Running a small business takes a tremendous amount of time and effort, to the point where it can sometimes feel like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. This can often lead to small business owners taking on a poor work-life balance as they cram more and more working hours into their week to keep on top of everything.

However, it’s more beneficial to you and your business if you work smarter, not longer. Using these time management tips, you can get the most out of your time and avoid work taking over too much of your life.

1. Plan ahead

Making clear, detailed plans is an essential first step to effective time management. Start with a weekly schedule, prioritizing urgent work and deadlines, while pushing less essential tasks to the end of the week, giving yourself room for any changes of plan or unexpected delays.

With the week mapped out and major tasks identified, move onto a day-by-day plan. Choose a few individual tasks per day and make it your goal to focus on getting those done by the end of the day. Split your time into appropriately-sized chunks for each task, and leave room in between each one to allow for interruptions or distractions that may delay their completion.

2. Don’t multitask

Multitasking may seem like a good idea to get more done at once, but in reality, it just ends up splitting your attention between several tasks and making them all take longer as a result. It’s better to focus on one task at a time, getting it done faster and to a higher standard than trying to do several at once.

3. Get rid of distractions

There can be all sorts of little things that pull your attention away from the task at handphone notifications, browsing social media, responding to emails, and more can all distract you from getting your work done. 

One survey found that the average person spends over 2 hours a day procrastinating thanks to all these attention-stealers, which is time you can’t afford to lose. Take steps to eliminate these if they affect you – for example, you could hide your phone in a drawer and only check it during breaks, or set a cap on how many emails you respond to before returning to work.

4. Cut down on meetings

This may sound strange — aren’t meetings essential for keeping track of how your business is performing and making sure your employees are doing what they need to? Perhaps, but they’re also a significant drain on your time: Harvard Business Review found that CEOs face an average of 37 meetings a week, equal to 72% of their working hours.

Ask yourself if all your meetings are really essential, or whether they could be resolved via email or a quick conversation instead. It could save you a lot of time if you trim back the number of meetings you attend.

5. Delegate time-consuming tasks

Your business is a labor of love, and as a result, it can be tempting to try and oversee as much of its operation as possible. However, be wary of trying to do too much by yourself; try to delegate responsibility to others where possible. 

Trust your employees to do the lower-priority tasks that you can’t make time for (or even just the ones you don’t like doing). Sometimes this isn’t possible in small businesses with limited staff, but in that case, you still have the option of outsourcing unwanted tasks to freelancers or other third-party contractors to lighten your workload.

6. Find ways to automate your business

Just as you can delegate tasks to other people, you can also shift them to technology. There are a huge variety of apps, project management softwares and websites that can take aspects of your business and automate its operation. You could use finance apps to manage your incomings and outgoings, set up an AI chat-bot on your website for basic customer inquiries, or use an online booking system to avoid customer phone calls taking up valuable time.

7. Set aside time for yourself

57% of small business owners work at least 6 days a week — which can easily lead to burnout if you aren’t taking enough time for yourself. Make sure you give yourself time to relax and clear your head away from your business. Not only does this help your mental health, if you’re properly rested you’ll be far more efficient at work too.