Running any business, whether small or large, is a challenge. To pull it off, you need to be good at a number of responsibilities, flexible to change, and committed to your vision. But even if you have these three ingredients, there's one thing that's paramount to staying afloat: being able to prioritize.

I work with someone who runs a company that generates over a million dollars in revenue every year. Being able to grow and operate a company that size can take a toll on your health, energy, and time. Yet, he makes it a point to take the weekends off and schedules vacation time at least twice a year.

When I look at his approach to work, I am in awe. I see other people whose companies are much smaller that are struggling to keep on top of things. They run around, stressing over this errand or chasing after that person, constantly in panic mode. Despite how much effort they spend on their businesses, they can't seem to make much progress or spend time on anything else in their lives.

Here are five strategies you can use to make the most of your time:

1. Set aside a regular mandatory "no work" time.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki makes it a rule not to check emails between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. As the mother of five children, she also prioritizes getting home in time for dinner with her family. Think about it: If the CEO of YouTube is able to get home to spend time with her children, how can we make time for our interests and relationships outside of work?

Setting a period of time where you don't work has a couple benefits. First, you get a chance to renew your energy levels for the future. Secondly, being able to step out of your usual work zone gives you the chance to come up with different ideas.

2. Plan what you need to do the evening beforehand.

Mornings are hectic and it's easy to forget what you should be doing if you don't have a plan in place. For this reason, I spend evenings going over what I accomplished that day, revising future tasks I had scheduled, and then fleshing out what I need to do the following day.

This includes knowing what tasks to work on, what I should wear, and what meals to prepare. Mapping out my day helps me feel at ease in the evenings and ready to go when I wake up.

3. Create themes to perform work more efficiently.

Do you ever find that switching between different tasks is more tiring than focusing on one task at a time? If so, then Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey knows how you feel.

In an interview with Forbes, Dorsey explained how he assigns a theme to each day. By focusing on one specific type of work each day of the week, it helps him stay accountable and monitor progress on every aspect of the company. It also helps him stay focused on work.

You can use a similar method of creating themes, such as management, reflection, collaboration, and growth to ensure all aspects of your business are covered and that you're working efficiently.

4. Schedule in the important tasks.

Some of our most important tasks get pushed to the side because other things pop up, such as phone calls and meetings. I find it tempting to stay busy on tasks, even if the tasks aren't the best usage of my time. Instead, I've started blocking off time for the things that I tend to put off.

One of these tasks includes setting a one-hour time period to reflect on my progress over the past few months and determine whether adjustments are needed. If there's something you keep putting off that's important to you, schedule it in.

5. Put yourself in the driver's seat when it comes to your time.

If you don't plan out how you want your day to go, it's very easy to end up in reactive mode. You end up refreshing your email inbox, replying to messages, and responding to calls that don't push your business forward. While these activities may make you feel productive, they actually take away time from your priorities.

I remind myself frequently that ultimately, I'm the one responsible for how my time and efforts are spent. Like many other business owners, I put my phone on silent and stay away from emails when I need to deep focus on my work.

Still, I get off track at times and have to deal with surprises that pop up. But I know that by practicing effective work strategies on a consistent basis, I can focus on the largest gains and stay proactive in managing my work.

Published on: Dec 22, 2017
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