We all have the same amount of time in each day – 24 hours; no more and no less. Why is it, then, that some people can get so much more accomplished than others? It’s called Time Management. But it’s not really managing time; it’s managing the activities that take up your time.

Small business owners, just because of all the hats worn each day, have more types of issues to deal with and more items to prioritize than others. We seem to be putting out fires instead of preventing them. Or we tend to deal with so many minor interruptions that the big issues, which really should receive our attention, remain on our desk at the end of each day. Therefore, it is imperative to determine how to manage daily activities.

Three time stealers – Mail, Telephone and Meetings – can be managed easily with these simple reminders.

A process I learned years ago and continue to use today is what I call the 3-option process. Touch each piece of mail only once. Keeping mail without acting on it is a huge time-waster. How often to you pick up, review it and put it back down without doing anything with it? When internal and external communication comes across your desk, decide as you pick it up how you’re going to deal with it. You have 3 options:

1. Throw it out – it’s not worth your time, so don’t even keep it. An example would be unsolicited junk mail.
2. File it for future use – possibly a report or magazine article that has great info which you’ll want to refer to later.
3. Respond to it, then file it or throw it away.

This 3-option process can also be applied to email and text messages.

How often have you called someone and when you ask if it’s a good time, they answer that it isn’t and really can’t talk right now. Then why did they answer it in the first place?

If you answer the telephone under this circumstance, you have wasted your time and probably interrupted doing something of importance. There is a wonderful invention called voice mail. If you can’t – or prefer not to – answer the phone, DON’T.

For some reason, many people feel obligated to answer the phone when it rings. If you wrestle with this issue, turn your phone off when you want to concentrate on a project or are in a meeting. By removing the option of whether to answer or not, you’ve just given yourself permission to focus. You can return the calls later when you have the time to give full attention to the person on the other end of the call.

If you’re a home-based business and most of your meetings are in coffee shops or other casual gathering places, schedule 2, 3 or 4 back-to-back. Not driving from location to location will save a great deal of time (and gas). Figure if you need to allow yourself ½ hour between each appointment, and you have 4 scheduled, you will spend 1-1/2 hours just driving between meetings. To be fair to those who have offices in different sides of the city, find a ½ point and strategically set your appointments accordingly.

When you have a meeting, especially off-site, confirm with the other(s) attending a few days prior. The location is extremely important to verify, because there are coffee shops on almost every corner. It’s common to be waiting at a different location just a block away.

There is another meeting that is extremely important to hold on a regular (I suggest weekly) basis. This type of meeting is with yourself. An in-office day can make a big difference managing your tasks. For example, each Tuesday is my in-office day. This is an appointment with myself to handle large projects (writing articles, for example) and also catch up on all the little things that have piled up since the previous Tuesday. Stress levels go down when you know there is a day set aside for yourself. Schedule it on your calendar to make sure you respect that time for yourself.

These are easy steps you can take to gain control of your tasks. I have used them often since starting our home inventory service company. This new-found time will allow you to focus on the important issues. Often times, structure equals freedom!

Author's Bio: 

Cindy Hartman is President of Hartman Inventory, a woman-owned business that provides business and home inventory services. She and her husband Mike also own Hartman Inventory Systems, a complete turnkey home inventory business package for those who want to establish their own inventory company. Cindy writes a blog for each company and is also a freelance writer on topics of disaster preparedness and recovery, small business, product reviews, marketing and networking.

She serves on the Advisory Board of the International MasterMind Group with Success Coaches Institute where she shares her knowledge and experience on topics of business ownership, entrepreneurship, having a positive attitude and the law of attraction.