Time goes by much too quickly.
As the leader of a growing business, you know this to be all too true. Days and weeks continue to zip by in a flash, and your strategic priorities seem no closer to implementation.
Although you can’t slow down time, you can identify time-wasting habits that may have formed in your business. Overcoming these habits can free up new time and resources, making goal achievement more feasible.
In this post, we’ll discuss five common time-wasters – and how to overcome them.
1. Constantly Jumping Between Email, Chat, & Social Media
In a perfect world, you’d never be bothered during work hours. Instead of constantly putting out fires, a targeted focus on your ever-growing to-do list could yield significant value.
Unfortunately, your work life is far from perfect (so is everyone else’s by the way). Customers are always emailing you directly. Your team is not shy about pinging you with questions. New sales inquiries and support problems frequently require your input. And, your social media followers always appreciate your pithy thought leadership. All of this is, of course, encouraging news for your business. Clients increasingly trust the brand you’ve built. But, servicing so many requests can quickly grow tiresome and even serve as a distraction for your company’s future growth. Spending every waking hour jumping between your inbox and discussion forums diverts your attention away from your goals.
How can you gain greater control over your schedule without missing opportunities? Here are a few ideas:
Set aside “distraction-free” time each day: Set your IM status to “do not disturb” and close your inbox. Put your smartphone in a different room. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and spend 30 minutes on something you deem to be important. Try this for a couple days and measure the impact. I think you’re going to like it – and, you might even be surprised by how little you’re actually missed!
Study the sensitivity of your response time: Does each request deserve an immediate answer (by you)? How many of your emails are truly “urgent” in nature? Study these types of questions, and you’ll be more likely to identify how much “distraction-free” time you can get away with.
Look for additional things to delegate: Just because you’ve historically done something, it doesn’t mean you should keep doing so. Does it make sense to hire additional staff or freelancers to ease the burden? Perhaps you already have staff who could fill this role? It’s worth considering.
2. Capturing & Organizing Minutes from Meetings
Speaking of things worth delegating, how much time do you spend on glorified administrative work? For example, what percentage of your week is consumed by the seemingly simple task of organizing your own meeting notes?
If you said “not much,” think again.
Let’s say that you typically have between eight and twelve meetings each week (we’ll call it ten on average). You usually create a meeting agenda, share it with your team in advance, and then use the document to capture meeting minutes. After the discussion is over, you spend about fifteen minutes trying to make sense of your notes. You look for any action items and manually enter each one into your project management system. By my math, you’re spending over two hours each week (or 150 minutes to be exact) on post-meeting administrative activities! This is not to mention the time you’re spending during the meeting by trying to multi-task as both scribe and participant.
Here’s a better approach:
- Step 1: Before the meeting, identify a related project or customer record via the Insightly mobile app.
- Step 2: On the “related” tab for the record, tap the “+” symbol and select “Note with recording.”
- Step 3: Let Insightly record the discussion and link the recording to the related entity.
- Step 4: Have your administrative assistant listen to the audio transcript and add new tasks on your behalf.
- Step 5: Enjoy the additional time in your busy work week!
Optimizing your meetings is only the beginning. With a tool like Insightly, you’re bound to identify other administrative tasks that can either be eliminated, streamlined, or delegated.
3. Waiting for the Next Assignment
Although your to-do list is always overflowing, the same isn’t always true for other members of your team. Granted, some staff members take the initiative and find ways to add value without being asked. Others, however, prefer to take a “wait and see” approach, hoping that you’ll find something for them to do.
Idle staff can be doubly wasteful to your organization. With the proper instruction, they could be helping you work through your overwhelming backlog. This would not only ensure their time is well spent, but it could help you move your vision forward – faster. Instead, idleness is reducing output and inhibiting the realization of your strategic agenda.
To reduce the risk of downtime, it’s important to take a proactive approach to project management. For example, you might:
Tag your projects: People can’t help you if they don’t know what’s on your mind. Consider tagging certain projects that may benefit from team involvement. Doing so will make it easier for staff to view and sort that which is important to you. They can even volunteer for specific tasks, allowing you to expedite the implementation of certain strategic initiatives.
Encourage group discussion: Sometimes a project just needs a healthy discussion to get liftoff. Set up a recurring monthly (or biweekly) calendar invitation, during which your team can collectively review and discuss your tagged projects.
Automate recurring tasks: Just because a specific task is marked as “completed,” it doesn’t mean that it’s done forever. What types of activities does your organization do on a repeating basis? Examples might include: monthly bookkeeping, preparing social media plans, and pulling sales reports. Configure repeating tasks to keep your team on track and avoid downtime.
4. Moving Data From Your CRM to Other Systems
You need timely and accurate data to make informed decisions. And, although you spend much of your day in your CRM, there are other software apps you use to run your business. Exporting, importing, and de-duplicating data lists isn’t exactly the best use of time.
How can you streamline the data management aspect of your business?
For starters, it’s important that you fully understand the native potential of your CRM. For example, some Insightly users overlook the fact that the system offers sales management and project management under one roof. By simply utilizing the built-in project aspects of Insightly, users can bypass the headaches of porting data between systems. When an opportunity is marked “won,” a new project can be created in less than ten seconds. This is especially useful for business models that require a high-touch fulfillment model.
Naturally, it’s unreasonable to think that your CRM can fulfill every aspect of your technological needs. Even after maximizing the use of a tool like Insightly, your organization will probably still rely on:
- Eternal inboxes
- Document sharing apps
- Accounting & bookkeeping software
- Email marketing systems
- Scheduling calendars
- Customer ticketing software
Before you export another customer data CSV file, it’s worth a look at the native integrations to your CRM. Insightly, for example, offers dozens of easy-to-enable integrations. And, if that’s not enough, you could leverage the power of the Zapier platform and potentially connect your CRM to more than 750 third-party tools.
With each newly enabled integration, your staff is bound to save hours of frustrating, non-value-added administrative work. You’re also in a better position for avoiding data headaches and oversights.
5. Relying Too Heavily on Your Desktop (or Laptop)
Unless you’re a millennial who grew up with a smartphone in hand since childhood, you probably prefer to do certain tasks via your desktop or laptop computer. There’s a certain sense of comfort that comes from your oversized monitor and ergonomic keyboard.
Despite the appeal of a traditional office setting, you and your team might actually be wasting time.
To illustrate this point, let’s imagine you have a busy day scheduled for tomorrow. You’ll be attending an executive networking event at 7:30 am, which is immediately followed by a couple of important on-site client meetings. After that, you’re meeting a potential new hire for lunch. Your afternoon calendar is fairly open, which seems like the perfect opportunity to regroup from the busy morning. Unfortunately, when you arrive back at your desk, a new emergency has arisen. Updating your CRM records will have to wait until tomorrow morning (hopefully there won’t be a new emergency then!).
In this scenario, which depends upon being at your desk and doing work, you’ve let a full day slip by before any follow-up action can occur. A better approach might have looked like this:
- After each event, pull out your smartphone and pop open the Insightly mobile app.
- Find the related record and add a voice note (see above) to summarize your notes.
- If immediate action is required, assign a task to one of your team members (or yourself!).
- Close the app and move on to your next meeting.
By following this process (which takes five minutes or less), you’ll save yourself time later in the day. In addition, your staff can help coordinate the many follow-up activities before you ever get back to your desk. It’s the best of both worlds.
What Other Time-Wasters Do You Struggle With?
Struggling to overcome other time-wasting habits in your business? The first step to improving your situation is to realize a problem exists. Only then can you begin matching technology and other best practices to solve your newfound inefficiencies.
Matt Keener is a marketing consultant and President of Keener Marketing Solutions, LLC. Matt specializes in content marketing and strategic planning, having helped numerous Saas (software as a service) companies and other small businesses worldwide. Read more of Matt’s work, check out his book, or connect with him on Linkedin.