When you are running a business, there will always be a long list of tasks that need completing. There are the standard tasks that you know must get completed every day, week, or month. And, there are the unexpected tasks that crop up out of the blue. Sometimes, when you think that you have everything under control, someone throws a curveball at you. Your well-laid plans get thrown into disarray, and the pressure on your time begins to mount.
Keeping cool under pressure is a sign of a good entrepreneur. But staying calm is not easy when you are getting pulled from one task to another. So, when the pressure is on, how can you make sure that all the essential tasks get completed? Here are ten tips on how to manage your time when you are under pressure.
1. Stop, Take Stock, and Reprioritize
When the pressure is mounting, new tasks come flooding in, the best thing to do is stop for a breather. Take time out to reassess your priorities. If need be, reschedule tasks and appointments. Don't prioritize tasks based on who is shouting the loudest, though. Prioritize your tasks based on the importance of those tasks to your business.
2. Schedule Every Task
Managing time is all down to planning. So, look at your task list. Then schedule the date and the time of the day that you will tackle each of those tasks. Include personal time in your schedule as well. Make sure that you set aside time for breaks and for family time as well as for your work. It may feel like you don't have any time available to plan your time. Even so, half an hour spent scheduling your workload will save you a lot more time in the long run.
3. Tackle the Most Important Tasks in the Mornings
Most people are at their best in the mornings when they are more alert. So, plan to complete the most important, difficult tasks before lunch. If you start an essential job in the morning, you will have more leeway if the task takes longer than expected to complete. You will be able to reschedule the less-important functions if you need to and get on to them later in the day.
4. Avoid Distractions
If you have an essential task to complete, you will need to block out all distractions. The business won't crash and burn if you leave the day-to-day management tasks to someone else for a while. Switch off your phone and ignore your emails. Put a do not disturb sign on your office door if you need to. You can schedule some time later in the day to catch up on emails, voicemails, and other matters that have arisen during the day.
5. Set a Time Limit to Complete Each Task
When you are scheduling your workload, allow a reasonable amount of time for each task. Then, time yourself as you are working and aim to complete each task following your schedule. You may not always be able to reach your targets. Timing yourself will, though, keep you focused. Watching the clock will help you to achieve more tasks on time or close to the time that you set for yourself.
6. Stay Organized and Tidy
It can be tempting to let working in an organized and orderly fashion go by the wayside when you are very busy. You might let a pile of paperwork build up your desk, for example. If you don't do jobs like filing, the mess you leave behind you will slow you up. If you don't keep yourself organized, you will spend more time looking for things later. Tidy up as you go along and begin each new task with a clear workspace. Staying organized and tidy will help you focus on the job in hand, and it will save you time.
7. Make Every Minute of the Day Count
Make the best use you can of downtime. If you commute to work on public transport, for example, you could use that time to reply to some emails. If someone is late for a meeting with you, don't sit at your desk waiting for them to arrive, get started on your next task. If you can claw-back a few minutes here and there, that salvaged time will soon add up.
8. Don't Allow Other People to Waste Your Time
Sometimes, our desire to be polite can impede on our productivity. We may not wish to cut a phone call short, for example, for fear of offending the other person. Or, we may allow meetings to go on well beyond the point that they ceased to be productive. If you are under pressure, you must make sure that you use your time only for productive tasks. You must make sure that things like phone calls and meetings have a purpose and do not go on beyond their allotted time.
Don't get caught in the trap of feeling that you can't trust anyone else to do a job as well as you can. If you don't have enough hours in the day, that is the time to let your employees show you what they are capable of doing. Remember that you don't always have to delegate entire tasks. You could break down some tasks and delegate elements of them to subordinates.
10. Stay Focussed
Don't allow yourself to become overwhelmed with what appears to a mountain of work. Face the challenge head-on and stay focussed. Don't let the fact that you are falling behind on your schedule be an excuse for giving up. Focus on one task at a time, and then move on to the next. As an entrepreneur, your to-do list will always be long. But, if you stay focused, your list of tasks will be manageable.
Sometimes, pressure can make you forget to use time management skills when you need them the most. So, when you feel the pressure building, take a deep breath, and put a plan of action into place. Schedule your time, delegate where you can, and stay focused. You manage your business with a plan every day. So, when the pressure mounts, manage your time with the same level of efficiency as you do your business.