As a small-business owner, you’re probably wearing multiple hats and trying to stay ahead of the curve while keeping your clients and customers happy. The last thing you need is an unimportant task sapping your precious time. Take back control—watch out for these 1o time-wasters.
Being sucked into your email inbox. Don’t spend hours sifting through endless email messages. Segment your inbox with folders to prioritize important messages and trash those that are irrelevant. Set aside specific times each day to check your inbox so you’re not mindlessly perusing your messages instead of focusing on the task at hand.
Getting caught up in financials. Many small-business owners handle their own accounting. But following up with past-due clients and bill paying can take up a big chunk of valuable time, says Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance. These tasks can be easily passed on to an administrative assistant or other staff member without a significant cost.
Micromanaging your employees. If your business started out as a one-person operation, it can be challenging to learn to delegate as your company grows. After all, quality is a top priority. There comes a time for employees to learn from their own mistakes, though—and the reason you hired them is to handle a portion of your workload. Learn to let go.
Too many meetings. You’re running a business, and you need to keep your staff up-to-date and connected. Meetings are useful, but too many can be wasteful. Think of all the time you’re spending planning and coordinating. Use meetings wisely and save up non-urgent announcements for the next regularly scheduled meeting when possible.
Idle Internet surfing. You’re in the middle of a long, drawn-out project, and you need to clear your head. So you decide to pop in on your favorite social network for a few minutes of downtime. Be careful: Those few minutes can quickly turn into an hour, and before you know it, you’re behind. Try to use productive methods of giving your mind a break, such as switching tasks.
Over-the-top networking. Networking is a great thing, but spending too much time having coffee with peers and you’ll find yourself lacking time for the things that matter. “I have to really choose who I meet for coffee,” says Linda Varrell, president of Broadreach Public Relations. “There has to be a business benefit to meet with someone.”
Planning, planning and more planning. Failure to plan is planning to fail. How many times have you heard that one? It’s true, but it can work both ways. Getting caught up in all the nitty-gritty planning work can lead you to analysis paralysis. Suddenly, it’s 2 p.m. and you haven’t started your to-do list—you’ve spent all day planning and prioritizing your day without ever actually starting it. Find a true-to-you organization system and stick to it.
Taking multitasking to the extreme. As a small-business owner, you’re used to juggling multiple functions. Each time you switch tasks, you have to acclimate to what you’re focusing on in that moment. Take a step back and think about how often you switch tasks during the day—and how much more efficiently you could work if you set aside chunks of time dedicated to a single project or task.
Getting distracted by the next big idea. It’s natural for entrepreneurs to always be thinking about ways to move forward. But getting distracted by those ideas can lead you off-course. Keep a notebook or folder to jot down your ideas and revisit them later, suggests Kelly Fallis, CEO of RemoteStylist.com.
Never saying no. Interruptions can be constant throughout the course of a given day—that is, if you don’t learn to say no. The urge to please is tough to resist, but you must set boundaries if you want to be productive. At a minimum, designate a few hours each day as an interruption-free zone. During that block of time, permit no interruptions, including phone calls, emails, text messages and visitors to your office.
The very nature of entrepreneurship lends itself to these common time-wasters. Whether it’s your tendency to want to do it all yourself or the desire to please everyone in your path, you’re bound to get sucked into some time-wasting activities from time to time. Start squashing these time-sappers and watch your productivity soar.
Looking for more tips and advice on how to stay productive? Check out these productivity articles.
Angela Stringfellow is a freelance writer, social media strategist and complete content marketing junkie obsessed with all things Web, written word and marketing. She blogs via Contently.com.