There is the old adage of time=money, and if you are an entrepreneur or sole trader, this is something you are more aware of than if you were an employee. However, being busy and being productive are often confused, and if you need to get any skill right as an entrepreneur, it’s the skill of time management.

It’s not a case of just being “good at” time management. While some are maybe more proficient, the people, business owners and founders who have excellent time management skills are those who have dedicated time and energy to putting techniques and systems in place. Below we discuss five different techniques, some of which can be used independently. while many can be used together as part of your overall time management strategy.

Using the Pomodoro Technique

Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that encourages focused work through intervals. Here's how it works:

  • Work Session: Select a task and work on it for 25 minutes.
  • Short Break: Take a 5-minute break after completing a work session.
  • Repeat: Repeat the cycle, and after four cycles, take a longer 15-minute break.

The Pomodoro Technique can help maintain concentration and prevent burnout. By breaking tasks into smaller chunks, you can create a rhythm that makes long projects feel more manageable. While it goes against the grain of recent wisdom such as Cal Newport’s bestselling book “Deep Work”. It can make longer tasks a bit easier to handle and also allows for progress in short sharp bursts. If you are an entrepreneur that is short of time, then harnessing the Pomodoro method is a great way to switch between tasks or break down something that feels a bit overwhelming.

What’s more, is that it’s easy to set up with free plug-ins on Google Chrome and on smart speakers like Alexa.

Scheduling Effectively Using Time Blocking

This methodical approach goes beyond mere scheduling; it allows for the creation of structured segments of time that can lead to increased efficiency and a stronger sense of what you need to be doing. Here's how to implement it:

  • Identify Tasks: List the tasks that need to be accomplished.
  • Allocate Time Blocks: Determine how much time each task requires and schedule them into your day.
  • Stick to the Schedule: Follow the planned blocks, adjusting as necessary for unexpected interruptions.

By sticking to a pre-planned schedule, you reduce the time wasted in deciding what to do next. You also build a routine that can make your days more productive. The biggest thing about this is that it allows you to create strong boundaries when it comes to certain tasks, including personal time. For example., by having a particular time of day, or even day of the week, dedicated to phone calls you can ensure that you’re not receiving interruptions but also let clients know exactly when is best to catch you. It allows you to set the cadence for your week and also offers an opportunity to time block for things such as education and self-care. Here are additional ways you can leverage time blocking:

  • Incorporate Flexibility: While maintaining a schedule is crucial, it’s also essential to build in some flexible blocks to handle unexpected demands.
  • Track Your Progress: Monitor how you stick to your time blocks and adjust as needed to improve efficiency over time. If you are not sticking to them then you need to reassess and create blocks that you will even if they are shorter.
  • Include Personal Growth Time: Allocate time blocks for self-improvement, hobbies, and relaxation to ensure a balanced life.
stack of self help books including Atomic Habits and The Start Up Way

The Four Ds of Time Management

The Four Ds of Time Management is a decision-making process that can guide you in handling different tasks. It’s particularly great if you are prone to being a bit flappy or taking on too many “low value” tasks when you should be focusing on growth. In order to implement you need to create a list of tasks and things that need to be done, and then categorise them each into one of the following four types.

The four Ds are:

  • Do: If a task is important and needs immediate attention, do it right away.
  • Delegate: If someone else can perform the task, delegate it.
  • Defer: If a task is not urgent, schedule it for later.
  • Delete: If a task is not necessary, remove it from your to-do list.

This method helps you quickly determine what needs your attention and what can be handled differently, allowing you to prioritise effectively. It’s also related to the Eisenhower Method, which helps you to categorise tasks as well.

The Eisenhower Matrix, or the Urgent-Important Matrix, is a powerful method of prioritising tasks. It's especially useful for entrepreneurs who juggle multiple responsibilities and need to differentiate between what's urgent, what's important, and what can wait. This matrix can prevent you from being trapped in constant firefighting mode, allowing you to focus on tasks that align with your long-term goals and values.

  • Create a List of Tasks: Start by listing all the tasks and responsibilities you need to handle.
  • Categorise the Tasks: Divide the tasks into one of the following four categories:
    • Urgent and Important (Do First): These are tasks that require immediate attention and align with your goals. They should be your primary focus.
    • Important but Not Urgent (Schedule): These tasks are vital for long-term success but don’t need to be addressed immediately. Plan them into your schedule.
    • Urgent but Not Important (Delegate): These are tasks that demand immediate attention but don’t necessarily align with your long-term goals. If possible, delegate them to others.
    • Neither Urgent nor Important (Delete): These tasks don’t contribute to your goals and aren’t time-sensitive. Consider removing them from your to-do list.
  • Execute According to Priority: Address the tasks in the order of their categories, focusing on what’s most urgent and important first.

Mindfulness & Meditation For Mental Clarity

In the hustle and bustle of entrepreneurship, mental clarity often takes a backseat. However, the importance of a clear mind can't be overstated, especially when managing your time effectively. Mindfulness and meditation offer powerful ways to enhance mental clarity, reduce stress, and improve focus.

Implementing Mindfulness & Meditation:

  • Start Small: If you're new to meditation, begin with just a few minutes a day. You can gradually increase the time as you become more comfortable with the practice.
  • Use Guided Meditations: Numerous apps and online platforms offer guided meditations specifically designed for various purposes, including focus, relaxation, and creativity.
  • Incorporate Mindfulness Throughout Your Day: Mindfulness isn’t confined to a specific practice like meditation. You can be mindful while eating, walking, or even working. It’s about being fully present in the moment and engaging with it without distraction.
  • Create a Quiet Space: Find a quiet spot where you can sit undisturbed for your meditation. Having a consistent space can make it easier to establish a regular practice.

Benefits for Entrepreneurs:

  • Enhanced Focus: By training your mind to concentrate on one thing at a time, you enhance your ability to focus on tasks, increasing productivity.
  • Stress Reduction: Regular mindfulness practice has been shown to reduce stress, which is vital for busy entrepreneurs juggling multiple responsibilities.
  • Better Decision-Making: A clear, calm mind is more capable of logical thinking and effective decision-making, both crucial in the entrepreneurial world.
  • Emotional Balance: Mindfulness helps in recognising and managing emotions, leading to a more balanced and resilient approach to business challenges.
image of a person sitting in lotus position with scent and candles meditating
Photographer: Shashi Chaturvedula | Source: Unsplash

Implementing the 80/20 Rule aka the Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, states that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. When applied to time management and productivity, this principle can be a game-changer for busy entrepreneurs. Again, it shares some similarities with the Ds and Eisenhower methods mentioned previously. However, this gives an alternative view of what is most important and helps clarify what is worthwhile.

Here’s how to implement it:

  • Identify Your Tasks: List all the tasks and responsibilities you need to handle. It could be anything from responding to emails and making phone calls to developing a new product or service.
  • Apply the 80/20 Rule: Look at your list of tasks and ask yourself: What 20% of activities result in 80% of my desired outcomes and goals? These are the tasks that bring the most value to your business. They could be high-level strategic work, nurturing key relationships, or anything else that drives significant results.
  • Prioritise the Vital Few: Focus most of your effort and time on these high-value tasks. These tasks will differ for each person and business, but once identified, they should become the priority in your day-to-day operations.
  • Delegate or Eliminate the Rest: Consider delegating tasks to your team or a virtual assistant for the remaining 80% of tasks that only contribute to 20% of the results. If delegation isn’t possible, look for ways to streamline, automate, or eliminate these tasks.
  • Review and Adjust Regularly: It’s crucial to review your tasks and the value they’re bringing regularly. The 80/20 split is flexible and may change over time as your business and personal effectiveness evolve.

By focusing on what matters, you ensure that your time and effort are spent on tasks that impact your business success the most. The Pareto Principle is all about working smarter, not harder. It’s about achieving more with less and getting the most out of your precious time as an entrepreneur.

The Best Time Management Technique: Asking For Support

Time management is an indispensable skill for entrepreneurs. Implementing these techniques can transform your daily routine and drive your business forward. But, as vital as these methods are, it’s essential to recognise that no one can do everything alone.

If you find yourself overwhelmed with tasks that can be delegated or need support in applying these time management strategies, our company is here to assist. We offer access to high-quality virtual assistants with an excellent screening and matching process for longer-term work. You can trust our team to handle your non-core tasks, so you can focus on what matters most.

Don’t let time management stress weigh you down. Contact us today for a free consultation and discover how our virtual assistant services can give you the time and freedom to concentrate on growing your business and achieving your goals. You manage your time; let us manage the rest.

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