Overwhelmed by your “to-do” list? Learn four smart strategies for prioritizing tasks so you can get more done with less effort and master time management.
Ever wish there were about five more hours in the workday? We know the feeling. As a small business owner, learning to manage your time effectively can help you minimize your efforts and maximize your results.
As author Tony Morgan said, “You get to decide where your time goes. You can either spend it moving forward, or you can spend it putting out fires. You decide. And if you don’t decide, others will decide for you.”
Ready to tackle that endless “to-do” list? Learning to prioritize tasks is the first step to effective time management. Using a proven strategy to help you prioritize will allow you to make the most of your time — and knock out that list once and for all.
In the training course Time Management for a Small Business, the SBA introduces four different ways to tackle prioritization: the Pareto Principal, the ABC System, the Eisenhower Method and the POSEC Method.
Trust us, these “methods” sound more daunting than they actually are. Here, we give you the basics of each approach so you can choose the strategy that works best for you and your business.
Most of us know the Pareto Principal as the 80/20 rule. The idea behind this rule is that 20 percent of your time and effort will produce 80 percent of your results. Just as 80 percent of your customers likely represent 20 percent of your revenue.
Say your goal is $100,000 in sales. Around 20 percent of the time and effort you spend to achieve this goal will likely result in $80,000 in sales. The remaining 80 percent of your time? That’ll only get you the final $20,000 to reach your goal.
So how can this idea of unequal distribution help you manage your time more effectively? Your job is to identify the tasks that produce the best results. Then bump those tasks to the top of your to-do list and tackle them first to get the most bang for your limited-time buck.
As a small business owner who juggles a variety of responsibilities, you need to make sure that the most important tasks get done first. The ABC method is a simple way to prioritize your to-do list in order to accomplish just that.
Go down your to-do list and label each task A, B or C. “A” rankings are reserved for your most urgent tasks, “Bs” are slightly less pressing and “Cs” are your least important to-dos. Once every task has a letter, prioritize subtasks for each major item with numbers (1, 2, 3 …). You’ll complete task A-1 first, followed by A-2 and so on until you get to the Bs.
This straightforward method helps you get organized quickly and leaves you with a road map that can make an overwhelming to-do list look much more manageable. As every small business owner knows all too well, things can change quickly, so you may need to re-prioritize in order to adjust to outside factors.
It you prefer a time management method that’s slightly less precise than an ordered list, the Eisenhower Method may be for you. This strategy helps you distinguish between urgent and important tasks. As Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said:
“I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
Once again, you’ll want to start with your list of tasks. This time, group all of your tasks and activities into four categories:
- Urgent and important
- Important but not urgent
- Urgent but not important
- Neither urgent nor important
Now that you’ve got your tasks categorized, tackle them by taking the following actions:
1: Do it now and handle it yourself.
2: Schedule a time to do the task.
3: Delegate to someone else or push it to lowest priority.
4: Skip it. These unimportant tasks may or may not ever get done.
This odd acronym stands for “Prioritize by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing and Contributing” (POSEC). To put it to use, work your way through each step, starting with “Prioritize.” Similar to the other strategies we’ve looked at, this one starts by ordering your list of daily tasks from highest priority down, based on your daily goals and how much time you have.
Next, you “Organize” your day-to-day tasks. This entails setting a schedule and providing a structure for basic tasks that you do on a regular basis. After that, it’s time to “Streamline” the responsibilities that you must do even though you’d rather not. The point is to simplify the annoying tasks that you’d rather avoid.
When you “Economize,” you’re tackling things that you would like to do, should be done, or are enjoyable — but are lower priority in the scheme of running your small business. Finally, once you’ve achieved everything else on your list, it’s time to “Contribute,” or give something back to society.
Now that you’ve prioritized your to-do list and daily tasks, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. The biggest challenge here, of course, is finding the time to get it all done — from those high priority tasks that you start with through the items you’d simply like to complete for your own enjoyment.
Maximize your productivity by working more efficiently during the hours that you’re allotted in any given day. FINSYNC can help you free up some valuable time by automating time-consuming back-office tasks like invoicing and payroll. Putting your accounting on autopilot may even help you feel like you’ve found an extra five hours in your workday.