Starting and running a small business is a massive commitment of both money and time. Many people underestimate the time investment that it takes in the first few years of a business to get it off the ground, fully operational, and on track to success. In fact, time management tends to be one of the biggest issues for small-business owners. These tips can help you better manage your time and may even help you find the elusive work-life balance that drives many entrepreneurs to start businesses in the first place.

1. Use tech to work smarter and faster

Many business owners love technology, and for a good reason — it can make your life easier. There are a limitless number of tech tools that can help you schedule business activities and automate processes. For instance, there’s software that can help you track your hours so you can see how you’re spending your time. (Slack, Asana, and Trello are some of the more popular choices.) 

If payroll takes you hours, you could consider looking at software that automates payroll (QuickBooks, Peachtree, Paychex, or similar).

By getting “smart” about how you run your business, you can save enormous amounts of time and focus your energy on other duties or areas of your life. It can also help you find opportunities to delegate. 

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Talk to your financial advisors about digital options for banking, tax returns, and related tasks. Be sure you know all the capabilities available with your current plans — and what else you could add.

2. Learn how to let go and delegate

Delegating can be tough for business owners. Between money being too tight to justify a new hire, to fear of “losing control” of certain processes, many small-business owners fall into the trap of doing everything themselves. 

Start by documenting your process for the things you do each day (the technology you set up in step one may be able to help with this). Once you have these processes in place, think about which tasks you procrastinate about, which are time-consuming or which don't require decision making. When you've decided what to delegate, choose someone with the skill set and personality to suit those tasks. That may be someone on your team or a new hire. Taking the time to find a good match can make delegation (and training) much easier, and you will quickly see a return on your investment in the person you hire.

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Technology can help you outsource unpleasant or time-consuming tasks. Check out talent marketplace websites like UpWork or Fiverr and start posting opportunities there.

3. Put personal time on your calendar

Setting aside uninterrupted time for your family and personal interests is crucial to striking a work-life balance and can make you more present when you do show up for work. For instance, you could make it a point to have nights with your partner or spend quality time with your kids, if you have them. Also, if volunteer work is important to you, make sure you set aside time for those non-business, community activities. 

Making time away from work can keep you fresh, too: Spend time on hobbies separate from your business, like gaming, home renovation, gardening, or whatever else you like. Time away from work can have the added benefit of helping with new ideas and creating a fresh perspective.

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When it's personal time, turn off the phone, tablet and computer, so you can really be present with those you love. This can help you feel more refreshed afterwards — and show them how much they matter to you.

4. Open up to loved ones about your work

Your friends and family might know a little about your business, but sharing details can help them understand your passion — and why you sometimes have to put your work first. Just be sure to include the parts that make you happy, not just the challenges you face.

Talking candidly about your business can help you realize which parts you enjoy and which you don't, which can help you delegate better.

Spending all your energy on your business, 24/7/365, without recognizing the need for balance can easily lead to burnout in both your business and personal life. Time management, and finding the right balance between work and life, will be different for every business owner. But it’s important that you find a strategy that works for you.

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Talk to kids in your family, too. Teach them about cash flow, financing, hiring and other key topics. That way, when they're ready to start working, they'll be one step ahead of their peers.

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