If you are like many small-business owners, “busy” doesn’t even begin to describe your typical day. It seems like you are always on the go, with a never-ending to-do list and never enough time to do it all.
But have you ever stopped to consider how you are actually spending your time? How much of each day do you spend actually doing things that help grow your business? How often do you climb into bed exhausted, lamenting the fact that you didn’t get nearly as much accomplished as you had hoped? If that sounds familiar, you aren’t alone. According to one survey, small-business owners cumulatively waste more than 4 billion hours every year on tasks that aren’t vital to business growth, such as administrative and supervisory tasks.
The first step to reclaiming your time is to identify the areas where it’s being wasted. To help, we’ve identified five of the top time wasters as reported by small-business owners.
Meetings can be important. When you need to brainstorm ideas, or gather input from diverse stakeholders, getting everyone in the same room helps facilitate communication and produce better results. However, many entrepreneurs list meetings as a top time waster; after all, nothing is more frustrating to a busy individual than blocking off an hour or more just to attend a meeting for a discussion that could easily have been handled via email.
So how do you tame the meeting monster? One strategy is a “reboot” of all of your existing meetings. Review all of the meetings that are on your calendar, and remove all of those that are recurring. Declare a “meeting moratorium” for at least two weeks, and then slowly add meetings that need to take place, but schedule them for half of their normal block. Chances are you’ll discover that most of your meetings were unnecessary — and that the ones that remain are more productive.
2. Technology Problems
Unlike major enterprises that employ a dedicated IT staff, many small-business owners play multiple roles. That’s why technology issues often eat up a significant portion of each day. Not to mention, many of the tools that are designed to help entrepreneurs build their business are often cumbersome to use, to the point where you choose either not to use them at all, or make things more difficult than they need to be.
For example, reporting and document generation software leader Windward notes that many solutions designed for those tasks are exceedingly complicated and require a wealth of technical knowledge; by implementing a simpler solution that allows reports to be generated directly from popular programs, entrepreneurs can save time and money. And while outsourcing certain functions, like network security and site hosting, represent an expense, those services will more than pay for themselves in more time and reduced headaches.
Your business is your baby, and you want every detail to be handled just so. But how much time are you spending watching over employees, double-checking work, and having a hand in absolutely everything? While keeping your finger on the pulse of your company is important, you also need to trust your employees to do their jobs. Just because something does something different than how you would do it doesn’t mean it’s wrong, so take a step back and let others’ do their jobs.
4. Administrative Tasks
Payroll. Scheduling. Filing. Managing correspondence. Reconciling bank accounts. How much time are you spending on tasks like these? While it might seem like you are saving money by handling administrative tasks yourself, you’re taking time away from other important tasks, and most likely overwhelming yourself.
In fact, many entrepreneurs have a tendency to put off administrative tasks that they deem tedious, which only makes them take more time later on. Place a value on your time, and outsource administrative jobs like bookkeeping and payroll. They will be done faster, and probably more accurately.
5. Not Thinking Strategically
Entrepreneurs often waste time because they don’t approach their business strategically. For example, you may want to incorporate social media into your marketing, but if you are just playing around for an hour a day, you aren’t going to get anywhere. Undertake every task with a purpose. As you plan your days, ask yourself how each activity benefits the business, and where it fits in the bigger picture. Anything that doesn’t have a clear purpose, or doesn’t further the goals, needs to be removed.
There will always be days when you feel like you aren’t using your time to its greatest advantage. But if you can avoid wasting time more often than not, you will see the difference in both your business’s success, and your own mindset.