Take a look at your to-do list. When was the last time you crossed off every item? If you don't know the answer, don't worry. You're in good company. According to a recent survey by The Alternative Board, one in 10 CEOs feel overwhelmed by their workload. And that's with 84 percent of them putting in more than 40 hours at the office every week.
You can't add hours to the day, but you can figure out how to make the most of the time you have. To help, we asked entrepreneurs for their best time-management strategies. Here's what they had to say.
Time-Saving Tip #1: Stop Multitasking
When you have so much to do, multitasking seems like the right answer. But Shawna Clark, founder and executive coach of Clark Executive Coaching (@clarkexeccoach), says it "fatigues your brain and slows down your productivity by up to 40 percent."
So she recommends focusing on one job at a time. Take email, for example. Rather than responding to each notification, she suggests spending only 30 minutes on email two or three times a day. As you read, categorize each email into one of five categories:
- Respond now.
- To do.
"Focusing on emails a few times a day has transformed my work (and my inbox)," says Clark. "I save a lot of time by not allowing email to interrupt my workflow or important conversations."
Time-Saving Tip #2: Make Meetings Purposeful
Jacob Dayan, CEO and cofounder of the tax services company Community Tax (@communitytaxllc), describes meetings as small-business quicksand: "The more you fidget, the deeper you sink."
He finds it beneficial to clearly state the purpose of each meeting, direct all attendees' efforts to that purpose, and to refocus the group when it strays to other topics.
"Don't get me wrong," he adds, "There's a time and place for long-term strategizing and communal daydreaming, but daily or weekly progress meetings aren't it."
Dayan says his approach not only saves time, but it has been a morale booster because it shows respect for his team's workload and schedules.
Time-Saving Tip #3: Get an App
"My favorite time-saving tip is having technology work for you, preferably for free," says Krista Cavalieri, owner and senior advisor of Evolve Capital (@EvolveCap). Her recommendation? An app called IFTTT, or If This Then That. She says the free platform runs applets that help her save time. For example, she has applets that…
- Turn the volume up or down on her company phone at scheduled times.
- Text her when she gets an email from her online calendar booking system.
- Posts her Instagram posts as native posts on Twitter.
You might also want to look for apps that reduce distractions. For that, Lori Cheek, founder and CEO of the online dating app Cheekd (@Cheekd), recommends Stay Focusd. She says the app keeps her from spending too much time on social media sites.
"The Google Chrome extension lets you set specific time restrictions on certain websites with a 10 minute default option. Once your time has been used up, the sites you have selected to block can't be accessed for the remainder of the day."
Apps aren't they only technological assistance available. Check out additional resources in "14 Essential Time Management Resources for Freelancers."
Time-Saving Tip #4: Go Old School
Technology is great, but Andrew Schrage, CEO of the financial education site Money Crashers (@MoneyCrashers), has a time management strategy that is pretty traditional: a daily handwritten to-do list.
His list is organized into three groups:
- Things that must be done today.
- Things that need attention but can wait.
- Things that can be taken care of on slow days.
"It works because each day I know exactly what I need to get done and when," says Schrage. "I get a lot more done in a shorter period of time."
Time-Saving Tip #5: Get Someone Else to Do It
Bryan Clayton, CEO of the lawn care service app GreenPal (@YourGreenPal), recommends offloading tasks. For him, picking the job to outsource was obvious.
"Our poor bookkeeping was becoming a big problem," he says. "With sales in excess of $5 million, it just was more than we could stay on top of, and none of us had the appetite to do all of the bean counting."
His solution was twofold. First, he started using the cloud-based accounting platform Xero. Then he went to Upwork and hired a bookkeeper who delivers monthly financial reports for just a few hundred dollars a month.
"It's cheaper and better than paying a full-time bookkeeper to sit in our office," says Clayton.
Spending money on outside labor may seem like a big gamble. Read "The Freelancer's 6-Question Guide to Knowing When to Outsource" to see if you're ready.
About the Contributors
A University of Kentucky architectural graduate, Lori Cheek is no longer building structures. She's now building relationships as the founder and CEO of Cheekd, a mobile dating app that makes missed connections obsolete. Clark, a Shark Tank Veteran, was recently listed as "The Digital Dating Disruptor" and "One of the Top 10 CEOs to Watch." Download Cheekd on iTunes.
Shawna Clark, founder of Clark Executive Coaching, is a top coach/consultant in the areas of talent development and retention in corporate America. She's also a go-to coach for leaders who are ready to take their leadership to the next level. With over 20 years of experience in HR, communications, and marketing, and having spent more than 15 years managing, leading, and coaching individuals and teams, Clark's on a mission to empower leaders of all levels to lead, achieve, and succeed.
Bryan Clayton has been in the lawn care industry his entire working life, starting with mowing neighbor's lawns in high school to ultimately founding Peach Tree Inc., a market leading landscape company. In 2013, he navigated the successful acquisition of Peach Tree to Landscapes USA, a national provider of commercial landscape services. Clayton is charge of GreenPal’s strategic direction and growth to become the platform that powers the lawn care industry.
Krista Cavalieri CFP® is the owner of Evolve Capital, a fee-only financial planner located in Columbus, Ohio, and serving clients across the country. Cavalieri formed Evolve from the knowledge that young people need advice. Good advice. Tailored to them. Not one-size-fits-all products or minimums they can't reach. Just because they are young doesn't mean they should be ignored.
Jacob Dayan is CEO and cofounder of Chicago-based Community Tax, a national provider of tax resolution, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and accounting services. He previously worked on Wall Street as an options analyst and as a foreign exchange trader. Dayan holds a Bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
Andrew Schrage is the CEO and co-owner of Money Crashers, a personal finance website. Its goal is to further educate its readers and subscribers on better ways to spend their money and manage their finances. Schrage is based out of Denver, Colorado.