneurs offer their services based on hourly rates, they limit their ability to scale the business, he says.
Instead, Calhoun stresses the importance of pitching clients a completed outcome, then pricing out the time required accordingly. “I encourage my clients to highlight the problem being solved, not the amount of time it takes to solve it,” he says. “Eventually, you will get faster at delivering the solution,” which, in turn, will win back your time.
3. Track how you spend time each day
As the head of your company, you can lead more effectively when you're mindful of how and where you allocate your time.
St. Louis-based business consultant Mike Swigunski is sympathetic to the temptation to focus on urgent tasks that seem important in the moment. To help business owners identify how they're spending their time, Swigunski recommends performing a time audit of weekly activities.
Swigunski suggests logging each major chunk of time you spend on the business each day, then grouping your actions into five to 10 different tasks. After that, score each task based on several metrics, including importance to business success, enjoyment and ease of execution.
“It’ll quickly become clear what you hate,” Swigunski says, adding that many dreaded tasks may be easy to automate, delegate or affordably outsource.
4. Shorten or eliminate unnecessary meetings
Swigunski recommends evaluating meetings to see if they're truly necessary. “Every meeting should have a clear-set agenda, and there shouldn’t be any sort of mandatory recurring meeting unless it’s really productive,” he says.
Even with required meetings, you may be able to reclaim some time for everyone by scheduling shorter gatherings. Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendar both offer settings that allow you to shorten standard 30- or 60-minute meetings by various durations.
“Time is the only resource you cannot re-create,” Calhoun says. “Once you begin to see that you cannot get this time back, this moment back, you begin to do things that maximize the moments you have left.”