If there’s one point we touch on again and again, it’s this: You can’t run and grow a successful business while doing the day-to-day work yourself. Sure, many entrepreneurs start out on their own, but you have to start delegating at some point—the only alternatives are stagnation and total burnout.
You may wonder: How can I possibly find time to delegate or teach someone else to do the work when I spend 80% of my time just doing it? This is a real problem for all small business owners—time management is one of the trickiest skills to master. And the truth is, when it comes to delegation, you’re going to have to spend a little time to get a big return on it. But if you systematize the pieces of your workload one by one, you’ll create the possibility of someone else doing the work, which will allow your business to flourish far beyond your own capacity to grow it. Here’s how to get started.
Three time management strategies for small business owners
1. Examine your assumptions and beliefs
What you believe is true often becomes true—even if the only thing making your assumptions a reality is you. If you believe your business can’t function without you dedicating 80% of your time to producing revenue, you’ll wake up each day with 80% of your working hours earmarked for producing revenue. You may not even bother trying to fit in any of the strategic or managerial tasks that stand between your business and real growth.
So challenge the 80% idea. In a day, could you produce the same amount of revenue in six hours that you assume it takes eight to do? Do you truly not have any extra hours to work with, or do you not even try because you believe that’s how long it takes? Can you afford to take one single day to test that belief?
2. Make a simple list
When it seems like you have too much on your plate, adding even one more item to your task list can feel overwhelming. Take back control by starting fresh with a simplified list. Grab a piece of paper, and throughout your day, write down everything you do (our time log can help). Then ask: What are the things that have to happen? Which are the most repetitive tasks—the things you do so routinely that you’re not even conscious of how you do them anymore? (Keep an eye on these—they’re usually the easiest things to delegate first.) Cross off anything that’s not essential and you’ll likely find yourself with a much more manageable workload.
3. Systematize one small thing (so you can delegate it)
Pick one job from your list of repetitive tasks. Figure out a way to watch yourself complete it, whether that's recording it on your phone, writing down the steps immediately after you’ve finished or having someone else follow along as you complete the task. You’re going to be doing the task anyway, so simply get a record of every single step while doing it. Whatever method of documentation you choose, be sure to write everything down afterwards.
Once you’ve gotten the steps down as a complete task, hand it to someone else and watch them do it. If they get a step wrong, revisit that step of your system to make it clearer. You’ve just completed an easy-to-understand system. When another person can complete the task working solely off the system you’ve created, that’s one you can now take off your own plate and delegate.
You’ll always have more work than there is time in a day to do it. That’s not something you can change. What you can do is learn to discern what’s really important—what truly has to be done by you—and create systems for everything else so you can offload the day-to-day tasks one by one until you’ve freed up enough of your time to focus on the work you should be doing.