One of the biggest difficulties to overcome when you’re working on your own online business is staying focused and avoiding wasted time. It is all too tempting, for example, to spend a few minutes chatting on Facebook after you share your latest blog post. Or, you might be watching an educational YouTube video, and then take an extra minute to see what the latest compilation of cute cats looks like (of course, that can quickly turn into hours of wasted time).
There are endless ways that online business owners can waste their time, and it all adds up to lost productivity. For most people it won’t be possible to be 100% productive 100% of the time, but if you can increase your productivity by even 10 per cent, you’ll see some incredible results. The following five great items will help identify waste, and eliminate it.
STOP IT! Many people feel like they are being productive when they are taking phone calls, responding to emails and working on whatever latest project they have all at the same time. The fact is, however, that when you multi-task you almost always take longer to complete each item than if you would have just focused on one until it was done. In addition, you are far more likely to have mistakes when you multi-task, so you end up having to go back and do things again. Whenever possible, focus on one task until it is done, and then move on to the next item on your to-do list.
Ditch the Administrative Work
Many online business owners end up spending the majority of their time on the ‘administrative’ work, such as replying to emails, checking on statistics, sending out invoices and similar things. As the business owner, your time is extremely valuable, and you should be focusing on the items that only you can do! If you have the resources, consider hiring a virtual assistant to take care of these administrative tasks that are holding you back. If not, set a goal to be able to hire a VA, even just part time, by a certain date.
Kill the Quick Tasks
Even if you are able to get a virtual assistant to help you with some of the administrative tasks, you will still be left with a lot to do. Many people make the mistake of putting off all the small tasks that they have, thinking that they can get to them later after the bigger projects are done. In the end, this almost always ends up causing a lot of wasted time. If you see a small task like responding to an email come in your inbox, deal with it immediately. If it is going to take 10 minutes or less, there is no reason to put it off!
Eliminating these small tasks will help your to-do list seem cleaner, and can also help you get the sense of accomplishment that can keep you motivated. In addition, when you constantly have that list of small items nagging at you in the back of your head, it is difficult to concentrate on other things you need to get done.
Track Your Time
Keeping track of your time can be a great way to identify and eliminate waste. There are many software programs that will, for example, monitor which applications you’re spending the most time on each day. In many cases, people learn that while they thought that they were only spending a few minutes at a time on YouTube, it was adding up to several hours per week. The same can be said about Facebook and many other sites. Identifying where you are spending a lot of time (that is not related to your business) is an essential first step in eliminating that waste.
Let Those Fires Burn
The last, and for many people most significant, waste of time is the constant ‘putting out of fires.’ Whenever a problem comes up, many business owners feel like they need to stop everything and address it immediately. While there are some problems that need this type of response, most of them can wait. Knowing the difference between a real emergency and a problem that can be dealt with later is very important.
If your business website crashes, for example, that is most likely a major problem that needs your immediate attention (unless you have an IT staff, then it is not something for you to worry about). If, on the other hand, you get an angry email from a customer, that is not something that needs an immediate response. Putting it off until later in the day, or even the following day, may be a good use of your time. Of course, you want to respond to even minor issues as early as is convenient, but not at the expense of interrupting other important work.