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For small business owners, freelancers and contractors, squeezing everything you have to do into the limited number of hours in the day can be a constant challenge. That’s why we’ve asked some of our business customers to share their top tips for effective time management.

1. Consider turning in-person meetings into video calls

“Time is the most important thing you’ve got and you need to protect it,” says Gavin Bell, a public speaker and digital marketer. “It’s easy to waste your time in pointless meetings all day. Instead of having 60-minute meetings, create an agenda and make them happen in 20 minutes. Also, turn your in-person meetings to Zoom calls to cut down on travel time.”

Gavin Bell deilvering a talk
Gavin Bell, marketer and public speaker

Software engineer Dominic Eden agrees: “Be ruthless on meetings - a meeting plus travel can easily eat up half your day. Only go if there’s a clear, positive outcome for you.” Dominic’s software, Signal, helps private medical practices organise paperwork and appointments for patients.

2. Make checklists

Dominic’s second piece of advice is to make lots of lists. The time you take working out what needs to be done can ultimately save you time by focusing your mind so that you can work through your tasks with more clarity. Making to-do lists can sometimes feel overwhelming, but once you start completing things, it can also give you a sense of achievement that you’re getting somewhere.

As Starling business customer Maxim Gellman says: “Make a priority list every morning and make a judgment call in terms of which task will render you the biggest outcome or impact. Also then try and tick off things as you go along, as this will allow you to feel a sense of achievement multiple times throughout the day.” Maxim founded Stroodles in 2017, through which he sells pasta straws, an alternative to plastic straws that can damage the environment.

Maxim Gellman, founder of Stroodles
Maxim Gellman, founder of Stroodles

3. Focus on one thing at a time

Another Starling business customer who advises to make lists is Tushar Joshi: “I work through my list, crossing items off, grouping similar tasks together and getting more done in a shorter space of time.” Tushar’s software, Festival Pro, helps festivals to make the running of their event smoother through a central system.

For Tushar, as for many people, digital distractions can slow down the pace of work and lead to time wasted. “I find when I’m flipping from task to task it means I don’t get that much done. Maybe I’m rubbish at multitasking, but I find working on one task at a time allows me to get more done.”

4. Learn to delegate

Prioritising certain tasks over others may also lead you to delegate some things on the to-do list to someone else. You may think you could save money by doing everything yourself. But remember that your time also has a price.

“Delegate as much as possible, try not to be a perfectionist. Done is better than perfect,” says Dot McCarthy, owner of Cronkshaw Fold Farm and Study Centre.

Dot McCarthy, owner of Cronkshaw Fold Farm and Study Centre
Dot McCarthy, owner of Cronkshaw Fold Farm and Study Centre

And remember that if you feel you’re stretched and can’t take something on, you can say no.

“Learn to say no early on,” says copywriter André Spiteri. “It’s tempting to say yes to everything, but you’ll end up biting off more than you can chew.”

5. Balance work and play

When you’re self-employed, the boundaries between Sundays and Mondays can become blurred. But it’s important to take time for yourself. You can set your own office hours and try to stick to them. Or you can set up your day depending on when you’re most productive, perhaps starting early, taking time off in the afternoon and then going back to do some more work in the early evening.

“Understand how you best work and react to that,” says Ash Phillips, founder of entrepreneur network Yena. “Reading about how other successful founders live and work might give you insight into their lives but your body clock and ways of working are likely different. Instead of moulding to the ways of other people, do as you think is best to keep you productive.”

Ash continues: “Any email sent while watching Netflix is never going to be my best email. Any Netflix watching while sending emails is never going to be enjoyable. It’s more effective and faster to fully indulge in both, separately.”

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