The 6 Biggest Time Wasters All Small Business Owners Need To Avoid

The key to profit is productivity, and if you and your employees are wasting time on unnecessary tasks, like phone checking and emails,  it could be costing you. Did you know that on average, Americans check their phones 80 times a day? And that a study done by Carleton University found that employees spend a third of their day checking and responding to emails? Here are the six biggest time wasters that could be hindering your startup’s success:

1. Obsessive Phone Checking

Most people don’t realize how often they pick up their phone “just to check it” or how much time they spend mindlessly scrolling their social media feed. Being glued to your phone is a huge way to slow down your workflow, and is something many employees and business owners need to be more aware of. Creating a work environment where cell phone use is limited during office hours will create a workspace of efficiency and focus. And just think, the less you check your phone throughout the day the more you’ll have to look at it on your lunch break or at home! 


2. Being Glued To Emails

Having your email open all day and responding to messages as they come in can feel like you’re multitasking, but it could really slow you down. Successful business owners know that responding to emails all day cuts down on progress, and devote specific blocks of time to check, write and respond to emails. Scale down your email “to-do” list by identifying emails that are junk or spam and delete them right away. Messages that don’t need a response can be deleted or put in an appropriate folder, and then you can focus on more critical emails by order of importance. People understand that you’re working and (most of the time) don’t expect you to reply in minutes of receiving their email. Set aside specific time to respond so that you can give your full attention to other important tasks throughout the day. 


3. Not Having A Plan

Walking into work with a plan and purpose helps you prioritize your tasks and can get you in the right mindset to be productive. Winging it, or starting your day with no direction, is a recipe for distraction. Devote 15 minutes of your morning (or the night before) to make a list of what needs to be accomplished in the day. This will help you walk into work with a purpose and avoid interruptions that cost you precious time.


4. Meetings That Don’t Need To Be Meetings

Meetings throughout the workday are a great way to keep everyone focused and on the same page. They’re vital in communicating key changes in the office policy, sharing ideas, and moving the company forward. They’re also responsible for a lot of wasted time. Can you say what you need to say in an email? Can you pop over and talk face-to-face to the people who need to know this new information? If so, do that! But if not, you may have to schedule a meeting. Come into the meeting with an agenda and plan of topics, set a timeline for the meeting, and stick with it.

To make meetings more productive, you can take some ideas from big companies like Linkedin and Amazon. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has a simple yet effective rule when it comes to meetings: don’t schedule a meeting if two pizzas wouldn’t be enough to feed everyone. Meetings at Linkedin require presenters to send all meeting materials to participants 24 hours in advance, to eliminate the need for lengthy presentations.


5. Catering To Needy Clients

At the beginning of any new business, business owners are willing to do whatever it takes to expand their customer base and impress their audience. As the startup develops and the customer base grows, owners will find themselves dealing with particularly needy clients that take a lot of time. And while we never want to turn business away, it’s important to identify the clients or situations that are requiring an excessive amount of time. You don’t have to get rid of them, but you do need to find ways to meet their needs in ways that require less of your time. 


6. Micromanaging Employees

This business is your baby. It’s your dream, you’ve worked hard to turn it into a reality, and you want it all to go perfectly. But hovering over your employees as they work or listening in on phone calls is not only going to annoy them, it’s going to waste a lot of your time. You hired these people because you felt they’d be a good fit. Let them be a good fit without trying to micromanage everything they do. If you have employees who need to be watched, led, and walked through their job, they may not be the right fit. Micromanaging can really hinder the growth of your business, not to mention waste time and make your employees feel like you don’t trust them; all of which are bad for business. Step back and let them work so you can spend your time taking care of more important tasks. 

There is a lot to do in the everyday life of a small business owner. There are hundreds of things to think about, plan, do, create, schedule, and work on. Effective time management is a sign of a successful and experienced business owner.

If you notice one or more of these things happening in your startup, make the changes to get back on track to increase growth, progress, and profit.

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