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Have you ever looked at your watch or the clock and thought, “where did the time go?”
The day only has so many hours so you want to use your time as effectively and efficiently as possible – especially if you are running a home based business by yourself.
In no particular order, some of the worst time wasters for any small business owner are:
“I know it’s here somewhere”.…
Have you ever had to say or think this when you were on the phone with someone or needing something to work on a task? Maybe you can’t find what you need quickly because of the pile(s) of scattered papers on your desk. Maybe your online organization is weak or even non-existent.
Disorganization is one of the most common causes of wasted time and slowing down work production. Also, it increases the risk of missing important deadlines or just plain forgetting something.
Solution #1: Spend some time to declutter your workstation. Get a desk organizer and folders (a must if you’re constantly submerged with paper hard copies). Label your folders as required and put everything in its place before you leave work each day.
Solution #2: Create a schedule/checklist. A short one for daily activities and one for the beginning and end of every week. At first, it may seem like its extra work but in reality, documenting exactly what you need to do, and checking off the list as you do each item, will help you keep track of progress and move from one project to another, without wasting so much precious time in between.
At some point in your working life, you’ve probably encountered some, if not all, of these time wasting factors. But now you have no more excuses.
#3: Online Distractions
Salary.com, conducted a survey and found that 80% of workers admit visiting non-work related websites while on the clock. These included social networks, online games, emails, instant messaging, online shopping, etc. It can be very tempting to check something out for work and then wander off for a few minutes here and there before getting refocused to the job at hand.
Solution #1: Block your personal social media accounts if you can’t quit checking every few minutes, Google Chrome has an extension called “StayFocused”. It allows you to set a time limit for certain websites each day. Once your time is up you can’t access the site anymore until the next day. While it may seem a little harsh, it’s actually quite innovative and effective. Everybody needs a little help now and then.
Solution #2: Allow yourself to take scheduled breaks. That will give you time to check your social media accounts and non-work-related interests without affecting work. Hint – remember it’s a timed break – when it’s over, close the windows and get focused on productive work.
Solution #3: Another simple solution would be to track the websites everyone is visiting. A time management software like “TimeDoctor” could help you do this.
#4. Social Media
It’s tempting. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram – they’re all so easily accessible to you while you’re on your computer during the day. Yet the moment you land on one of these websites, you’ve stolen away valuable minutes from your day.
Now that so much promotion is being done on social media, you actually give yourself an excuse to open up the sites.
Test yourself to see how much time you’re wasting on social media. Set a timer each time you head over to one of these websites. You might surprise yourself.
To avoid wasting excessive time on social media, have a plan, set a time limit for each day and stick to it. When your time is up, close the windows the next day.
Automatic notifications that tell you when a new email arrives are very distracting and time consuming. One second you’re totally focused and the next you’re checking an email. Now you’ve lost focus and you’re reacting to something, that in all likely hood is not all that important.
Solution #1. A good rule of thumb is schedule times to look at your inbox e.g. once in the morning, right after lunch and just before you quit work.
Tip #1: Never check your emails first thing in the morning. Instead, spend at least 30 to 60 minutes (or more if you can manage) working on something important. This is your most productive time of the day and you don’t want to get bogged down with emails and follow-up.
#2. Like paper handling, deal with the email once and then file or delete it.
Solution #2: If there’s something that needs to be discussed, opt for a quick phone call or face-to-face conversation instead. It can mean the difference between an hour of work and a two-day back and forth email discussion.
#6: Colleague / Family Interactions
Forty-three percent of people who responded to the Salary.com survey said interacting with coworkers caused them to miss the most work, beating the 28 percent who answered with surfing the Internet. Nobody wants to spend their workday in silence, but who can truly admit to be a master of multitasking?
If working at home, rules or restrictions need to be set so everyone knows that when you are “working”, nothing less than an emergency should cause a disruption.
Solution #1: Close the door to your office, wear headphones or create some other signal that lets your colleagues / family know that you’re busy and need to be focused. You don’t want to be bothered by anything less than an emergency.
Solution #2: Set a work schedule and make sure everyone knows it. Same rules apply as in #1. People will adapt if you stick to the schedule and rule.
Solution #3: If you’re busy working on something, and a chatty coworker starts talking about last night’s baseball game, tell them you’re glad they stopped by because you need them to [insert pointless work-related task here]. If they leave with a job to do, they’ll be reluctant to come back to chat.
#7: Motivation (or rather, a lack of)
How’s this for honesty?
When asked to identify the main reasons why employees waste time at work:
11 percent said it was due to a lack of incentive,
10 percent said they were unsatisfied in their jobs, and
9 percent claimed boredom.
Where do you fit in these results?
From time to time everyone finds it difficult to maintain a level of enthusiasm for their work. Maybe your job has become mundane and repetitive. Maybe you’re frustrated and just don’t care anymore. Maybe there’re just too much to do.
Solution #1: Set some personal goals. Working without an incentive quickly takes away any motivation. Try not to feel trapped in your job. Perhaps you should work toward a promotion or look for other opportunities that could improve your outlook. Identify where do you want to be and how are you going to get there? With clear goals, you’ll have better focus and find yourself working more productively.
Solution #2: Routines are great for efficiency and getting work done. But sometimes you need to mix them up. Get out of the rut. Try new techniques or alternative methods to what you’re using now. Maybe there’s a more efficient way of doing things e.g.:
– complete a task every second day instead of every day,
– do something in the afternoon instead of the morning,
– switch certain tasks to after your break so you’re more focused.
Also, in this day and age, there may be an app for that! It’s amazing how many repetitive tasks can be done or made easier with apps for your phone or computer.
You might just make your job interesting again. You might learn something and you might even eliminate some of your daily work. If you’re suddenly more efficient and have a better outlook, it will be obvious to everyone around you while giving you more personal satisfaction.
#8. Technology Issues
Sooner or later, if you’re working with technology, you’re going to have some problems. They can be little glitches or monster stumbling blocks to getting your work done. If you’ve got some skill in this area, lucky you. If you’re like most of us, it’s “oh, oh, what do I do now” time.
Solution #1. Make sure you back up everything, everyday! There’s not much worse than suddenly having your whole business disappear because of a crash.
Solution #2. Try to locate help before you have a problem. Have a go-to IT person or service available on speed dial. It may cost a bit up front but it can save a ton of money and time in the long run.
Maybe you know somebody already who could help out with minor issues. Same deal, have them ready on speed dial.
Solution #3. Often, phone support is available from your internet service provider or where ever you bought your device. Don’t overlook this valuable contact.
If you’re going to run a business online or off, you’ve got to keep good, up to date records and file your income tax forms as needed. Without good record keeping, you could put your business at big financial risk.
Things like balancing your credit card accounts, keeping records, invoicing, payroll, and chasing down bad debt are be very time consuming.
Solution #1. Set a regular schedule to focus on keeping your information up to date. File all your bills and balance sheets so they are easily accessible should you need to reconcile a bill payment, follow-up on bad debt, or find out where that extra $250 went.
Solution #2. Outsource to a professional. Let your bookkeeper do what they are trained to do while you focus on building your business.
Solution #3. If you’re not ready to hire someone, then use one of the hundreds of online accounting tools that are available. But remember, you need to put the data in if you want results back.
Some programs like WaveAccounting and Freshbooks, just to name a couple, are easy to use and will follow-up with overdue invoices automatically. They can also give you quick overview of your debts, credit cards and business bank account.
If you have a team, meetings are a necessary evil. You need to keep everyone on the same page. You need regular updates on what’s happening in each of your projects. But too often, meetings get drawn out, stealing away valuable minutes in your day.
Plan meetings carefully. For a quick update, hold a stand-up meeting for a maximum of ten minutes. Don’t give your team the chance to sit down. Instead, rapid fire only the vital information needed to keep everyone on the same page.
If you need a longer meeting, set an agenda. Stick to the topics that must be covered and avoid veering too far off course with stories or brainstorming sessions.
Sometimes a simple memo will share all the required info in a much more efficient time manner. Also, there are some great project managing software solutions that are quite inexpensive or free. I use free versions of both Asana (Asana.com) and Trello (Trello.com).
#11. Packing and Shipping
If your business requires you pack and ship goods then you need to look closely at the time involved. Is there a quicker and simpler way to fill the orders? Are they done individually as needed or by a schedule e.g. once every day or two?
Another thing that can take away your time is running your goods to the post office or courier outlet. If this describes your business, see if you can work with the shipping company to find a cheaper and faster option.
Many shipping companies will come to your house or office and pick up boxes. Setting up your account and printing labels on the fly can also save you hours of time each week.
Employee scheduling can be time consuming. There are lots of things to consider e.g. juggling time off requests, meetings, availability, shifts.
The good news is: “There’s an app for that”. In fact, there are many apps available at various price points.
Getsling.com is highly recommended and best of all, it’s FREE!
Spend less time trying to organize everyone’s personal agenda and more time running your business.
#13. Note Taking
As you go through your workday, have meetings, take phone calls, set up programs, adjust the marketing schedule, etc you’re always getting ideas, jotting things down on your “to-do” list, or keeping track of the steps involved in doing a certain task. When you finally get a moment to review everything it’s a logistical nightmare.
Sorting through the notes and papers trying to find the information you need takes longer than doing the work itself.
Solution #1. Having an app for your phone, tablet or computer is like having a virtual assistant helping you out.
Evernote.com and Microsoft Onenote are two of the common apps that allow you to jot down ideas, tasks, and other notes. Then, when you’re ready to tackle your to-do list, everything is sorted and easy to find. You waste less time searching and more time working.
Solution #2. If it’s just in the office, keep a notebook handy and use it for nothing else. Keep notes on all phone conversations, to-do or follow-up items, issues, purchases, time and date sending things out, etc. Each day has its place. You can always refer back to see what happened and when or what you have to do.
Tip: Clearly label the book and make sure it has a prominent place in your work space.