For entrepreneurs, juggling objectives and wearing multiple hats is inevitable. That’s why it is so key for entrepreneurs to be aware of where their time and effort is spent.
Streamlining processes and focusing on the right priorities is a must for entrepreneurs and small business owners that want to get ahead.
The concept of focusing on improving productivity is what Greg Brown, The Productivity DJ, is all about. Greg Brown consults entrepreneurs and solopreneurs in small businesses to help them identify sticky points in their workflows and refine processes to achieve increased productivity and grow their business.
We interviewed Greg to learn about the common time wasters that hold entrepreneurs back, and how to overcome each of these obstacles.
What are the top 3 most common time-wasters entrepreneurs experience?
Greg Brown: I work with entrepreneurs and small businesses with 1-20 employees. In most cases their concerns with time management, inefficiency, and time wasters are the same. Email, co-worker interruptions, and meetings are the biggest time wasters that have practical solutions.
How can entrepreneurs be more efficient with managing email?
Greg: Most company employees spend too much time in email applications; reading, answering and creating conversations that don’t actually move the business forward.
With many of my clients, email is the biggest distraction and time waster. At least that is how they would describe it. Lets be very clear, email is not the problem; how we interact with email is the issue. A common myth is that answering email is real work. If all emails are answered and one ends the day at “Inbox Zero,” a hard days work has been accomplished.
We (myself included) have turned email into something it was never intended to be. It is not a to-do list manager, or word processor, and it is not a face-to-face conversation tool.
Email is meant to be a tool that facilitates moving the business-project communication forward. Before sending an email ask yourself this question:
Does this email communication move our business/relationship forward in a positive way?
How email is processed can be a huge time waster. Many people process their email inbox just like they handle physical paper. They pick a piece of information up, read it, decide it’s too hard to deal with at present and put it back in the pile for later review. The same process is done with their email inbox. They glance over the subject lines to decide what they deem doable and put off the most significant subjects.
Instead, try the following actions:
- Process every email in your Inbox every day.
- Do it (if it is actionable and will take less than two minutes. The GTD methodology)
- Delegate it (who is the most qualified and skilled?)
- Defer it (or park in a trusted system scheduled for later. For example, using a tool like Daylite to create a task, appointment, or project).
- Delete it (trash it if it’s spam or you don’t need to respond!)
- File it (into “Archive Folder” easily found with search tool or use a tool like Daylite to link it to a project/person).
Process your email Inbox each day to identify next actions and move your projects and business forward.
To help with email overload and become more effective with sending emails use these email etiquette techniques to avoid an avalanche of email:
- Make email actionable.
- Get to the point. Use short paragraphs 2-3 lines. (If the recipient has to scroll down on a laptop, it’s too long).
- Pick up the phone and call them if the email is to long.
- Don’t go crazy on the CC. (Only include those who need to be part of the discussion or can move the business or project forward).
- Unsubscribe (If there are unnecessary emails distracting you from doing work, remove yourself from their mailing list).
You can control email, don’t let email control you!
How do you combat time waster #2: Co-worker interruptions?
Greg: Co-worker interruptions can lead to multiple hours of wasted productivity. One small interruption can lead to 23 minutes of wasted time before you refocus on what you were doing before the interruption. Multiply this by many interruptions a day and you can see the impact of interruptions on productivity.
Here are some ways to cut back on interruptions:
- Make a list of ideas, questions, thoughts to ask a co-worker at an appropriate time. (This can be done as a note in Daylite and be linked to the person you want to share with).
- Carve out specific work time periods that are interruption free zones.
- Close your office door. (Create a schedule for office hours in Daylite shared calendar)
- Wear headphones. (In open office environments, headphones can be a signal for no interruptions).
How can you overcome time waster #3: Meetings?
Greg: Unnecessary, unplanned meetings are unproductive for everyone. Just like setting up email in the above examples, you need to set out rules and guidelines for meetings to be effective. Stop people from wasting your time and require these before any meeting:
- Is this meeting necessary? (Can we do online, on the phone, via chat application?)
- Carefully evaluate who you invite to meetings. (Disruptors can quickly derail a meeting).
- Make agendas required for all meetings. (Include a stated purpose/goal/outcome for the meeting and set a specific time to start and end).
- Have a system of note taking and action follow-up. (Notes & tasks within Daylite are great for this and can be linked to a project)
- Review meeting notes and action items. (Hold people accountable for actions and review what has been previously discussed)
Taking a small amount of time to prepare for meetings can pay big dividends and move your business or project forward in a positive way.
In a nutshell, there are three solutions entrepreneurs and small business owners can leverage to be more productive with their time:
- Process email in an effective way to identify priorities and get real work done.
- Set-up guidelines to cut back on co-worker interruptions
- Have intentional plans for every company meeting.
Need help managing emails, meetings, and priorities? Try Daylite.