By Bob Bond

Guest columnist

Do you feel like you work all day yet never catch up with your to-do list? Here are tips on making the most of your time: Don’t do it all. There may be things you routinely spend time on that someone else could do or be taught to do. Delegate or outsource everything that you do that’s not critical, and you can spend more time growing your business.

Many business owners are reluctant to delegate even if they have the staff on hand to do so. However, learning to delegate is perhaps the most essential step in growing a business.

Delegation creates a culture of accountability by making employees responsible for results, not just completing tasks, and fosters their skills and confidence. Try these steps to successful delegation:

  • Identify key tasks to delegate. Start small so employees can build confidence and skills.
  • Identify which employees are best suited for each task, and determine training needed.
  • Train employees. Be sure to provide specific, detailed instruction.
  • Focus on results, not process. Employees getting the desired results is what matters. Focusing on results creates employees who can think for themselves, not just follow directions.
  • Provide ongoing feedback. Let employees know how they’re doing, both during training and after tasks are completed. Make sure feedback goes both ways — encourage employees to let you know about better ways to do things or new ideas for processes that they may have.
  • Eliminate time wasters. Determine what activities are most profitable and focus on these. Set a specific time (and time limit) for reading email, and stick to it. Limit meetings; when you must meet, have an agenda that focuses the meeting.

You also need to learn to use technology to streamline tasks. A few examples:

  • Online collaboration tools such as instant messaging, intranets or voice conferencing can eliminate the need for in-person meetings.
  • Use cloud storage and backup, smartphones and tablet computers to access files from anywhere.
  • If you have an e-commerce site, integrate it with your financial tools.
  • Use caller ID and voice-mail to screen calls, and set a specific time in the day to check and return them.

Finally, schedule downtime into your day. Get adequate sleep, fit in fitness and spend time with family. Figure out what you need to do to ‘recharge,’ and then make time for it — otherwise, you’ll burn out.

Bob Bond is a SCORE volunteer mentor. To learn more about time management issues facing your small business, visit SCORE — which originally stood for Service Corps of Retired Executives — is a nonprofit organization whose volunteers provide free help to small business owners.