When I started out in business on my own, I thought I knew it all. I was good at what I did and I focussed on the joys of working for myself, no one telling me what to do, earning what I wanted and taking time off as I liked. The trouble however it that all of this takes work, lots of hard work to earn the dollars necessary to live as I thought I should, especially as I like to eat steak at least once a week. This meant that productive billable work needed to be accomplished, or sell-able products made and sold. The problem however is that there are tasks that produce results and there are tasks that are out and out time wasters
But, how do you know when something is a worthwhile and fruitful task and something is just a waste of time?
These are a few ways business owners waste time:
Many business owners spend a lot of time doing things that feel like work, but aren’t actually being productive. How many times can you edit and rewrite that blog post? How many times can you redo your website, or scour social media before you realize it’s simply not productive?
Social media can be a great way to market your business if you know what you are doing, but it can also be addictive, distracting, so you need to time yourself and have a specific task in mind before getting on social media during work hours. Create a list of actions that you will take and stick to those and nothing else. In my opinion almost all businesses are wasting hours and hours each week on social media, yes it’s fun and addictive but unless it’s productive it’s a time waster.
Everyone in business should have a business email and a personal email address. Check your personal email only out of business hours, and check your work email at specific intervals throughout the day with specific actions in mind. For instance, don’t read all those newsletters you signed up for every time; set them aside a specific time. I have personally stopped checking emails on my smart phone, in fact it is now not setup to check emails because I used to find myself checking my phone constantly and every time a push notification came through, I just had to check that email which wasted an awful lot of time and was also very distracting.
Meetings and phone calls can often seem productive, but are they really? They are if you have an agenda and stick to the agenda and don’t waiver off into other territory and just start chatting mindlessly. If you’re not good at doing that, try to eliminate as many phone calls and meetings as possible by using project management software.
The television, radio, email notification beeping, friends calling and so forth are all distractions that you can reduce or eliminate during work hours if you make it your goal. If your goal is to earn money, just ask yourself before you do anything, “Is this task getting me closer to my goal?” If the answer is no, simply stop doing it.
Ask yourself the following questions before doing any activity:
- Is this activity planned and scheduled?
- Is the activity (project) defined with a deadline?
- Is the activity goal producing?
If you can answer yes to the above questions, then it may be a good activity to keep doing and not a time waster. However, if you can answer no to the following questions, the activity is likely not fruitful and is wasting time.
- If you stop doing this activity will it affect your business?
- Is this activity billable?
- Will this activity produce income?
I love that last question and I sometime supplement it with, will the activity lead to income. The great thing however is that you can choose not to waste time; once you have identified actual time wasters, you can seek to eliminate them from your day. Once you accept that some of what you’re doing is just being busy and not actually work that will move your business forward to your end goal of producing income, you’ll be able to stay on track.