Start prioritizing: Your time management skills and your company's future

By Eric Michaels

Your business won't succeed if you ignore sound principles of time management and the importance of prioritizing. Your time will be all but sapped by a new venture, which requires a high level of attention. Focusing directly on individual tasks is the most effective way to complete them. If you want to give your fledgling enterprise the shot it deserves, try these tips for successful prioritizing.

Stop the timer every week to organize your plan of attack

Now that you're in business for yourself, you've probably seen your days off disappear. That signifies a strong commitment, but blind commitment never breeds success. You need a tested strategy. Before your week begins, plot your daily deadlines and responsibilities. Though some tasks might not deliver results until months later, the timing of lunches and meetings cannot be discounted. Why reschedule a lunch and give a potential client time to find a new provider?

Distinguish between "musts" and "would-likes" in a priority list

You wouldn't make an objective a priority unless it was essential to your business's future. However, facing deadlines every day and week, you have to make a distinction between the tasks you must get done and those you'd like to complete. For example, if you are working on two separate projects and one is for a personal friend, you might want to prioritize that deadline. However, the importance of establishing new contacts would serve your business better. In this case, your friend would fall into the "would-like" category while the new client becomes a "must."

Follow the money

When you need to pay the rent, make payroll, or get the electric company off your back, you need cash streaming into your accounts. When times are at their leanest, make soon-to-pay customers your focus while prioritizing. Your time should be devoted first and foremost to them, as they momentarily ensure that your business will continue in its present state. Though other concerns may seem pressing, the fact is that your business requires a "follow the money" approach while getting off the ground.

Put a time limit on everything

Small business owners hesitate to make the workplace a high-stress zone. Intimidation doesn't guarantee prosperity. Unfortunately, neither does an overly casual workplace. Set time limits for daily responsibilities and hold yourself and employees accountable when time limits expire. Did you procrastinate or fail from lack of confidence mid-project? By setting clear deadlines and examining the reason they weren't met, you'll think about prioritizing in the most "micro" way possible.

Insert mental breaks into the schedule

Business owners who go full-throttle every day at work won't get a high level of performance without mental and physical breaks. Staring at a computer screen on an empty stomach won't lead to imaginative breakthroughs; nor will working 20-hour days. Schedule breaks for every employee throughout the day. When you don't take care of yourself and your staff, productivity will suffer and priorities will get ignored.

Know when your time is better served elsewhere

The challenges you face change as your business grows. When your staff grows to 10 employees or more, your payroll and cleaning duties might be too time-consuming to handle. The same goes for marketing and website maintenance. Is it time to outsource? If you use the time to build new client relationships (the most important responsibility of a small business owner), the work you hire out to other agencies is worth every cent. Recognize that there is no point to saving a few hundred dollars when several thousand could be made if you use that time efficiently.

Set your priorities on a daily basis, with weekly, monthly, and yearly goals on the horizon. With an efficient approach to prioritizing, your time will be spent wisely — just as your business deserves.