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Time management for business owners

DATE: 05/05/23

AUTHOR: Fiona Kennedy

Starting and running your own business can feel like a constant challenge of too much to do and far too little time so it’s unsurprising that time management is widely understood to be one of the major challenges of business owners.

Business owners are often responsible for every component of the business, especially in the early days. It can be hard to carve off responsibilities and delegate to others in your team no matter how developed the business is. If you think about the broad reach of business responsibilities, it’s tricky to imagine juggling everything. From product development to customer service, marketing to accounting, HR to social media, the list is long. It’s been reported that in micro businesses (those with between 1 – 9 employees), business owners spend around 15 hours per week on administration. Solopreneurs on the other hand spend 31% of their time each week focused on finances alone (Starling Bank 2020 Make Business Simple Report).

So what helps business owners to meet these challenges? And why is it important to get a handle on your to-do list, from tiny everyday tasks right up to blue sky strategy?

Where’s the win in time management?

It’s helpful to start with the motivating factors here. What is the upside to improving your time management and figuring out how to efficiently handle your list of duties?

At core, mastering your to-do list will increase your productivity as well as the productivity of the teams around you. Over time, this productivity will ultimately move you closer to attaining your business goals. Working efficiently means you are hitting deadlines on time. You’re also developing a positive professional reputation for doing so and you are building credit and trust from the people around you. On the other hand, not managing your responsibilities means missed deadlines, missed opportunities and an inefficient output of your resources. None of these components are conducive to business success.

It’s also understood that achieving your goals and working through your responsibilities in a more efficient way helps to build your confidence and the confidence of those around you. Hitting targets and staying on track time-wise manages your stress and helps to achieve a more healthy work life balance. Finding yourself behind, failing to achieve pressing targets and experiencing failures as a result, has a negative effect on your mental health. This can only lead to more problems downstream.

How to achieve better time management?

Everyone is different

The process of improving your time management is specific to each of us and it’s key that you figure out what really works for you. Are you most productive in the morning? Do you work better in the evenings? Perhaps carving out work from home time is where you know you’ll speed through your to-do list. Or maybe you work more efficiently under the scrutiny of colleagues and peers in the office? Be honest with yourself and observe where you are most effective and efficient. That is your space for optimisation.


Next, it’s time to set out all the tasks in front of you and figure out how they rank. What is most important? Which task is time pressing? Are any projects on the long finger? A popular model for this task allocation comes from Steven Covey (The Covey Time Management Matrix) and groups tasks into four different rankings:

1/ What is time urgent and important

2/ What is important but not urgent

3/ What is urgent but not important

4/ What is not urgent and not important 

Allocate each component of your to-do list into one section and work through them in order, from 1 first through to 4. Some tasks are mundane and every day. Some are time sensitive and super pressing. If you know you have a short amount of time available, achieving even the items in group 1 will feel like a proper achievement.

Get organised

It sounds cliché but being organised both in your environment and in your mindset is essential to optimising your performance and time.

Start with tidying and organising your workstation, sorting your paperwork and pressing mail. Have what you need available to get through your tasks and use this clear working environment to motivate your actions. Use a calendar or a notebook to sort through everything you have to do. Insert deadlines and notes where relevant. Concretising action can be hugely useful when your time becomes compressed.

Mentally, it’s important to remove distractions. Set your phone away from your computer. Switch off social media and radio. Limit meetings if you can. Focus on one task at a time. The idea of multi-tasking is no longer endorsed by efficiency experts. Doing one thing well and moving on to the next is by far the preferred method.

Finding these small ways to sanitise your space mentally and practically can help you feel fresh and ready to tackle even the most difficult of tasks.


Delegation can be one of the most difficult tasks for any business owner. Having started the business doing everything yourself, it can be hard to know when you need to ask for help. Even harder is to accept whether you want to.

Use your Time Management Matrix to figure out if any of your tasks can be delegated. In principle, if something can be done by someone else in your company, delegate it. There will always be tasks that need taken care of by you, so where possible, carve out areas that can be delegated and do so. If you’re worried people won’t deliver tasks the way you would, take the time to train them. It might take longer at the outset but in the medium term you’ll benefit. Finding ways to delegate can help you to hold onto home, health and family priorities that can often fall by the wayside.

Do hard things

Start your day with the most difficult and challenging action you have on your to-do list. Sometimes referred to as ‘eat the frog’, if you pick off the thing you’re dreading and clear it first thing, the rest of your day is going to feel much easier. Taking this approach through all tasks is a mindset that can really help you meet challenges and problems as they arise.

A challenge many business owners struggle with is saying ‘no’. It is often easier to say yes to opportunities and prospects. You don’t want to miss out. You don’t want to do anything that will set the business back so you say yes to everything, just in case. That can lead to you stretching yourself and the business too thin. Taking the harder path of saying ‘no’ can often lead you to more success. Be clear on your objective and use them to anchor your decision making, as well as a real and honest review of your own resources.

From calendaring to automation, there are many ways to improve your productivity and achieve your business goals. Whatever you choose as fitting with your objectives make sure that you review your efficiency every 6 months. There are always ways you can improve or changes you can make to free up your time. No business is static so no organisational strategy should be either.

Whatever stage of launch or growth you’re at, chat to our professional advisors here at Go For It to find out what we can do to help.