Are you overwhelmed trying to juggle the demands of your small business? Do you feel like you’re always scrambling to put out fires? Do you wish you had more down time?

You’re probably not alone. Finding work-life balance and avoiding burnout is a real concern for many small business owners. But while it’s a challenge, it’s not impossible. Prioritizing your goals, along with some good time management strategies, can help you feel more productive and happier.

Set Goals and Prioritize

“Time management is pretty simple. The problem is we don’t always have goals,” said Bob Breaux, a small business mentor and the director of SCORE Louisiana. “Making a to-do list is easy; prioritizing is hard.”

You can’t be effective if you don’t have a plan for where you want the business to go. “Your typical small business owner is a doer,” Breaux said. “I have an issue getting them to write their plans down when I mentor. But then they get off on tangents and get off track.”

Setting goals will make prioritizing tasks much easier, because you’ll be able to decide whether they help you toward your goal or not.

Learn What Works for You

According to Breaux, time management boils down to a few essential components: Create a list of tasks, prioritize the tasks and then schedule time to do them. The problem, he said, is that we often don’t adapt this system to fit our personality.

If you’re an analytical, left-brain thinker, you may waste time over-planning. If you’re a more creative, right-brain person, you may dive into a project without planning enough. Recognizing which one you are can help you compensate for your weaknesses. This might mean spending less time making to-do lists, and scheduling blocks of time to dedicate to specific tasks. Or it might mean making a commitment to yourself to write down your goals and check in on them at least once a week. Experiment and take note of what helps you feel most productive.

Carve Out Time Away

Staying focused on your larger goals not only helps build a stronger business, it can also help you eliminate unnecessary tasks and focus on other things. After all, many owners have important priorities outside of the business.

“Our small business is a 24/7, 365 commitment, but when we had our son in 2014, I made a pact to always be there for him,” said Nick Braun, founder and CEO of
PetInsuranceQuotes.com. “I had to make adjustments to my schedule in order to carve out quality time with my son.”

Braun makes time early in the morning and in the evening to spend with his son—no cell phone, no computer. Once his son is in bed, he’ll jump back online to check email. “I haven’t lost any productivity, if anything I’ve become more focused and efficient with my time,” he said.

Time away from the business keeps you healthy, too. “In running a small business, the instinct is to get as many things done as you can because there’s just so much to do,” said Mike Jung, general manager of Old World Stoneworks in Dallas, Texas. “That is fine in theory, but mentally it gets draining. You start making mistakes, which can have unintended consequences. Taking time off to workout or read a book is not a frivolity. It allows you to replenish your mental energy so that you’re at peak efficiency once you’re back at work.”

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