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Small business time-wasters (and how to overcome them!)

  • Blog
  • 21 April 2016

As James Caan once said: time is the small business owner’s most precious resource. It’s also the most finite. You just can’t make or buy more time. Your day has that many hours and they very quickly vanish if you’re not careful.

Here’s a roundup of some of the biggest small business timewasters. And our tips for helping you overcome them.

Small business time-wasters (and how to overcome them!)

Business meetings

Unfortunately you will more than likely not be able to get through life without a meeting of some sort or another. With clients, partners, suppliers, it’s inevitable that some parts of your day will be spent in meetings.  With any luck and some decent planning, you’ll end most of those having achieved something. And the rest will be an education in how not to have meetings!

Before agreeing to or arranging a meeting, make sure it’s absolutely necessary. Does it require a face to face discussion? Is there a clear agenda for what will be discussed? Is there a set timeframe for how long the meeting will last?

Having a clear plan going into a meeting. Make notes and make sure you get your questions answered. Be sure to try and bring everything back to focus if things get too off-topic, and leave on time.

Social media

It’s a generally accepted rule these days that you need to get your name out there, and the easiest and possibly cheapest way of doing that is via social media.

However, you may or may not be that surprised to find out that managing social media accounts is a notorious time black hole. You don’t, or at least, you shouldn’t, just post it and forget it. You need to engage in the community, respond to you followers and take part in conversations with the influencers in your industry.

The easiest way to try and get some control, is to set aside time every day for social media. Schedule in an hour a day specifically to interact: comment, like, catch up, respond to comments and post anything extra. Schedule some standard posts to make sure your accounts are regularly updated so you don’t have to worry about anything other than taking to your audience.

Procurement

Starting a business takes a lot of time and effort. Sometimes the things you initially set up don’t work out, and you have to start over. Or, you’re expanding or moving and you need to find new office space, a new phone system, you decide to start taking card payments and you have no idea where to start. Procurement can be a headache. And it can take you away from your business for longer than you’d like.

When you start looking for something, immediately devise a system for how you will keep track of quotes or referrals. Whether it’s plain old pen and paper or a spreadsheet, or something more elaborate, make sure you have an easy way to compare what’s on offer. Also take a look at what’s on offer to FSB Members – we’re constantly expanding and improving our range.

Paperwork and email

For all the talk of the mythical “paperless office”, paperwork still takes a significant chunk of time for most small business owners. Email may not be a physical obstacle you see on your desk every morning. But it certainly lurks in the background waiting to ambush you.

Try and never let your pile of paper or email get out of control. Bite the bullet, get your filing done and get your email sorted out. Then just schedule in time every day to sort through anything new. Be diligent. If you allocate half an hour to filing every week, stick with it. And try and ignore your emails for at least one hour every day, That may sound counterproductive but you’ll be surprised how much you can get done when you don’t keep getting distracted by that new message notification from your mailbox.

Legal issues

It can be tempting to think you can deal with something yourself. After all, you have Google. How hard can it be? The simple truth, however, is that when it comes to anything legal, it’s a job best left to the professionals. You quickly become more entangled and soon you’ll be ensnared in a ton of jargon and red tape. If you’ve ever tried the DIY approach, you’ll know the “why on earth is it called a “legal brief” when it’s anything but?” feeling.

As an FSB member, you’re entitled to not only legal protection, included in your membership fee, but you also have access to legal, employment and health and safety advice and online documents. Worth considering if the old hiking maxim is true: better to have and not need than need and not have.

Ultimately the most important thing you can do to save yourself a bit of time every day is to take control of your day. Schedule blocks of time for repetitive tasks and stick to it. Keep an eye out for tiny time thieves and nip distractions in the bud. You might just have time for that 5 minute reset after all.

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