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Why using your time effectively is important

If you’re a small business selling online then your time is extremely important to you, and knowing how to make the most of it is essential. You need to be able to make the most of every second of every day and eliminate or reduce trivial tasks that don’t move you towards your overall goals.

Properly managing your time can help you achieve your goals, whatever they may be, e.g.

  • Expand into new marketplaces and countries
  • Earn a higher income
  • Sell new and interesting products
  • Reduce working hours to have more free time

Understanding the time management matrix

“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent."

To start understanding how to manage your time better and organise your priorities, we can begin by looking at the Covey Time Management Grid, developed by Stephen R Covey. 

‘Urgent and important’ tasks are often time consuming and demanding, but essential. As an online retailer your biggest ‘urgent and important’ daily tasks are likely to be dispatching orders, offering customer support and ordering stock. These things can be foreseen, and putting in systems to deal with them will save you time and make your business more efficient.

‘Not urgent but important’ tasks are what you should be making more time for, because these will usually be the actions that benefit your business in the long term. These tasks could include expanding on to different marketplaces, sourcing new products and implementing systems and processes to deal with your ‘urgent and important’ tasks more efficiently.

‘Urgent but not important’ tasks are necessary for running a business, but they don’t add much value to your overall businesses development.

‘Not Urgent and not important’ tasks are usually a waste of time and should be avoided where possible.

How to apply this

Time management for your small online business is key to maintaining a balance between the necessary tasks and the ones that are important to your long term goals. Completing a Time Management Matrix for yourself can be an important step to help you identify which tasks you should be spending more time on that will help you achieve your long term goals.

To limit the amount of time spent on dispatching orders and customer service you have to plan out your day.

Start by planning your long term goals; whether it’s increasing your sales, expanding your products or creating more brand awareness for your online shop. Then plan what actions you can take to achieve these.

Each week plan what tasks you need to accomplish and what jobs need to be done, you can even set which ones you will do on which days.
Then, before starting work each day, plan your day. Schedule time for the essential day to day tasks such as responding to emails, dispatching orders, but also allow time to work on your long term goals.

To avoid being distracted by different tasks only allow yourselves certain times for each thing - check and respond to emails for an hour in the morning, and check them once more in the afternoon. If it’s important that you respond to emails straight away, consider setting up an auto response email that lets customers know you will reply to them soon. If you constantly check and reply to each email straight away it will interrupt the other work that you need to do. The same can be done for dispatching orders - rather than continuously processing new orders throughout the day, consider doing them in batches at planned intervals.

Prioritising your ‘not urgent but important’ tasks

To avoid spending all of your working day on the important and urgent tasks you need to spend some time establishing systems to deal with these things.

For example, you can save time with your shipping by using order shipping management software like Zenstores. This means that all of your orders from different online shops, such as eBay and Amazon, will be listed in one place where you can also print the shipping labels, invoices and packing slips. Spending a small amount of time setting up a Zenstores account to deal with orders and shipping will save you hours in the long run. 

Other useful tools for small online businesses include Google Drive, Mailchimp, Trello and Rescue Time. Find out more about which tools you could be using to organise your working day and increase your productivity.

About Verity Rogers and Zenstores

Verity is a writer and content marketer at Zenstores. Zenstores provide easy to use shipping software that enables eBay and Amazon sellers to dramatically reduce the time spent managing and shipping their orders on a day to day basis, so they can focus less time on repetitive tasks and more time on growing their business. Click here to find out more. 

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