There are only 24 hours in a day, and you can only spend a fraction of those hours working. But these days, entrepreneurs are spending less and less time on the tasks they actually need to complete, survey findings suggest. Business owners can't afford to slow down, so what’s distracting them and how can they improve their productivity? Let's find out.
What's Keeping Entrepreneurs from Improving Productivity?
A June 2017 survey from The Alternative Board illustrates how business owners spend their time – and sometimes waste it. It found on average, business owners say they have 1.5 hours of uninterrupted time to be highly productive working on their business. According to that survey…
- 35 percent of entrepreneurs cite poor time management as their biggest productivity killer.
- 25 percent say poor communication is to blame.
- 16 percent cite technology distractions as their challenge.
So how exactly do business owners reclaim the time lost? We've asked experts to weigh in, and here's what they suggest.
1. Sort and Delegate Your "To-Don't" List
As a way to earn back lost time, Dave Scarola, chief experience officer of The Alternative Board (@TAB_Boards), suggests that entrepreneurs create a "To Don't" list. This outlines the tasks that business owners shouldn’t spend their time on so they are free to focus on "big-picture" tasks. For example, you might add the following to your list:
- Administrative tasks.
- HR tasks.
- Social media maintenance.
Once you figure out which tasks are taking up too much of the time that should be devoted to growing your business, delegate those tasks to employees or outsource them to contractors who can better manage them.
For pointers on delegating and outsourcing tasks, read "4 Tips to Optimize Your Small Business Processes" and "The Freelancer's 6-Question Guide to Knowing When to Outsource."
2. Don't Spend Too Much Time on Emails
According to the survey, most business owners report spending the most time on emails. To keep email maintenance from taking up all your time, Scarola recommends blocking out times for specific tasks during the day, a technique that could curb the time spent responding to emails.
Business coach Steve McCready (@smccready) of Steve McCready Coaching & Psychotherapy takes that suggestion one step further. He warns entrepreneurs not to leave read emails in their inboxes.
"Delete, file, act, or reply," McCready says. "In the reply, try and find a balance of being brief and keeping it simple but not to the point of being curt or stiff."
McCready also recommends you consider the fastest method of communication. If email isn’t it, switch to another method, he says.
3. Keep Company Communication Short and Focused
According to The Alternative Board survey, most business owners report losing considerable time in meetings, both in person and on the phone. Only four percent of business owners think those meetings are fully productive.
The fix? Structure long meetings or conversations, attach objectives to them, and set a strict time limit. While you probably can't forgo meetings entirely, you can increase their effectiveness by creating an agenda for the meeting, says McCready. He notes that business owners can appoint someone to refocus the conversation once it inevitably drifts off topic.
Executive coach Bruce Cameron (@cameroncoaches) thinks entrepreneurs should restrict meetings to tight a time limit and change the way they interact via phone.
"Make meetings short, to the point, and structured," Cameron says. "Answer calls with, ‘How can I help you?’ This focuses the conversation and minimizes the chit chat."
For more productivity pointers, check out "Home-Office Hacks for Higher Productivity."
About the contributors
Dave Scarola is chief experience officer of The Alternative Board. He has more than 20 years of consulting, product development, and technology experience across different industries including hospitality, healthcare, and financial services.
Bruce Cameron is a career coach who uses his knowledge of interpersonal and workplace difficulties to help individuals flourish, including those in periods of crisis. He has a background in federal law enforcement and has more than 25 years of development, consultation, and assessment for high-value and high-potential individuals from C-suite to the front line.
Steve McCready is a coach with a background as a licensed marriage and family therapist. After 15 years working as a psychotherapist, he now coaches entrepreneurs, helping them increase their impact and income by mastering their mental game.