There is no singular “mold” that all successful business owners are shaped from. Over the years, I have worked with successful small business owners from across the personality spectrum—introverts, extroverts, detail-oriented, big-picture thinkers, etc. But there is one trait that is almost universally shared by these successful individuals: they all manage their time extremely well.

Gifted time managers are able to spend time more productively than others are, so it shouldn’t be surprising that they often get ahead, whether in business, or life in general. Time is a universal resource… you have as much time in your day as Warren Buffett does, or as Steve Jobs did, and as your competitors do. How effectively will you spend it? Below are four steps to becoming a better manager of your own time:

  1. Start each week, month, and year by setting priorities. Many business owners have lost control of their time because they don’t set priorities. Instead, they accept the priorities that fate sets for them. Whether it is a disgruntled customer or some other semi-emergency, there is always something for a business owner to do. And while you will always have to remain flexible, setting priorities from a big-picture perspective ensures that you spend your time productively.
  2. Avoid multitasking whenever you can. Yes, I said avoid multitasking! I realize this advice flies in the face of our non-stop culture, but there is plenty of research which supports the idea that we are more productive when we are able to focus on a single task until it’s done.
  3. Don’t let email dictate how you spend your time. With regards to multitasking, email is one of the biggest offenders. Schedule “email free” blocks of time throughout your day, preferably for several hours at a time. You will be amazed how much more productive you are without the constant interruption of a new message arriving.
  4. Give yourself time to reflect, relax, and refocus. Most small business owners are always on the move, from the time they wake up, until the time they go to bed at night. It’s all business, all the time. Not only is this unhealthy, but it’s also ineffective – your brain and your body needs time to relax. Pursue that hobby. Spend time with your family. Strengthen old friendships and discover new ones.

Learning to use your time more effectively translates directly to business success. I’ve seen it time and time again, not to mention experienced it firsthand. Are you using your time effectively?

Do you use your time well? What are some ways that you could improve? Do you have any time management tips to share with fellow business owners?