As a creative business owner, you’ve got about 80 different plates spinning at once. Trying to juggle all the responsibilities running and scaling your business involves plus having time for a personal life is no easy task. Sometimes, it feels like there’s just not enough time in the day for everything you want to get done.
In reality, the problem for many of us isn’t having not enough time; it’s how we’re spending the valuable hours we do have. If you take a look at your habits, you’ll likely find several time-wasting traps that are pulling your attention from your main purpose or goals, be that serving your clients, making more money, or scaling your business.
Without further ado, here are five of the most common time wasters and how you can avoid them in the new year.
Constantly checking email
This is one of those sneaky time wasters that actually feels like you’re being productive. You might even enjoy keeping your email open at all times, checking each new notification and getting a surge of satisfaction every time you fire off a reply.
But every time your attention is pulled by an incoming email, you’re falling prey to switching costs. This is the amount of time and mental energy it takes to move your attention from one task to the next. Even if it takes you just ten minutes to refocus after a dip into your inbox, doing this several times a day means hours of lost time in your week.
So how can you stay on top of emails without wasting time?
We recommend setting an auto-response on your inbox letting anyone who reaches out know that you check your email one or two times a day, like first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, or before you sign off in the evening. When you do get around to sending a response during these allotted times, inform people you’ve seen their message and will identify a time in the coming days to take care of whatever they’ve asked of you.
That’s it. Your email inbox is not a to-do list, and it shouldn’t steal your attention from the work you’ve already set as a priority for the day. Instead, use it to set up work for the future while still staying focused on the tasks at hand.
Meetings without an agenda
We’ve all been there: as hour two of your weekly strategy meeting slowly creeps by, you can’t help but think to yourself: this could have been an email!
There are some things that require being together all at once — like making team decisions or getting collective input — but sharing information or statistics that could’ve been sent out in a report is not one of these things. And if you’re asking everyone, including yourself, to take time out of their busy schedules for a meeting, you better make sure you’re using that time effectively.
That’s where an agenda comes in. Before the start of a meeting, make sure everyone knows what will be discussed and for how long. Once you’ve worked through that agenda, the meeting is over. Don’t drag anything on for longer than it needs to be.
Time-saving bonus tip: change the settings in your calendar so the default meeting time is 50 minutes instead of an hour. You’ll be shocked at how all your meetings suddenly take 10 minutes less, and you can put those saved up bonus minutes to good use!
Non-work internet use
The internet is a magical, fascinating place. You can explore any topic you can dream of, fall down a million different rabbit holes, and consume an endless amount of content of all different forms.
But it’s also a massive time suck. If you allow yourself to repeatedly engage in non-work internet use, then you can’t throw your hands up at the end of the week and say, “I don’t have enough time!”
You do have enough time, and it exists in all those little 15 minute breaks spent scrolling Twitter.
The fix to this time waster is simple: use one of the many features or tools out there that blocks out non-work internet use. You can also set time limits on your phone for certain apps or — if the work you’re doing allows it — turn off the internet on your laptop while you focus on a task. Trust us, by doing this you’ll reclaim hours of productive time every single week.
Scheduling back and forths
It’s time to end, once and for all, the habit of sending a dozen emails back and forth to find a good time to meet with someone. Especially if you have to schedule a lot of meetings, this is eating away at valuable time that could be spent elsewhere.
Like with non-work internet use, there are several simple and helpful tools that are designed to help people find a meeting time. A popular one is Calendly, which has both free and paid versions, but there’s also Acuity Scheduling (which we use at Revel!), OnceHub, Doodle, and many more.
Whichever tool you choose, make sure it integrates well with the rest of your business systems and put it to use ASAP.
Consuming social media vs creating it
When you think about how much time you spend on social media, what portion of that is spent consuming content? How many hours do you spend reading tweets or watching videos other creatives have made? Now, what portion is spent creating content yourself?
For many of us, we spend more time taking content in rather than putting content out. But while consuming content brings very little value, content creation is essential to your business.
Remember, a prospect needs to see your brand at least five to seven times before they start recognizing and connecting with it. More content means more interactions, more people coming into contact with you and your brand, and, eventually, more business. We recommend getting the amount of time you spend creating content at least equal to the amount of time you spend taking it in order to build a consistent, active, and recognizable presence across social media.
There you have it! Do any of these time-wasters sound familiar to you?
We’ve all been guilty of them at some point, but the start of this new year is the perfect time to try out a new technique, build new habits, and recommit to your business goals. And be sure to shoot us a message to let us know which time-saving skill you’ll be trying!