By Eoin O'Hara
“I wasted time, and now time doth waste me!” Richard ii, William Shakespeare
In life, time is always a valuable commodity, but seldom does one realise how precious it truly is more than when faced with running your own business. Minutes slip quickly by into hours, and hours charge through into days, and no matter how diligent you are, there never seems to be enough time! Needless to say then, it is requisite that you spend what little time you have well, and don’t allow yourself to engage in activities which do not deliver a reasonably substantial return on investment.
Never waste time, or time might just waste you!
Here’s a few ways that the modern entrepreneur can unwittingly waste their time.
Getting sucked in a social media vortex
As an entrepreneur social media is a vital tool, useful for all sorts of things from making meaningful connections to getting answers to some of your more pressing questions; but it can also be a menace to your time-management.
Nowadays we have all become so accustomed to categorising social media time as ‘time spent working’ that it often becomes a challenge to separate legitimate and gainful use of social media, from wanton self-indulgence.
Do not feel ashamed if you are guilty of being sucked into a social media vortex, platforms are designed to be seductive, pulling you into a particularly interesting subject, and diverting you ever-further from what you are supposed to be doing. What’s more, the ever present nature of social media and its near constant accessibility means it is a distraction that is very difficult to get away from.
I have found that the best way to combat the problem is to take a structured approach; set aside specific time slots for social media activity within your day. That way you are can be reassured of your ability to deal with anything that might come up, without exposing yourself to the constant temptation that so much interesting information can bring. Such time-restricted social media use will also force you to be more focused and productive when attending to your social media duties… after all, there’s nothing quite like a ticking clock to help you ditch the procrastination!
Writing excessive amounts of content
There is a widely accepted myth that in order to sustain online credibility and keep your business relevant and visible, you need to constantly maintain a high volume of content be it blog posts, guest articles, infographics, reports, and so on. This is not the case.
I’ll repeat that again for extra emphasis…. THIS IS NOT THE CASE.
What you need to do to keep your business, relevant, and most importantly visible to the right sort of person, is focus your energies on creating a small number of pieces of very high quality content, and dedicate a significant amount of time and effort to promoting them.
Part of the problem is that founders of startups see their larger and well established counterparts, churning out piece after piece of high quality, well sourced, and wonderfully written content, and naturally assume that they must do the same in order to compete.
In an attempt to emulate this, startups end up wasting a monumental amount of time, as inevitably the resources spent creating content, far outweigh that give over to promoting it. A completely ridiculous circumstance when you think about.
The entrepreneur who fails to spend a proportionate amount of time heavily promoting their content is doomed to fail in their efforts; like the comedian who spends months writing a show, but forgets to sell any tickets, you will be speaking into an empty auditorium wondering why no one is applauding.
Do yourself a favour, create less content, and spend more time on promotion… you won’t regret it.
Agonising over administrative work
Most entrepreneurs, and especially those working within bootstrapped startups, tend to function with the ethos of ‘it’s cheaper if you do it yourself’.
This is all well and good when you see significant results for your personal efforts, but when you find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time doing battle with administrative tasks, and gaining very little ground, you need to step back for a moment and consider whether or not you really are doing the fiscally responsible thing.
Think not only about the monetary costs of your own man / woman hours, but also the detrimental impact that being distracted by petty-administration might be having on the growth and development of your business.
Arguably, the business world has never required the level of administrative work from its entrepreneurs as it does today, but equally it has never been easier to source professional assistance. Whether this means upskilling yourself so that you are able to deal with these tasks more effectively when they come along, or finding some professional assistance to lighten the load; the most important thing is that you don’t get to the situation where you are wasting vast amounts of time and getting nowhere.
Take some time to research the options open to you; online courses, local training schemes, co-workers, and online communities and forums can be a great place to start.
In times gone by, procrastination was one of my absolute favourite pastimes. I could waste literally hours every single week practicing it. In the end I considered myself quite the master. Now with the benefit of a few extra years experience I am much more aware of the value of time and its tendency to race by unforgivingly when you need it most.
As a result I have learned that you should never put-off doing something that you could feasibly do now.
It’s a surprisingly difficult habit to get into, especially when it comes to the little jobs that take just a few minutes and are all too easy to simply add to the end of your to-do list.
The problem is that all of those ‘little things’ add up, and over time can accumulate to grow into a much more daunting and time-consuming task. Instead of wasting time adding bullet points to your to-do list, and subsequently worrying about when you are going to get them done, put down the pen and tackle them head-on.
Your list will be shorter and you can save your valuable head-space for the things that really matter and on a more macro level you can put the time saved to focussing on important matters like business growth and development.
Poor planning (or no planning at all)
This is an important lesson for any worker, but especially for the entrepreneur or freelancer simply because the volume and range of duties that you need to undertake is so vast.
Some people can work quite happily and indeed productively with the minimum of forward planning, but for us mere mortals, ten minutes spent planning at the beginning of the day can be the difference between structured success, and chaotic failure!
Use those ten minutes to make a brief appraisal of your to-do list, prioritising your workload, and allotting each activity a realistic amount of time for completion.
I am a great believer in the power of checklists. There is something so gratifying about seeing all of those little boxes slowly filling up with self-satisfied ticks… and yes I am aware this makes me sound like a pedantic fool, but it works!