As a small business owner, there are many skills you need to master in order to run a successful business. One of the biggest downfalls of small business owners is their inability to manage their time effectively. Let’s face it, from running your business to actually working “on” it, you have a lot on your plate.

Focusing a bit of your energy on organizing your time will help alleviate a lot of the stress and maximize your use of every minute in the day.

But don’t take it from us. vcita hosted a webinar with Brian Moran, Founder and CEO of SmallBusinessEdge, who broke down 7 easy steps to help you become a time management master.

Watch the full webinar here

Before we start, understand ROI vs ROTI

The first thing Brian discusses in the webinar is the difference between Return on Investment (ROI) and Return on Time Invested (ROTI).  As Brian says, “You can always generate more money, but you can’t always generate more time.” There are 24 hours in a day, and Brian claims the people who are successful are those who learn to manage the hours they’re awake efficiently. “Time is a means to an end, it’s a way to achieve our goals.” 

Shifting your thinking from ROI to ROTI is an approach to measuring your success and ensuring each minute of your day is maximized to its fullest.

The foundation for successful time management

As he begins, Moran goes over the most important part of becoming a successful time manager: building a solid foundation. In order to build a foundation that will help you achieve your goals and manage your time effectively, you need to do three things:

  1. Set strategic goals that are specific enough to measure. These don’t happen overnight!
  2. Set a GPS plan, which you can treat as a paper document that is of utmost importance and follow it, step by step, in order to achieve your strategic goals.
  3. “CDA” – Commitment, Discipline, Accountability

If you can begin with these three things, you have a solid foundation that will set you up for success and allow you to accomplish your set goals for your business.

7 Steps to becoming a successful time manager

Step 1: It starts with the night before

“The overwhelming majority of people I meet in life are reactive, not proactive”, says Brian. It is important to be proactive in your journey towards mastering time management. Preparation is key, according to Moran, and he has a quick system to help him stay efficient in his time management. He keeps 4 folders in which he prioritizes all his tasks:

  • Urgent – things that need to get done today or with a tight deadline
  • Important – things that need to get done this week
  • Everyday – things you can work on every day, like answering emails.
  • Nonessential – the non-important things that need to get done, like follow up calls.

“Every email, phone call, meeting, proposal, everything that you have should be coded in one of these four ways.” Then, you take the every day and the non-essential folders and you delegate them to your team if you have one. If not,  first focus on your urgent folder and then work your way down to the everyday and non-essential folders that you designate a bit of time for at the end of your day.

Step 1b: Let technology help

At this point, once you’ve categorized your tasks and everything you need to do, it’s important to let automation take over and handle a lot of the tasks in your workflow. Moran suggests using a business management software like vcita to automate your everyday and your non-essential tasks. Booking with your clients, marketing your business, sending out invoices, etc. can all be automated easily and set you up to better manage your urgent and important tasks with peace of mind.

Step 2: Move out smartly

Quoting his father, Brian’s meaning for “move out smartly” is to seize the day. However, “you have to have a plan on how you plan to seize the day. You’re going to start strong and end lightly.” Part of this, Brian says, is not looking at your phone for the first 30 minutes of your day, and instead “use that time to prepare yourself for what you need to do to have the energy and the focus to start your day.” This could be in the form of meditation, exercise, reading, etc.

Once you begin your work day, the best way to move out smartly is to first grab your “urgent” folder and focus on that “because your battery is at 100% and so is your focus”. Once you’re done with your urgent folder (or at least what you can get done for that day), you move onto your “important” folder.

Shorter meetings are another way to seize the day. Instead of spending the first half of the meeting on small talk, getting straight to the point and working on the essentials for that meeting can help ensure you are maximizing every minute of your day.

Step 3: Plan for the unexpected

The best way to plan for the unexpected is to play the “What if?” game. You want to make sure you know your options. What will happen if a delivery is late? If a customer cancels their appointment? What will your response be? Create a plan ahead of time, every day or every week, so that you are equipped with a plan B, C and D. You will begin to find that you’re tapping into your alternate plans on a daily or weekly basis.

Step 4: Watch for time robbers

Moran mentions this as one of the most important steps. “We all have so many hours in the day. Learn to map out every single hour that you’re awake and break your day into 4 sections: my time, primetime, down time and my time.”

  • Primetime is the hours where you are at your sharpest. Brian uses the default 9am-5pm hours as an example. This is the time when you get all your urgent and important work done.
  • My time is the hours before you begin your primetime and after your downtime. These are the hours where you prepare to be the most focused or prepare to wind down.
  • Down time represents the hours that you designate to finish all your everyday and non-essential tasks.

So if, for example, an old friend contacts you during your primetime hours, you should ask to call them back when you’re on your downtime. Get rid of any time robbers, such as your phone, reminders on your computer, conversations with friends, etc., during your primetime hours.

Step 5: Take breaks

Take breaks
“Breaks are a critical component of every single day…”

“Breaks are a critical component of every single day and if you manage your time properly, you should be able to have 10 minutes of each hour, where an alarm goes off and you take the time to recharge your brain,” says Brian. He mentions that every successful person he knows, takes at least 3 breaks a day. Eventually you should be able to say ‘I’m accomplishing more in less time’ while operating at a higher level.

Step 6: Ending your day

As Moran says, this is one of the hardest things business owners have to learn to do. “Not learning to end your day is running your battery into the ground. There is no wealth without health,” and taking breaks is all about preserving your brain’s capacity to work smart without burning out, so that you can continue managing your time and your tasks like a pro. Using technology to work for you while you are sleeping, like vcita’s online scheduling and client portal, allows your business lights to stay on, even when you’re off.

Step 7: Clouds vs. Weeds

Most of us operate in the weeds of our business, according to Brian, “which means we can only see 2 to 3 feet in front of us at a given time.” When a small business owner is putting out fires, they’re being reactive. 

If you could take a cloud view of your business, that means 20,000 feet up looking down, you can get to the root and cause of all the fires you’re putting out. “By committing 30 to 60 minutes at the beginning of every month to seeing where you are vs where you were vs where you are going, you’ll see your progress and be able to better identify your clouds vs your weeds.” 

Moran mentions you shouldn’t do this alone, but rather with other people who might be able to see things you don’t by looking at your business from various angles and offering diverse approaches to your goals.

Final thoughts on time management

The average entrepreneur spends 68.1% of their time tackling fires and daily tasks and only 31.9% of their time working on growing their business. By learning to manage your time more wisely you can cut the time you spend working “in” your business and increase the time you spend working “on” your business. Use tips like those offered by Brian Moran to set a solid plan, and technology like vcita to automate much of your tasks to make you a master of time management.