Impactful time management is essential for success. In today’s article, you will learn the three essential elements for improving your time management as a small business owner, without fancy tools or apps.

How To Improve Your Time Management Without Fancy Tools Or Apps:  Introduction

Most distracted small business owners spend their time putting out metaphorical fires in their business, over-focusing on the day-to-day operations, and keeping all their goals and plans in their head.

Here’s what happens when you do those things:

  • You end up stuck and frustrated.
  • You make intermittent, inconsistent progress toward your business and personal goals.
  • Ultimately, you might even feel burned out or unfulfilled.

Today, I’m going to introduce you to three essential pillars that I use to help my clients drastically improve the effectiveness and impact of their time management and productivity. Each one of these pillars has its own framework and methods that I use in my 1:1 coaching program, but to save time and reduce information overload, I’ll share the highlights today.

Pillar One:  A Basic Time Management System

I’ll start with the first pillar, and this step alone will help you get more done and prevent important tasks from falling through the cracks.

The mistake that many small business owners and solopreneurs make here is that they don’t consistently decide in advance how they’re going to spend their time.  They have an ad hoc approach to time management. They might even decide how to spend their time based on whatever they feel like doing that day.

When you do those things, you end up treading water in your business.  You’re jumping from one thing to the next, working on stuff when you randomly have time.  You might even feel like you’re stuck in terms of progress, working all the time but not really getting the important stuff done.

Plan your time

The first thing you need to do to get started is to set aside time each week to plan for the upcoming week.  Some people like to do this on Monday morning. I like to do this on Sundays, so I am ready to dive in first thing on Monday.

Planning your time on a weekly basis is ideal.  This is because it gives you an idea of the progress you’ll be able to make, helps you balance work and personal time over several days, but is still manageable and not too overwhelming.

Make a list and start scheduling

Next, write down all the stuff you’d like to get done in your personal and professional life, as well as any meetings, appointments, etc. that aren’t already on your calendar.

Finally, start plugging tasks into time blocks on your schedule.  There are additional considerations in terms of energy management, strategic scheduling, and sustainability that I won’t go into today, for the sake of time.  Just know that those things are options that can enhance your time management.

End-of-week review

At the end of each day and week, take a look at what you did and didn’t get done, and take any necessary steps to address it. An end-of-week review helps ensure that tasks don’t fall through the cracks, and provides the opportunity to review and make changes to your systems and processes.

Why it works

When you take the time to plan your time using a basic time management system, what you’re really doing is budgeting your time toward achieving your business and life goals.  It’s kind of like budgeting and investing your money.

Just like budgeting and investing puts your money to work for you, planning and managing your time puts your time to work for you.  It can help you avoid burnout, get more done in less time, and make progress toward your next level in business and in life.

Pillar Two:  Set Goals & Create Plans To Achieve Them

Next, let’s move into the second pillar of impactful time management.  Research shows that this step alone makes you 33-42% more likely to achieve your personal and business goals.  And when you add this step, it really helps you focus your time management on the things that matter the most.  As a result, your time and effort spent are more impactful.

Some of the biggest mistakes people make at this stage are not creating plans to achieve their goals, not writing their goals down, or even not setting goals at all.

When you do those things, you don’t make a lot of progress on your goals over time, and progress often comes to a standstill.  Even worse, some people get mad at themselves or even resent themselves for setting goals but not following through on them.

First:  Set a goal and write it down

This step really has two parts, and the first one is to set a goal and write it down.  Your goal should be specific enough that you’ll know exactly when you achieve it. It should also include a target completion date.

You can use the SMART goal framework, if you’d like.  It’s a good framework overall.  When you get into more advanced goal-setting, it has some shortcomings that I don’t have time to get into today.  But in the beginning, it’s a nice guide to setting a strong goal.

Second:  Create a plan to achieve it

The second part of this step is to write down a plan to achieve your goal.  There are several approaches to doing this that, again, I don’t have time to go into today.  Just know that the plan can be flexible. It can be as detailed as you need it to be. And, you don’t have to get it completely right from the start.

The whole idea is to:

  • Reduce overwhelm by having a general plan and steps to follow,
  • Document approximately what needs to be done and in what order, and
  • Give yourself your marching orders in terms of what to do next.

Why it works

Not having a plan to achieve your goal is kind of like driving to visit a city you’ve never been to without using GPS or a map.  There’s a good chance you’ll:

  • Get lost,
  • Take tons of wrong turns, or
  • Get frustrated, give up, and drive back home.

That’s why it’s essential to have a flexible plan that works for you to direct your actions. Doing so will help you manage your time more effectively, and ultimately achieve your goals.

Pillar Three:  Mindset

Gaining proficiency at this step is the single most impactful thing you can do to:

  • Improve your time management skills,
  • Overcome hurdles, and
  • Achieve your personal and business goals.

In fact, working on pillar three is the perfect foundation for making progress on pillars one and two.

So many people make the mistake of thinking that mindset is an afterthought. They tell themselves that they’ll work on when they have the time and money.  Or, they totally discount mindset altogether, because they think it’s a bunch of new-age BS.  Still other people recognize the value of mindset. They work on it a little bit, but not enough to make lasting changes and overcome the obstacles and challenges they will face in the future.

Because of those kinds of mistakes, mindset-based factors like:

  • Overwhelm
  • Fear of failure
  • Self-doubt
  • Fear of rejection
  • Lack of motivation, and even
  • Fear of success

…end up holding people back.  They don’t make progress, they get stuck or stagnant, and some of them even shut down their business.

Navigating and cultivating mindset

Do you have thoughts, beliefs, or emotional patterns that are holding you back? The first step is to notice what’s going on in your mind, and be honest with yourself about it.

Next, it’s important to understand where that stuff is coming from.  If you have even a little bit of understanding about how your brain works in terms of creating fear, keeping you stuck, and preventing you from taking action, it can be so much easier to overcome those things.

And finally, it’s important to cultivate your mindset – your beliefs, thoughts, and emotions – in the direction you want it to go.

Why it works

Navigating and cultivating your mindset is totally possible, but it’s kind of like getting into shape and maintaining fitness:

  • Maybe there are some old injuries that you need to address
  • You might have unhealthy habits that you need to move away from.
  • It takes consistent work, effort, and commitment.
  • It’s not something that you take care of once, and you’re fit for the rest of your life.

Just like physical fitness, mindset fitness is an ongoing practice that provides untold volumes of benefits.

How to improve your time management:  Conclusion

  • Okay, so now you know the three pillars to improving your time management without fancy tools or apps:
  • Create and use a basic time management system
  • Set a specific goal and create a plan to achieve it
  • Manage and cultivate your mindset to support you every step of the way

If you work on any of these three pillars, you will see results.  The thing is, it can be really challenging to work on all three at the same time without help.  And without the benefit of systems and frameworks, you’re left to figure it all out on your own.

But what if you could:

  • Save time,
  • Shorten your learning and growth curve, and
  • Start making changes within the first week? 

That’s exactly what I help small business owners with in my 1:1 coaching program, The Aligned Entrepreneur Time Mastery Method.

It all starts with a free productivity power session. We’ll talk about your unique challenges, and map out a plan for you to uplevel your mindset, manage your time more effectively, and make progress toward your personal and business goals.  Sign up for your free call today, and let’s change the game in your business.

About the Author Amy Schield

Amy Schield, MBA is a time management and productivity coach for small business owners. Using a mix of simple tactics and neuroscience-based strategies, she helps clients manage their time successfully, set and achieve goals for business growth, and navigate the mental and emotional side of owning and running a small business. Acting as a personal trainer for the brain, she teaches clients how to get out of their own way, so they can finally build the business they want.

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