When was the last time you chatted with an entrepreneur and heard “I don’t have much going on”? Probably never.
In the business world, we often talk about maximizing resources like time. Yet we operate in ways that suggest we don’t truly understand just how valuable it is.
Time management may well be what makes or breaks your company. To manage your time effectively, you can’t just work a lot; you have to focus your work on the initiatives that are most important to your company (not to mention your own well-being).
The first step to that? Identifying where your work time is wasted. These areas are common culprits:
1. Manually scheduling meetings and appointments
It’s 2019: Technology has opened doors we didn’t even know existed 10 years ago. Elon Musk launched a Tesla Roadster into space. Chatbots are arguing parking tickets in court.
Technology is far past the point where you need to email back and forth to find a time that works. Scheduling tools like Appointment.com let anyone book a meeting with you. Clients can cancel and reschedule their appointments without ever bringing you or an employee into the mix.
2. Manually following up on emails
Why limit automation to your calendar? Lots of entrepreneurs admit they spend too much time in their email. Manage mission-critical messages yourself, but let tech take care of the follow-ups.
Email automation allows you to take those “Just checking in” messages off your schedule. Set your desired frequency and trigger events, such as whether the email was read or replied to. Send follow-ups every few days to keep sales leads hot and check in with candidates for open roles.
3. Getting sucked into a social media black hole
For many entrepreneurs, brand-building is a task that falls to the business owner. Social media is a great branding tool, but beware that social sites are designed to maximize the amount of time you spend on them.
Before you log in, have a goal in mind. Whether you want to reach a new audience or respond to comments on your company page, set a timer. If you simply want to queue up some posts, save time by batching them with a social media scheduling service like Hootsuite. It’s more efficient — and less tempting — to spend three hours once a week scheduling posts than 20 minutes here and there.
4. Not taking breaks
Entrepreneurs are notorious for working long hours and being “always on.” But as the saying goes, an empty lantern provides no light.
Like it or not, you have to take time away from work to manage the other important areas of your life. Work breaks into your schedule. Take longer rests as well. Spend time with family, learn a new skill, and get out in nature. Whatever fills your cup, do it wholeheartedly and without guilt.
5. Having an open-door policy
As a founder, one of the most important things you can do is listen. Your teammates need to know you’re there for them. Your investors need your ear, as do your customers.
If you’re not careful, though, you’ll spend your whole day taking feedback and talking strategy. It’s important to set boundaries for unscheduled conversations. You have work to do, and much of it requires your undivided attention. Set specific times to respond to emails. Let callers leave a voicemail. If it’s truly an emergency, you can call them right back. It’s OK to close your door.
6. Networking just to network
Networking has a lot of benefits for entrepreneurs. Going to every possible event without a reason, however, is a huge time waster. Because these events are often outside business hours, they cut into your valuable time off.
Going to an irrelevant conference or social event can be just as wasteful as getting sucked into that social media black hole. Be selective about the events you attend. Get as much detail as you can about who will be there and what you may gain from going. Although there’s nothing wrong with making new friends or helping others, not all opportunities are created equal.
As an entrepreneur, you simply can’t afford to spend a single minute on something that isn’t going to benefit your business. If you’re guilty of any of these time wasters, know that you’re not alone — but also know that now is a great time to change.