Increasing productivity and establishing better time-management skills is on every entrepreneurs to do list …if only they could find the time to get to them. Here’s some of the biggest time wasters that plague us all and how to eliminate them.
The problem with many of the interruptions that take us away from important tasks is that they often still seem like work. Responding to texts, answering the phone, and checking emails can all technically be work related.
Although designed to be faster than traditional mail, email should not require the same instant response as a telephone call. However, many people respond to emails within 6 seconds, the same way they do to a ringing phone, and they’re likely to be more frequently interrupted by emails. On average, we also all deal with an interruption every eight minutes, adding up to 60-70 in a normal workday. As each interruption typically takes 5-15 minutes, that can be up to 8 hours per day spent purely on interruptions! Doesn’t seem so harmless to just check your email now, right?
How to Eliminate Interruptions:
The key is to set up specific times of day for checking email, answering the phone, and even talking to coworkers/clients. Schedule two-three times a day, perhaps in the morning, lunchtime, and an hour before the end of your workday. Set yourself time limits for reading and responding to emails, and if you can’t get to everything in that time, it will have to be addressed at the next convenient time. You get to decide what is convenient and beneficial for you. Also, don’t answer unscheduled calls from clients and politely ask to continue a conversation with a coworker at a better time.
2. Social Media and Internet Searches
It’s no surprise that social media is a huge distraction, but do you have any idea how many hours your spend a day mindlessly scrolling? Americans aged 35 and older spend an average of 3 hours per day on social media, and that number increases among younger demographics. It’s easy to think you’ll spend a few minutes catching up on social media, and before you know it, you’ve wasted a significant portion of your day. Likewise, you may find that you need to do a quick Google search to research something specific, and then hours later, you’re somehow reading about a topic that’s only tangentially related and of little use to you.
How to Limit Social Media and Search Time:
Allocate specific times in your day to use social media. Write it on your to-do list as you would with any other task and attach a limited time period to spend on the different platforms. If you find yourself needing to search for something online, make a note of it and save the search until one of your allocated search times. If it makes it easier to stay on track, use a timer. You can also use a number of different social media tools to limit the amount of time you have to spend on each platform daily.
Even when you’ve scheduled specific times to check email, it can still demand far more of your time than you’re willing to give. We’ve all experienced that overwhelmed feeling that comes with having a high number of unread emails and no idea where to start. When emails aren’t properly filtered, every email automatically has the same importance and demands the same high level of attention from you. Before you can respond, you have to spend time ordering each email by level of importance and filing it into the appropriate place in your inbox (and brain).
How to Manage Your Email
Set up a priority system in your inbox and respond accordingly. You determine priority not the email sender (even when their subject line is all capitals letters and implied urgency). Give first priority to people responding to your requests. If necessary, let them know you received their email and you will allocate time to deal with the situation and respond. Most mailing systems provide tools to help you organize your inbox, and you can have emails automatically delivered to appropriate folders.
Also, keep emails concise and to the point. You can start implementing the three-sentence rule, and encouraging the people you email with to do the same. Finally, recognize when a phone call may be more time-effective than engaging in a multiple email thread.
Most of us are used to meetings being a part of our work life, but they can be a major time waster when they don’t have a specific agenda or time allocation. Personally, I don’t believe in regularly scheduled meetings period. Instead of facilitating creative discussion, they’re often hours of a day where nothing productive is accomplished by any of the participants.
How to have Better Meetings
Before you agree to a meeting, question whether it is required. Can the issue be easily resolved by email or through a quick phone call between the necessary parties? Similarly, try to limit meetings to the people that are only absolutely required to be there. Once you’ve determined that a meeting is necessary, establish an agenda. Consider creating a Google document that participants can add notes to before the meeting starts. Also, never agree to a meeting that lasts longer than 1.5 hours.
The only exception to these rules is creative brainstorming sessions, where less structure encourages creativity. But even those must be scheduled during a time when participants aren’t distracted by the need to complete time sensitive tasks!
What are your biggest time wasters and how do you eliminate them?