Any remote business owner will tell you that one of the biggest advantages of remote work is time. Just eliminating the commute alone helps one improve in time management. It’s also great because it provides more opportunities for activities in one’s personal life, like family bonding, self-development, and health and fitness.

But as attractive as this proposition sounds, it’s only feasible assuming you’re managing your time well. If not, you can get overwhelmed with the challenges of remote work.

To help you make the most of your time, here are some tips to improve your time management skills that can impact your remote business for the better.

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Establish priorities

For a business owner, to-dos never run out — but time does. You might feel like you need to have your hand in everything, but that’s not realistic nor an effective use of your time. 

Conveniently, not all tasks share the same level of urgency or importance. That’s why many of us use time management methods like the time management matrix. While there are a lot of tasks that may benefit from your input, there are also tasks that only you can push forward.

There are four steps to a time management matrix:

  1. Put the most urgent tasks at the top of your to-do list.
  2. Add less urgent but important tasks next.
  3. Add urgent but less important tasks next.
  4. Add all remaining tasks at the bottom.

With your priorities properly organized, you should now have a good idea of what your day-to-day will look like. This will hopefully help you prevent context-switching, focus on the day’s most important task, and retain your focus throughout the week.

Use time tracking tools

Like several methodologies, there are two sides to time management: theoretical and practical. As you already know, the latter is about discovering and comparing results to previous iterations. The question is, how do you measure the results of time management?

It’s simple: you track your time. Do this on every work-related task so you can look back and understand how your day went.The more you follow this practice, the more effective it becomes. Over time, you’ll be able to spot trends and identify tasks that you excel at — and see the financial impact of the ones that waste your time. You can then fine-tune your approach accordingly.

Hubstaff project budgets report

Some time tracking tools also offer more in-depth time usage reporting. For example, Hubstaff provides real-time updates on:

  • Work hours
  • Project spend
  • Activity
  • PTO usage
  • Productive and unproductive apps and URLs

You can also pull 20+ reports for time and activity, payments, apps and URLs, and more in only a few seconds. 

Can’t get enough workforce analytics? Explore the Hubstaff Insights add-on to see utilization rates, categorize work hours, and manage focus vs. meeting time. 

Plan your week ahead of time

While time management success depends on how you execute daily, your weekly work plan will set you on the path to accomplish your daily goals.

Once you’ve finished prioritizing your tasks, you must allot time to them. While you can go sequentially and only move on once the previous task is completed, it isn’t always a good idea for several reasons:

  • Some tasks will require more time than a full workday. If you work on one of these tasks and nothing else, it means you’re making yourself unavailable for other urgent and potentially crucial tasks that may come up.
  • You won’t be at 100% the whole day. You’ll eventually get tired, especially if the task is particularly complex, but this is nothing to beat yourself up over. Pacing yourself and taking advantage of your peak productive hours is key to completing even the most difficult task.
  • You have a team to lead. Sometimes, team members will approach you with tasks only you can help them with. Failing to support employees when they need you most (even when you aren’t aware) may make them feel neglected and demoralized.

That last bullet is especially important. Make sure to “plan” for unexpected scenarios in your week.

For example, leave one hour open at the end of every day and let your team know you’ll be available if anyone needs you. If not, you can use that time to continue working on other tasks. Either way, you’re making smart use of your time.

Create a working schedule and stick to it

In theory, creating and following a schedule is easy. In practice, though, it’s never that simple.

Sunday evening, you decided to work from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM for the whole week. But then it’s 6:01 PM Monday, and you see a small to-do that takes less than 15 minutes.

“What’s another 15 minutes?”

Before you know it, you’ve worked three more 15 minutes and are fatigued.

That’s not how schedules are supposed to work. Unless you’re facing a critical issue, you shouldn’t be working beyond the hours you’ve set for yourself. Remember: it’s much easier to put off a task for the next day than deal with the crippling effects of burnout.

Avoid multitasking

Many people would say multitasking is an essential skill. To an extent, this is true, but context is important.

Multitasking is powerful in a broader sense — for instance, staying on top of ongoing projects while pushing projects you own forward. (Yes, knowing how the rest of your team is doing is a task, too.)

However, when you’re knee-deep in difficult work, studies have shown that multitasking doesn’t really work and that it’s better to focus on one task at a time.

It’s like stopping at every attraction on a road trip. While it seems like it’s worth the stop at the time, you’ll need to slow your car down, get out, restart the car, and then accelerate to your previous speed again.

Just imagine how much ground you would have covered in the time you had pulled over and gotten back on the road. That’s what you’re doing to your concentration when you’re multitasking.

When working on a task, you want to use every second of your flow state. You can even take it a step further and use the task batching method to increase efficiency.

Set SMART goals

Setting big goals is exciting, and accomplishing them is immensely satisfying. But while the idea of going big can be a thrill, you can easily let yourself down by focusing on unattainable goals. This is where the ever-so-popular SMART goals come in.

  • Specific: Your goals should have clearly defined success and failure conditions. Set definitive benchmarks or metrics that determine whether or not you’re succeeding.
  • Measurable: When setting goals, guesswork should be minimized, if not eliminated. You must be able to measure key metrics and accurately track your progress.
  • Attainable: How does the roadmap to your goal look? Is it smooth sailing, or do you foresee potentially critical roadblocks? Think about your adaptability and the extent to which unexpected situations will be deliberating.
  • Realistic: Do you have all the necessary skills and tools to achieve your goal? For example, if your goal is to overhaul your website, but you don’t have graphic designers on your team, it’s time to return to the drawing board.
  • Timely: Can you achieve your goal in a reasonable amount of time? Set clear start and end dates and work together with team members to meet them.

SMART goals will help you stay motivated and avoid feeling overwhelmed. It takes effort to prepare your team and stay on top of your progress, but when you finally accomplish your goals, it’s worth it.

Take regular breaks

Taking breaks is one of the best things you can do at any job. Even if you feel like breaks are just blocks of time during which no work gets done, they’re better for long-term productivity.

Take regular breaks from work

It’s a good idea to take a breather when you feel stress building up. Don’t wait until you’re exhausted, as recovering from that state is significantly harder. Whether it’s a cup of coffee or a short walk outside, leave your desk and do something else that helps you unwind.

Always keep in mind that you only have so much energy to distribute throughout the day. Without these short breaks, you’ll tire before signing off, leaving you too drained to enjoy the rest of the day. This can then affect your ability to recharge for the next day. 

Minimize distractions

It can be argued that distractions are more prevalent now than ever. Just think about the thousands of things you can do on your smartphone that aren’t work-related that can break your focus and limit time to take control of your own life.

Even veteran professionals get distracted from time to time. Finding a healthy work-life balance doesn’t mean neglecting as many responsibilities with friends and family members as possible. The thing is, you can’t eradicate distractions, but that’s completely fine. Sometimes, they can be good, too.

Here’s the good news: you can use the same technology that can distract you to help keep you focused — but it requires self-discipline. 

Many smart apps offer fun ways of limiting distractions and improving your working memory by gamifying various tasks at work. Alternatively, there are also apps that take a more straightforward approach to effective time management, such as to-do lists and website blockers.

It also helps to remember the rewards that come with using your time wisely. This could be the chance to get out of work earlier so you can meet up with friends, do your favorite leisure activities, or move on to a new and more interesting project.

Learn to say no

Saying no might be one of the hardest things for a remote business owner, but you need to be comfortable with it.

It’s normal to want to put out fires yourself, but always remember that you have a team. When you say no, it doesn’t mean you’re refusing to care. Instead, think of it as a willingness to put faith in your team’s capabilities.

There’s a right and wrong way to say no, of course. If delivered inappropriately, you can easily give the impression that you can’t be bothered at all. Be honest about why you’re saying no and properly communicate that you’re trusting them to take care of the situation.

Delegate time-consuming tasks

Not all tasks are created equal. Some take five minutes to do and make a noticeable impact, while others take hours but barely move the needle. In any case, someone needs to do them.

That someone doesn’t always have to be you. Think about how wasteful it would be if you attempted to power through an enormous to-do list when you have team members who might be more skilled at several of those tasks.

Your specialization in running and growing a business is in the same vein. Focus on the most critical tasks for which you’re the best person, and delegate tasks like administrative work and social media management to more capable people.

Developing these soft skills gives you more time for more impactful work. And since you have the best-equipped team members working on relevant tasks, you can expect better results.

Time’s up for inefficient time management

Good time management skills are crucial to your success as a remote business owner. You can’t add more hours to your day (yet), but by following these time management techniques, you can increase productivity, reduce stress levels, and set the stage for bigger goals.

It’s an ongoing process, but improving time management skills is crucial for taking your team to the next level. When you learn to set realistic deadlines, minimize the urge to multitask frequently, and use these strategies consistently, your overall mental health and well-being will start to improve your time management skills.

What time management methods have helped you maximize productivity? Share them with us in the comments.

Category: Time Management