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Time Management for Small Business Owners

Good time management skills are required to run an efficient business operation. Time management may seem daunting, but  can be easy if you implement a few simple practices.

Time Management Clock
Image by donskarpo

Below are 9 tips for good time management:

Monitor Your Time

To develop  good time management skills, you must first monitor how you are currently using your time. Keep a log for the next two weeks as you proceed through your days normally. Track how you use your time all day, every day – from when you begin until you quit. Be diligent.

You will begin to see patterns, such as:  where you are wasting time, where you are treading water, and where you are involved in unnecessary repetitive actions. At the end, you should have a much clearer picture of what needs to be done, what can be eliminated, and how much you can accomplish in one day.

Prioritize Your TO-DO Lists

At the end of each day, make a to-do list for the following day. Prioritize the list and make approximate time allotments:  (1) Must Do; (2) Should Do; (3) If There Is Time.

Start your day with the “Must Dos.” Then, move on the “Should Dos.” If there is time near the end of the day, complete what you can of the remaining tasks. If not, decide whether they move to top priority for the next day, stay at the bottom of the list, or should be eliminated all together.

It can be helpful to create weekly or monthly to-do lists, as well. These are usually broader categories, but can a good framework for creating your daily lists and also keep you on track.

Write your weekly and monthly goals on a large white board in your office to help you stay focused on the bigger picture.

Plan for More Time than You Think You Will Need

When allocating time to finish tasks, always plan for more time that you think you will need.  This serves two purposes: 1) You won’t be completely derailed if distractions side track you for a time. 2) You won’t become frustrated when a task takes longer than you expected. The best part is – you may end up finishing sooner than planned and you will feel like you have been given extra time – a nice psychological perk.

Identify and Use Peak Productivity Times

What are your most productive hours?  When is it the easiest for you to stay focused and on task? Be completely honest with yourself when identifying peak hours. You may need to observe yourself for a few days, making notes about how you feel and your energy levels at different times of the day. Once you have identified the peak productivity hours, use those hours for the tasks that require the most focus. Take the time to do this. It will pay off.

Schedule Time-Off

One of the most difficult things for entrepreneurs and small business owners to do is to take time off. They rarely have reasonable work-life balance, which is critical for good mental and physical health. So –  as you schedule your work time, schedule down-time, as well. If you schedule time-0ff, it may be easier to find some balance, and live a happier, healthier life.

Take Short Breaks

Studies have shown that you should take short breaks throughout the day. Working straight through for long hours leads to stress and exhaustion. The recommendation is 90 minutes as the maximum before taking a 10 minute break, and 60 minutes is better.

Take regular short breaks through the day, which include some kind of movement – a quick walk or series of stretches are great. These will help you stay focused.  At the very least, get away from your computer or workstation and move around as much as possible. Many people find that the more they take breaks, the more able they are to stay focused when working..

I find it helpful to use a timer to remind me to take a break. My kitchen clock works well, but there are also good online timers  available that can be set for the length of time you prefer.

There are times when you are on a roll and prefer not to stop – so don’t. When your creativity is flowing, go with it; just don’t make that the norm.

Avoid Multi-Tasking

The brain is not wired to multi-task. Regardless of what you think, you can only focus on one thing at time. When you multi-task you jump from one thing to another and back again, which messes with your ability to focus. Possibilities for mistakes increase significantly.

Keep multi-tasking to a minimum. When you perform several tasks at once, none of them get the full attention they need. When something urgent comes to your attention, make note of its importance and set it aside for later.

Learn to say NO

There will always be demands on your time – usually coming from several directions at once. Learn to say no when it is the wise thing to do. Requests can easily derail you or cause you to lose focus, especially if they are important and need to be done.

Consider the request, factor in everything you have to do and the time required for your work. Then, think about the time required for what s/he is asking; and be honest in your response. If you don’t have time, tell them you are sorry, but you have other things that must be done, so you cannot help them. If you can do it later, without overwhelming yourself, let them know that as well. If not, say no.

A simple, honest no is always better than saying yes to a commitment that you will have trouble keeping or that will derail you from your business responsibilities.

Automate, Delegate, Outsource

You cannot do everything, so do not try! In the beginning it feels necessary, but plan ahead. Begin to delegate and outsource as soon as possible.

Take an inventory of all necessary tasks that must be done on a regular basis. Identify the ones that can be automated, delegated or outsourced – and begin as soon as possible.

Something you can do immediately is look for automation tools to get routine tasks off your daily to-do list. There are many options. Do the research.A good place to start is with this article from 26 Ways to Automate Your Business Using Online Tools. Some are free – some are not. Pick the ones that fit your needs and your budget.

The above 9 tips for time management can be very useful – if you implement them. If you do not, they are just nice words. Be proactive in establishing solid time management strategies – starting right now! 

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