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5 Principles of Good Time Management



5 Principles of Good Time Management

Time is arguably the most valuable resource you have. Here’s how to best manage it.

There are a number of perks that come with running a small business. There’s the sense of fulfillment gained from having a strong purpose, the joy that comes with pursuing your passions, the freedom of being your own boss, and the pride you feel with each success. One perk most Australian business owners don’t tend to have access to, however, is the luxury of time.

A survey conducted by Prospa shows that over a quarter of small business owners in Australia work more than 60 hours a week — that’s a 58 percent increase on the traditional full-time capacity (38 hours). Worse still, 34% don’t take holidays over Christmas — they simply can’t afford to.

This is because business owners carry the biggest burden when it comes to sharing the workload. They manage their own time, set their own hours, and don’t have the luxury of clocking off because their contract says they can. They alone carry the success of their business on their shoulders, because they’re the ones responsible for keeping the lights on.

Being able to effectively manage your time is key to ensuring you’re able to sustain a manageable workload and a clear work-life balance. Fortunately, there are five things you can do to ensure your most important resource is being used wisely.

1. Make a plan

It sounds simple, but one of the best things you can do to maximise your time and efficiency is to have a plan. If you know what, how, and when you plan to do something, it’s considerably more likely to get done by the deadline.

The methods of planning are endless. You can do it by day, week, month or quarter, and you can do it offline (in a notebook, organiser or calendar) or online (on Apple iCal, Google Calendar or Trello).

However you do it, remember to keep it simple (don’t forget, you’re making a plan so as to make better use of your time, not spend it writing detailed plans). Some tips for creating an effective plan include ensuring you always keep it readily available, ordering your tasks by priority, and updating the progress of each task at the end of the day.

2. Prioritise your tasks

Ordering your tasks by priority is not only an active step towards getting them done, but it also helps you avoid tight deadlines (and their stressful run-on effects). One productivity tool that ensures you’re maximising efficiency by completing your tasks in the right order is Eisenhower’s Decision Principle.

This principle uses the disparity between both ‘urgent’ and ‘important’ classifications to determine what needs to get done first. Important activities are ones that help us achieve our longer-term goals, whereas urgent tasks tend to relate to other people’s goals and have immediate consequences of not getting done.

According to this principle, categorising your tasks using these two classifications will help you determine your order of priority, which is as follows:

  1. Important and urgent
  2. Important but not urgent
  3. Not important but urgent
  4. Not important and not urgent

3. Adopt the 80/20 rule

As much as we celebrate our ability to multitask and often attribute our successes to it, the human brain can’t actually give its full attention to two tasks at once. In fact, your focus will switch between the two, resulting in an overall loss of performance and accuracy. 

A study by the University of London found that multitasking can have the same effect as staying up all night. Worse still, in a controlled study, multitasking led to an IQ drop of up to 15 points — leaving some with the cognition of an eight-year-old child.

Aside from also lowering your productivity by up to 40%, multitasking has been shown to increase your heart rate and levels of cortisol — a stress hormone — leading to effects that include:

  • Poor information filtering
  • More frequent mistakes
  • Increased stress, depression and anxiety
  • Premature brain aging
  • Poor impulse control

Suffice to say, it pays to stay focused on one task at a time, as you’ll get the job done sooner, and to a higher quality.

4. Delegate tasks

One of the best ways you can optimise your time is through delegation. When reassigning tasks to others in order to free up your own time, it’s important to choose those most qualified for the task and communicate your expectations to them clearly.

Now that you understand the benefits of effective time management, you’re well-positioned to use those hours to develop new ideas, spending time with loved ones, achieving a healthy work-life balance, and scaling up your business. Sign up to our Business Blog to cash in on valuable insights and advice sent straight to your inbox.