What small business owner wouldn’t kill for an extra set of hands or more time? And yet for the 4 million small businesses that employ between one and four people, hiring help isn’t always an option. Here are five tips and the 25 tools to help you get more out of your time, at least until human cloning is mainstream.

Find a Calendar System That Works for You

Some people swear by paper agenda books. Others thrive on an intricate system of Post-It notes stuck to their computers. Still others use digital calendars like Google Calendar.

The key here is: find what works for you. Don’t try to force another system just because someone tells you its better. You know what helps keep you organized (and if you don’t, try some of these examples). Just have a system. Period. Otherwise you risk forgetting appointments and deadlines.

For your appointments:

What about letting clients schedule time with you? No more back and forth (“June 9th works but after 3p.m.”), instead, you set up a calendar for when you’re available and allow clients to book time with you via one of these calendar management tools:

Manage Your Client Relationships

Did you know that there’s a magical tool that can make managing your clients easier? And by “easier” I mean it can:

  • Remind you and your team to call clients
  • Keep track of quotes, opportunities, and potential deals
  • Reminds you to reach out to key customers on a regular basis
  • Tracks all contact between your team and your customers/clients
  • Organize a daily call/email list for you so you stay in touch with clients

It’s called a customer relationship management system (CRM). Each time you interact with a customer—throughout the customer lifecycle, from prospect to key client—your CRM tracks that data. You want to retain more customers? You want to track prospects and leads? A CRM has you covered. And the good news is that most CRMs vary in price from budget-friendly to free. Every business can benefit from a CRM—from freelancers to larger companies. Imagine walking into your office and have a pre-made list of client calls and follows up. Without having to guess? That’s a huge time-saver right there.

Customer Relationship Management systems for small businesses:

While you can’t magically give yourself more time or more arms, you can make better use of the time you do spend on work-related activities.

Make Your Email Work for You

We all get too many emails; there’s no changing that. But we can change how we review and open our emails. If you use Google Mail, you probably already know about the Primary, Social, and Promotions tabs. These are a lifesaver in that they keep those pesky sales promotions out of your Primary inbox and let you focus on business. Then, when you’re ready to take a look at Social or Promotions emails, just click over to another tab.

But you can go one step further in managing your email reading time. You can also set up Multiple Inboxes that sort through your mail based on keywords or who the email is from. So all your high-priority client emails might go into one Inbox, making it easy to see when there’s something you need to respond to. Travel-related emails can go into another.

Some good options for sorting and managing your email:

Find Software to Make Your Life Easier

I’m in favor of not reinventing the wheel. And with new software, apps, and tools coming onto the marketplace every day, there’s no reason to. Here are just a few samples of the tools available that can save you massive amounts of time:

Share documents with colleagues or clients for collaboration:

Project management for you and your team (or even just for you):

Manage all your social media profiles from one place:

Learn to Prioritize

The fact is, many of us aren’t good at prioritizing our task list. As soon as something hits our inbox, we jump on it, when, in fact, we might need to be working on something more important.  I end each workday by reviewing tomorrow’s to-do list. Rank each item in order of priority. If, for example, you have a deadline to meet, that project should be at the top of the list. Once you get a sense of how long a given task will take you, it becomes easier to plan your workday. If you run your business off one of those never ending to-do lists, you will always feel like you never get anything done.

For your to do list:

Track your time to figure out how long things actually take you:

RELATED: 21 Ways Evernote Can Make Your Life Easier

 

Next Steps:  Not sure if you’re using the most budget-friendly CRM system? Don’t know if you’re using the right tools for managing your day, paying your employees, and billing your customers?  We’ve got you covered with the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter. Sign up today and start receiving the weekly newsletter chock full of the latest tools and resources to help you run a successful business.