06 February 2015

3 Facts On Time Management Small Business Owners Ignore

Think back to the last time you sat at your desk for one hour. Can you account for every minute of that period? Most of us can’t—the embarrassing truth about time management is that we’re wasting our days on insignificant tasks. In lieu of productivity, we’re settling for waste.

It’s time to reclaim our productivity so we can maximize our time and do things more efficiently. With that in mind, here are three facts on time management small business owners ignore. Are you guilty of any of these?

1. The First 10 Minutes Of Your Day Can’t Be Wasted

How we’re guilty:
Most of us begin our work days in a reactive mode, as this article from Harvard Business Review explains:

“For many of us, checking email or listening to voice mail is practically automatic. In many ways, these are among the worst ways to start a day. Both activities hijack our focus and put us in a reactive mode, where other people’s priorities take center stage.”

We prioritize reacting to what others need from us, and in turn, don’t have the attention or time to complete our own tasks when we finally get around to doing them.

Time expense:
Varies; anywhere from 2 hours to an entire 8-hour-day depending on the scale of the responses required.

What we can do instead:
Take the first 10 minutes before you do anything—before you open your email, before you listen to voice messages, and before you have any meetings—to create a blueprint for your day. According to the previously mentioned article, in order to improve time management in the workplace, your blueprint should include:

  • Specifically named actions you’re going to take. For example, “Prepare for marketing meeting” isn’t good enough—you need to break down the individual actions required to complete that task. In this case, it may look like this:
  • Research last month’s social media analytics.
  • Send it to managers for feedback.
  • Input managers’ feedback into slides, etc.
  • Map out step-by-step how you’ll use your time, per task, to accomplish it.
  • Prioritize your tasks from most challenging to least challenging.

2. Obsessively Checking Email Wastes Time Exponentially

How we’re guilty:
The average employee checks his or her email an estimated 36 times per hour, and requires about 16 minutes to refocus on a task after responding, filing, or acting on their inbox.

Time expense:
1-4 hours daily. In one really interesting study, productivity specialist Claire Barge shows us how she saves 3 hours every working day by ditching email altogether.

What we can do instead:
Most of us won’t be able to walk away from email completely, so we need to find ways to incorporate email without letting it rule over us. Editor-in-Chief and Director of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei suggests the following steps in this article:

  • Don’t check email first thing in the morning. (See above.)
  • Write concise, actionable emails.
  • Give “Priority Inbox” a try if you use Gmail.

Here are a few more suggestions:

  • Don’t keep an open email browser when you’re working. In fact, close all of your browsers, windows, and apps except the one or two you’re working in.
  • There are apps and software programs created to help you block out distractions like email and social media—try one.
  • Stop using your inbox as your to-do list.
  • Pick up the phone and have a half-hour talk instead of a 4-day emailed conversation. You’ll finish your task quicker and improve your communication skills, too.

3. Meet As A Last Resort

How we’re guilty:
Ah, meetings… everyone’s favorite business pastime. Just kidding… of the 11 million meetings held every day, about half of them are considered time wasted by employees.

Time expense:
$37 billion in salary costs for unnecessary meetings in U.S. businesses.1

What we can do instead:
First, you need to address why you’re meeting at all and if any alternatives to meeting exist. If the answers to both questions lead to a clear need to having a meeting, then you must make sure your meetings answer the “Why am I even here?” question for every employee present. This article outlines seven ways to do that.

No matter how hard we try to perfect time management in the workplace, we’ll never reach 100 percent productivity—even machines can’t do that! By focusing on eliminating tasks that waste time, small business owners can allocate time to completing projects and making headway on goals that have a significant impact on the output of your business.