Small business owners often waste time.
Even though a study conducted by TSheets found that nearly 60% of self-employed workers said they either worked every weekend or every other weekend, If you’re truly honest with yourself, you’ll probably admit that there’s a difference between “spending time on work-like activities” and actually “working.”
However, if you own your own business, wasting time means wasted opportunities—time that could be devoted to strengthening your business plan. If you’re caught in a cycle of wasting time on the internet or other time wasters, we’ve got a five-point plan for overcoming procrastination once and for all.
1. Stop Procrastinating By Keeping Track of Your Time
How will you know where your time is disappearing if you don’t track it? While keeping a time log may seem time-consuming itself at first, it doesn’t have to be, and we promise it will be a revelation, and you’ll find that it’s the foundation for identifying and taming your time wasters at work.
Time management expert and author Laura Vanderkam has written several books explaining the benefits of time tracking: Her premise is that we all have 168 hours in a week, and yet some people seem to accomplish a whole lot more than others.
Seeing where your time actually goes is the key to the next steps in this procrastination-busting plan.
2. Identify Your Biggest Time Wasters
Now you can clearly see those pockets of time where you’re “at work,” but not actually working.
We all have our time wasters of choice, and for many of us, it’s often social media. But that’s certainly not the only rabbit hole that’s easy to fall down when you know you should be working.
If you work from home, you might be sidetracked by a dog that needs to be walked, laundry that needs to be folded, dinner that needs to be started or shows that need to be binge-watched.
And let’s not forget email: Some reports find that an average person can send and receive 200+ emails a day, which can gobble up an incredible amount of time. Email can be a particularly dangerous pitfall because it makes you feel like you’re being productive…even though often you’re not.
When you drill down in your time log, you’ll see where your time is going and then you can decide if each action is a necessary, legitimate work activity or if it is a form of procrastination.
After all, doing online research is fine, but if you discover that you are wasting time on the internet keeping up on celebrity gossip or checking last nights scores, you might decide to reclaim those hours for pursuits that will move you closer to your business goals.
3. Write a Schedule Every Day
Many people love the “to-do list” and enjoy the satisfaction of crossing items off as they’re completed. While that can be an effective way to manage your day, you might well find at 6 p.m. that there was more “list” than there were hours in the day.
That’s because it’s easy to ambitiously plan far too much without taking into account how much time each task requires. A better strategy is to make a schedule that shows what activities you need to accomplish and slot them into the exact time period when you plan to do them.
Maybe your to-do list includes scheduling a fact-finding meeting with a new vendor, sending invoices and updating your business plan—plus three scheduled client appointments. When you start writing out those activities in blocks—including drive time to meetings, etc.—you’ll see how your day will unfold, and you won’t be tempted to waste time because you’ll want to stay on schedule.
That’s also why you should write a schedule that includes time to eat lunch, have an email break and walk the dog. By writing it down, you give yourself permission to do these activities that are important for much-needed mental or physical breaks. But by noting how much time you’ve allotted for web surfing, for example, you’ll be more apt to get back on task when time is up, rather than visiting one more website.
4. Use a timer
One of the best ways to stay on your schedule is to actually use a timer and vow to stay on task until the timer rings. It will keep you productively working and will also help you stick with the schedule you’ve created.
One popular timer-related productivity hack to try is the Pomodoro technique, which is brilliant in its simplicity. You set a timer for 25 minutes and work diligently until it goes off.
Then you take a five-minute break. After four “Pomodoros,” (that’s what they call each segment), you have earned a longer 15-minute break. The technique helps keep you on task but also gives you permission to enjoy your short break, which can help prevent longer time-wasting sessions. Of course, you can lengthen your Pomodoros, but make sure you’re committed to doing one task for the entire time.
5. Make Use of Micro-Moments.
Did your conference call get delayed 10 minutes or did your meeting end 10 minutes early?
It’s easy to squander those 10 minutes by checking in on social media, but if you, like many, have at least three of those 10-minute blocks per day that’s 30 minutes that could be devoted to accomplishing a task instead of a time waster.
Try keeping a running list of short tasks that you can slot into “found” time. For example, if researching a new customer takes about 10 minutes, keep a list of potential clients and spend that time reading up on their business and taking notes for your next pitch.
At the end of the week, you might have identified five new clients to contact, without needing to devote an entire hour to the research. Once you start allocating these micro pods of time, it will become like a game.
And then, by all means, enjoy your Instagram time. But schedule it in rather than letting it become a time waster.
Figuring out how to stop wasting time can be challenging at first, but you are likely to be surprised when you realize how much you can get accomplished toward your business goals in the extra time that appears once you eliminate time wasters.
You’ll be amazed at how you can move your business forward by overcoming procrastination through using a time log, a schedule and a timer, combined with other procedures and processes that streamline your business.
To find out more about what TSheets learned on how Small Business owners spend their time read our article on the realities of self-employment.