Here’s a startling fact.  Americans work more hours than medieval peasants did. Nearly one in five American workers spends more than 50 hours per week at work. That’s according to the findings of Harvard economics professor, Juliet Schor. For small business owners, it’s more like 60 hours a week.

If you ever feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day to do everything that needs done, you may be suffering from the phenomenon known as “time poverty.”

Symptoms of time poverty include:

  • Feeling like you have been very busy, but have accomplished very little
  • Feeling like there are too few hours in the day
  • Trending toward taking fewer days off
  • Missing family commitments due to work
  • Remaining tethered to your office 24/7 via cell phone or email

To an extent, technology is to blame.  The same devices that promise us freedom and flexibility also keep us hopelessly tied to the things that we need a break from.  Clients and customers are able to reach us in countless ways, and in the instant gratification society in which we now live, they often expect an immediate response.

Unfortunately, not all of us are naturally prone to effective time management. But don’t worry, it’s not a hopeless case.  You can overcome time poverty by applying some good old-fashioned time management strategies.

 Set priorities.

Decide what needs to get done, keeping long-term and short-term priorities in mind.  It’s easy to get caught up in daily tasks and lose sight of the big picture. Refer back to your business plan (you do have one, don’t you?). Know your goals for your business and decide what types of activities you should be engaging in monthly, weekly and daily to keep you on track.

 Plan your day.

Whether you do it the night before, or the morning of, you should start every day with a plan of how you will use your time. Write it down, and keep your list within arm’s reach so if you get sidetracked you can easily refer back to it and get back on task.

 Define your work hours.

Setting designated work hours (and sticking to them) will help you manage your time better. It changes your attitude from “I’ll go home after the work is done,” to “I need to have this done by the time I leave at 7.” It’s like setting a deadline for yourself.

 Control procrastination.

Generally, there are two reasons that people procrastinate.  It’s because they don’t want to do whatever it is that needs done, or it’s because they don’t know how to do it.  If you find yourself procrastinating, determine the reason.  If it’s because you don’t want to do it, get over it.  Or find someone else to do it.  If you don’t know how to do what needs done, seek help.  Ask people in your network for help, search the internet or check your library’s resources to try to educate yourself.  If you still don’t feel like you are the right person for the task, then it is time to find someone else to take care of it.