Here are five time wasters and Bailey’s recommendations for eliminating them.
1. Delegate routine tasks
Many entrepreneurs waste enormous amounts of time doing routine tasks they should be delegating. To identify the extent of the problem, write down all the things you do at work over a week or month. (Include non-business tasks, such as surfing non-work websites and social media use.)
Then, each day identify the most important three tasks on your to-do list. These are the things no one else can do, the ones where you bring the most value. You should gradually refocus your efforts as much as possible on these tasks. Delegate your other tasks, or shrink the time you spend on them.
“Scheduling meetings or maintaining your website is probably not where you contribute unique value,” Bailey says.
2. Practice disconnecting from the web
People waste surprising amounts of time surfing Internet sites unrelated to work, including social media. Bailey cites a study coauthored by Carleton University psychologist Timothy Pychyl that found 47% of people’s time online was spent procrastinating. That number is probably conservative because the study was done before the rise of social media.
See how bad your problem is by adding up all the Internet surfing time you noted in your list above. Then, practice disconnecting from the web for extended periods, unless absolutely needed for work.
“The Internet is usually a nicety, not a necessity. It distracts us from productivity because it’s often more fun than our work and helps us procrastinate,” Bailey says.
3. Allocate special time to deal with messages
Emails, phone calls, texts and social media messages not only chew up ridiculous amounts of time, but are also hugely distracting from other tasks. People check email over 30 times per day, according to a study Bailey cites in his book. Instead of constantly doing so, block off two or three times during the day to return messages.
4. Attend only important meetings
Many meetings are a waste of time. Before organizing one or agreeing to attend someone else’s, consider if you could resolve the issues some other way. For example, would an email be more efficient? “Meetings often don’t return value,” Bailey says.
Additionally, it’s important to let employees make decisions, when appropriate. Do your really need to be there? Or are you failing to delegate? When you must attend, strictly stick to the agenda and allotted time.
5. Limit business trips
Travel can eat up a lot of executive time. If you absolutely must go on that business trip, be disciplined about using travel time to do other tasks, such as making calls, working on a laptop or catching up on your business reading.