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Time Management For Home-Based Business Owners: Eight Tips To Propel You Toward Success

by Elizabeth H. Cottrell, IAHBE Staff Writer

NOTE: This free article is being provided as a courtesy from the IAHBE. To sign up today for a 30-day, no-hassle trial membership AND business-building IntroPak bonuses valued at over $1,000, click here for details.

TIME…there never seems to be enough of it, but you already have all you're ever going to get. So, the solution to your time-crunch problem is to use the time you have more efficiently. Thankfully, there are many time-management techniques that can help, whether for managing personal or business time. Learning them will also help you in areas of your life other than your business.

The positive outcome of using time wisely is both tangible and intangible. Whenever you can “work smarter” and maximize all your assets--time being one of your most important--you increase your chances for greater business success and profit. The intangible, and perhaps unexpected, benefits will be peace of mind, a sense of accomplishment, and improved self-esteem.

Time Management Tip #1: KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!)

This principle applies to time management, as well as many other things in life. If you make a task too complicated, you won’t do it. While many people have excellent results with a formal time-planning system or daily planner (DayTimer, Day Runner, Franklin Planner, etc.), some find they can do more with less. Read this article by Jane Wesman, successful CEO ( She uses only a simple spiral notebook to keep track of her time and her life.

Time Management Tip #2: Set Goals

Find a comfortable spot, fix yourself a mug of your favorite beverage, and pull out a nice clean legal pad or notebook and pen. Think about where you’d like to see your business a year from now and five years from now. Write down your goals and make them as specific as possible. They should also be measurable and achievable. The best goals are those that cause you to challenge--but not overwhelm--yourself as you strive for business progress and success. Your written goals will provide the framework and foundation for all your other business activities and decisions.


In one year, my business sales will be _________________.

In one year, I will have ______ clients/customers.

In one year, I will have made ____ public presentations and give ___ seminars.

In one year, I will have joined the major trade associations in my area.

Important Note: Do not become paralyzed with the fear that you may not reach your goals! Research has shown that those who have written goals will make more progress in a given time span than someone without written goals, regardless of what those goals are. Write them down! When making decisions, ask yourself if a certain action will, or will not, get you closer to your goals.

Review your goals periodically.

Time Management Tip #3: Think About Your Personal Rhythms

Let’s face it: we’re all different, and a time-management system that works for one person might drive someone else absolutely around the bend. It’s appropriate, then, to begin any time-management planning by thinking about yourself, your internal biological clock, and your daily routines. Are you a morning person or an evening person? Do you do your best work when it’s absolutely quiet, or do you thrive on background activity? Do you find that time alone is essential, or do you flounder when there’s no one else around with whom to interact? Soon you will know which times of the day and which settings are your most productive. Whenever possible, schedule your highest priority items during these time periods and in these environments.

Time Management Tip #4: Keep Track of Your Time for One Week

Just like financial budgeting, you can’t improve your time expenditure significantly unless you know how you’re already spending it. Many people find that a visual tool will help them put things in perspective. Use your daily planner or make yourself a weekly calendar/chart with the days of the week on top of the chart and the hours of the day--in 15 minute increments--down the left side of the chart. We’ve included a Time Chart Template document at the end of this article for you to use or adapt. Print it out and tape it together. Use colored highlighters to fill in blocks of time that are unavailable or otherwise committed: sleeping, eating, family, etc. This will give you a powerful visual image of the time with which you have available to work as you move forward in your planning.

Jot down everything you do for a week. Yes, this will seem like an extremely tedious and boring exercise, but it will do two important things: 1) It will force you to think about the value of an activity when you know you have to write it down, and 2) It will clearly illuminate areas of your day and week where time was not well managed.

Time Management Tip #5: Take Time to Plan and Write It Down

You’ve heard it a million times, but unless you bite the bullet and schedule some time for YOURSELF to plan your upcoming day, you won’t understand why virtually every time-management guru insists on this. Some people prefer to take 15 to 20 minutes before they quit work for the day to plan the next day. Others prefer to do it right before they go to bed, claiming that they rest better knowing that they don’t have to worry about forgetting something, since it’s already committed to paper. Some “morning people” find that they are fresher and more focused if their planning time is the first thing in the morning. There’s no right or wrong way to do this--just do it.

Now create your “To Do” or Action List--write things down as they come to you, without trying to put them in any order. If you want, you can have one column for personal things and another for business, but even this is not critical. Find your own groove and move forward. Always check your previous day’s list and make sure any unfinished items are carried forward.

Time Management Tip #6: Prioritize Your Action List

This takes just a minute or two, but after you’ve made your Action List, scan down and write a number beside each item on the list to designate its order. If you get bogged down, just put #1 by all those you feel you MUST accomplish right away. Write a #2 beside those that are somewhat less vital, and a #3 beside the rest.

Now here is the critical tip: FINISH ALL YOUR #1’s BEFORE YOU GO ON TO YOUR #2’s. Finish all your #2’s before you go on to your #3’s. In the real world, some of your 2’s and 3’s might get done in between your #1’s, but as a matter of priority, stick to your numbering system as closely as possible.

If you are a visual person, you might prefer to prioritize with colors instead of numbers. The method is not critical. What’s critical is that you’ve done it.

Time Management Tip #7: Don’t Be A Perfectionist

Trying to be perfect will only set you up for failure. Be flexible. There are times when you can’t stick to your schedule, so allow some undesignated time for these unexpected things. When interrupted, follow time-management consultant Alan Lakein's advice and ask yourself, "What is the most important thing I can be doing with my time right now?" This will help you get back on track more quickly.

Time Management Tip #8: Learn to Say “No”

This is easy for some and VERY difficult for others. The secret is to learn to say "no" gracefully. Resist the urge to provide defensive answers and multiple explanations. “I’m sorry, but I already have plans,” or “I’m flattered that you want me to chair that committee, but I could not do it justice with my other commitments,” are both acceptable answers. Sometimes you can offer an alternative that doesn’t sabotage your staying on track towards your goals: “I don’t feel I can chair the auction committee, but I’d be happy to make a contribution and promote it in my customer newsletter.”

Try never to accept another major commitment or obligation without at least considering it for 24 hours. This gives you breathing room to weigh the pros and cons without the pressure of someone waiting for a quick answer.

If doing all these things at once seems daunting, start with just one and take baby steps towards implementing more and more. If you need more reinforcement, use the resources below. The sense of control you will achieve will be powerful. The improvement to your business bottom line will be a satisfying reward.

Disclaimer: The information presented and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of and/or its partners.
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