You can dream about hiring efficiency experts and super-efficient employees, but as the head and inspiration for your small business, good organization starts with you. The up side is that getting and staying organized is one of the best ways to save time during the day. If you’re stumbling around looking for that slip of paper with your meeting agenda on it, or trying to locate a supplier’s business card (you’re pretty sure the company name starts with a C), precious minutes slip away. You’ll probably lose your forward momentum, too.

With that said, let’s take a look at five areas you can address to help slow down the clock, and use your work day to better advantage.

Time Saving Tips

Control your email – Yes, emails seem to breed and multiply as soon as you take your eyes off them, and the volume you receive in a day can seem overwhelming:

  • If you’re spending more time than you want on emails, organize your email accounts by using onboard tools like filters.
  • Once you read an email, either delete it or place it in an intuitively titled folder for future reference or action. Try to make a habit of revisiting an email as few times as possible. Once segregated, perform the additional work involved and get rid of the email, or retire it to a closed folder.
  • Separate personal from business emails by placing them in different accounts or folders.
  • Don’t keep dipping into emails every few minutes; it’ll burn time you probably can’t spare. Instead, designate three or four fifteen minute intervals throughout the day for email management, and stick to that timeline.
  • If you’re getting a lot of junk emails, block the senders and move on.
  • If you’re on email lists for reference purposes, lose them in favor of dedicated feeds you can peruse when you have the time.

Use your calendar – Tools designed to keep you organized and on track can save time, and it’s worth a few hours on the weekend to explore what a few have to offer in terms of intuitive interfaces that will function on multiple platforms and sync with others in your organization. There’s always a learning curve involved with new technology or systems, and these tools will probably require a shift in the way you organize your thinking, too. That can be a good thing. Once you see the benefits, you’ll never go back.

Learn to delegate – Don’t try to do everything yourself; you won’t succeed. The best managers employ effective training methods and learn to feel comfortable about delegating tasks. It’s amazing how much time you can save when you aren’t trying to do everyone else’s job as well as your own.

Keep running lists – If you have a business, kids, or much of a social life, you probably keep a few lists around. When you’re in business, though, those lists can be gold. From marketing ideas that occur to you while driving to work, to a wishlist of office supplies you’re sourcing from a new warehouse outlet, lists can be a fast way to organize information.

We like the idea of maintaining a few small spiral bound notebooks. That way you can keep lists for future reference and always have a piece of paper around when you need it. The smaller format is easy to keep in a coat pocket, briefcase or glove compartment, and your ideas will have a semi-permanent home (for future analysis) instead of living on a toss away like a cocktail napkin or takeout menu. If you have ideas spanning more than one notebook, take the time to consolidate them occasionally. If you get writer’s cramp just thinking about all that writing, consider investing in a portable voice recorder instead.

Learn to be selfish – Creating some distance between you and your employees encourages them to use their initiative. It will save you time in the process — and help you discover who your most intuitive and responsible people really are. Being interrupted every fifteen minutes with questions doesn’t necessarily mean you’re indispensable. Employees ask questions for a lot of reasons. An employee may be genuinely stumped about what to do next. He may be apprehensive about overstepping his authority. He may also be looking for an easy answer that doesn’t require a lot of digging (a time saver for him). Fewer interruptions will give you more time (and better concentration) for other tasks.