Effective Time Management

Presenting an organized and professional image to the world requires a certain amount of time and energy, but it's worth it, since it saves time and boosts sales in the long run. It's also much easier to do if you're already managing your time efficiently.

If you're paralyzed because you're facing numerous tasks and finding it difficult to focus, turn the tasks into a list. Label the list in terms of priorities: A for top priority, B for mid-range, and C for lower priorities. Within each category, number the tasks 1, 2, 3, and so on. Start with the A-1 task and work down.

Unfortunately, even if you consider yourself an organized person, time won't always cooperate with you. That's when you reach the end of the day, having worked so hard that you can barely keep your eyes open, and yet there's barely a dent in the “to-do” list. However, if you start with a routine that works for you, your family, and your customers, and you do whatever you can to make your days more efficient, you'll be able to limit those kinds of days.

Establishing a Routine

Part of your routine may well be established by your customer's needs — retail and repair shops need regular opening hours, for example, so that your customers can rely on you. And you'll also need to factor in your family's need to have you around. However, outside those hours, you should pay attention to when you're naturally at your best.

If you're a morning person, set the alarm and get your day started early — and don't expect to be able to work late into the night at peak efficiency. If you're a night owl, then work an opposite schedule. If you know that you have a mid-afternoon slump, don't schedule mind-bendingly difficult tasks then — plan on doing something that requires less brainpower at those times.

Saving Time

There are a number of tips and techniques that you can use to save yourself time in a work week. The good news is that many of the following will also help you reduce your stress level:

  • Keep enough key office supplies, such as printer toner or ink, on hand so that you won't be in danger of running out in the middle of a key project.

  • The above caveat includes postage supplies — rates for various letter and parcel weights are available at the post office sites on the Internet or through brochures, so it's just a case of obtaining a scale (or even a postage meter) and putting on the correct stamps.

  • Establish an account with a local and/or long-distance courier — you'll be able to use your account number to book pick-ups and manage your account online.

  • Save up your errands so that you do them all at once, perhaps weekly, instead of popping out of the office every day.

  • Use the Internet to replace out-of-office trips whenever possible and practical — for online banking, library research, and office supply shopping, for example.

Giving Yourself “Thinking” Time

It's essential that you build time into your schedule simply for “thinking” or recharging your batteries. You can't work, or focus on work, all day and every day. You need time off, but you also need “work” time that isn't scheduled for actual work. This recharging time lets you step away from the “busyness” of your usual day, so that you can see the big picture again, which is often lost among the details.

There's a reason that employees have coffee and lunch breaks, and vacation days. Try giving yourself coffee breaks in your living room or on your deck every morning, or take yourself out for coffee or a meal once a week, or even book a weekend retreat away from home periodically. However you achieve it, this change in scenery gives you the chance to put the small stuff back in perspective and to consider the larger questions, such as the business's direction, or your next big marketing push.

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