These days, it seems like saying you’re busy is a status symbol, as if being busy means you are successful. Of course, sitting on your backside doing nothing all day is never the recipe for success, but the cold hard truth is that running around being busy can actually be worse. The problem with being busy is that you restrict the time you have to THINK, and it is thinking that creates success. Stephen Covey, author of the #1 best seller, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People identified that unsuccessful people spend more of their time being distracted by unimportant and often non urgent matters.
The key to success is reducing these distractions as much as you can. Here are some of the most common time killers, and what you can do to combat them:
1. Too many policies and procedures
While I am an advocate of systems in every business, sometimes the systems can run you, rather than you running the systems. If you find yourself getting behind, or bogged down in filling in forms as part of your policies and procedures, then take a step back and critically evaluate the need for them. Are they helping you save time and money, or costing you time and money? Are there regulatory requirements that you have to meet? If there are extensive procedures within your industry that have to be followed, then ask yourself if it’s something you need to do personally, or can you delegate or automate the form filling so that you free up your time to do more important work?
2. Unnecessary/unfocused meetings
According to a recent survey, almost half of office workers view pointless meetings as the biggest waste of time in their workplace. As well as impacting on productivity, these can also sap motivation and impact on the rest of your team’s tasks. To minimise wasted time, try to make sure all your team meetings are short, and stick to the objectives of the meeting. Besides the obvious steps, such as preparing an agenda and notes beforehand, allotting time for each point on the agenda and making sure you start and finish on time, there are a few tricks that can also boost the efficiency and effectiveness of meetings.
For example, keeping everyone standing for a meeting helps keep meetings short and focused on their purpose. Providing a forum for attendees to note ideas and comments which aren’t relevant to the meeting prevents these issues from derailing the meeting. Getting an off-topic discussion back on track can cost valuable time.
3. Taking on too many responsibilities
For most people, it takes at least a little time to get up to full speed on a task. Switching between tasks or handling too many tasks at once can reduce your overall productivity. Multi-tasking is to some extent unavoidable, especially when running a small business or working in a small team, but overloading yourself with numerous tasks at a time is not helpful. As a business owner, you need to focus on the tasks that are going to make the most impact on your business success.
You need to learn to say “NO”, and get good at delegating. Until you learn to respect your own time, then don’t expect anybody else to respect it. Once you have reduced your responsibilities to those that really matter, think about smart scheduling using a scheduling app or simple default diary that creates time blocks for each task and improves productivity. Then roll this out to your team. By scheduling time for specific responsibilities, it will be easier for team members to manage their time across different duties and know when to expect responses from colleagues.
4. Social media & internet browsing
Social media is designed to be addictive. The more time you spend on them the more you see adverts and the more money the advertisers make. Social media platforms are extremely effective at convincing you to spend just a minute or two scrolling through your feed. These little unplanned breaks quickly add up to hours of wasted time. If they are part of your sales and marketing strategy, be clear what your objectives are for social media, and plan for the time you spend on them. Getting into the habit of scheduling all your social media activity takes the pressure off by planning your posts in advance, having them posted at the most beneficial time and giving you much-needed offline time.
5. Email communication
Email is a great communication tool, but the opportunities for distraction are huge. Most email inboxes contain hundreds, if not thousands of emails. Just imagine your desk as being your inbox, and think what it would look like if each e-mail message was a piece of paper! Every day, hundreds of messages are received adding to the pile, and most of them are junk, unimportant or just cc’s.
You have to be ultra-disciplined with your emails. Set up rules to move unimportant emails automatically into folders that you can review at your leisure. Unsubscribe to anything that is not going to help you achieve your goals. Have a separate email for all your personal messages that you only look at when you are at home. Be ruthless in what you delete, and make sure you are only cc’d on things that really matter. Set yourself specific times of the day for looking at e-mails, and turn off notifications. You could also look into other communication tools such as Slack and What’s App for better forms of important communication with your team and customers.
What other areas sap your time? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment.