Business Advice Blog

84% of Entrepreneurs Are Working Overtime, Here’s Why

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According to The Alternative Board’s most recent Small Business Pulse Productivity Survey, 84% of business owners are working over 40 hours per week, and 1 in every 10 feels continuously overwhelmed by their responsibilities. Considering the majority of entrepreneurs don’t just get into business for the money, but also for the lifestyle, freedom, and flexibility, these numbers suggest that most business owners are not getting what they want out of their businesses.

So how can business owners better manage their productivity for improved work life balance?

 
The first step is identifying time-wasting habits and then replacing them with proven time management practices. Fortunately, TAB’s May 2017 survey illuminated a lot of these productivity-sabotaging habits and found a few key solutions for how business owners can reclaim their time. 

         

      1. The average business owner spends 10+ hours a week in their inbox.
         
        When asked about the breakdown of their day, business owners reported spending the most time on email – 25% of their time, in fact. That’s 5% more time than the surveyed entrepreneurs report spending on in-person meetings (20%) and customer service (15.7%) – two primary functions of business leadership.Considering these numbers, it’s not surprising that the surveyed business owners agree the best strategy for improving their productivity is scheduling finite time to answer email.According to a survey conducted by the University of British Columbia, three times a day is the sweet spot for checking your email. Use that scheduled time to delete anything unnecessary and respond to what needs to be responded to.Resist the urge to respond to emails as they arrive. “Switching between tasks requires realignment of attention and emotions, which can be taxing on the mind,” writes Samantha Murphy Kelley (@HeySamantha).If you fail to resist the urge to instantly respond to every message, you’ll be giving into the very dangerous “tyranny of the urgent” and wasting your time on day-to-day fires, rather than long term strategy. Take it from time management expert Steve Davies, CEO of The Alternative Board Nassau: “It is essential to keep your priority items to a minimum. If everything is important, nothing is important and if you have too many top priorities there is a very real danger that none of them will get done.”
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      3. If you’re going to spend 53% of your time on meetings, you better make them productive. 
         
        The average business owner spends 20% of their time on in-person meetings and 13% on phone/video conference calls — that’s nearly 55% of their workweek. While meetings are a critical function of business leadership, only 4% of the entrepreneurs surveyed believe their meetings are 100% productive.“Meetings are a necessary evil,” writes Bob Pothier (@Bob_Pothier), Director of Partners in Leadership. “How you manage your meetings says a lot about how you’re managing your organization.”In order to stay productive and lose as little time as possible Pothier suggests starting every meeting on time, having an agenda, starting with a “culture moment” (i.e. telling a story or giving recognition), and ending the meeting with a “who’s-going-to-do-what-by-when” list.
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      5. You can blame it on a hundred other things, but at the end of the day, your productivity boils down to your time management. 
         
        Business owners cite poor time management as the #1 productivity killer for their business (35%) — above poor communication (25%), personal problems (18%) and technology distractions (16%).Fortunately, the survey offered some tips for better managing your time. For example, the large majority of entrepreneurs (81%) feel most productive in the morning, with 87% opting to get the most important tasks out of the way first.“First thing in the morning your mind is clear, the office is quiet, and you haven’t gotten pulled into six different directions — yet,” writes Gina Trapani (@ginatrapani), author of Upgrade Your Life and founding editor of com. “It’s your one opportunity to prioritize the thing that matters to you most, before your phone starts ringing and your email inbox starts dinging. By knocking out something important on your to-do list before anything else, you get both momentum and a sense of accomplishment before 10AM.”
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      7. 64% of entrepreneurs believe they could be delegating more responsibility. 
         
        39% of the business owners surveyed reported that paperwork is the #1 waste of their time, followed by manual labor (37%). If you are doing either of these tasks, there’s a good chance you are working below your pay grade and not delegating properly.“The biggest obstacle to successful delegation is the persistent urge to not delegate anything at all — or ever,” writes business consultant Larry Alton (@LarryAlton3). “Sometimes, it’s a point of pride for a boss to retain as much work as possible, but more often, it’s created from the mentality that your workers wouldn’t be able to handle it, or that they wouldn’t get it done the right way.Learn to overcome your fear of delegation, and you’ll feel an enormous sense of relief once you let go of the menial tasks that are preventing you from long term planning and exploring development opportunities and keeping you glued to your desk chair day in and day out.

Work life balance is not a mythical notion, but a very real possibility for entrepreneurs who are willing to devote a little extra time to planning and prioritizing. Keep an eye out for the little things — like email, meetings, procrastination and those silly little administrative tasks — that add up to leech your hours away — hours that you could be spending with your family and friends.

If you’re among the 1 out of every 10 entrepreneurs that feels constantly overwhelmed by work, you may want to take a look at your time management practices. Getting an outside perspective is often the best way to start. The Alternative Board provides you with the unique opportunity to meet regularly with a board of fellow peer business owners who can help you overcome challenges, such as overworking and poor time management. To take advantage of TAB’s peer advisory model, find a local board and get in touch.

 

Get a Handle on Emails to Boost Productivity

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Depending on who you talk to, the use of email is one of the greatest advances in business communications or the worst thing to affect productivity in the past several decades. Every CEO and business owner knows what it’s like to open his or her inbox to a deluge of emails—many of which aren’t worth their precious time.

If you’re a business leader who’s truly committed to effective time management, it’s essential to get a grip on this issue, or risk losing even more time and effort when these resources are in such rare supply. Here are suggestions for tackling email overload and freeing up your time for more critically important business objectives:

Get a protocol in place. According to productivity experts, email overload is symptomatic of a larger organization problem—the absence of clear-cut protocols. “If your organization has ambiguous decision-making processes and people don’t get what they need from their colleagues, they’ll flood the system with email and meeting requests,” notes Amy Gallo at Harvard Business Review. This results in a potentially crippling backlog, “which leads to even more email and meeting requests from frustrated co-workers trying to follow up.”

The key is establishing guidelines for everyone in the organization (including you!). Suggested protocols can include:

  • Limit the sending of emails to people who have a genuine action item
  • Determine when it’s necessary to copy co-workers and when it’s not appropriate.
  • Pause before you hit “Send” and asking yourself, is there a more efficient way to get my questions answered (i.e., calling on the phone sending an instant message).

Invite employees to offer their own suggestions on how to curb email overload and then implement the most effective suggestions into a company-wide email policy.

Control the flow of your own email output. Are you guilty of sending too many emails to people in your company on a daily basis? This can be particularly troublesome if key policy or organizational issues are being discussed via email, necessarily requiring a great deal of back-and-forth discussion. (In such circumstances, email is a notably inefficient resource.) Make more selective use of the “Reply All” tool (and request that others reduce the number of “For Your Information” emails they send you every day).

It’s a simple principle: The fewer emails you send out, the fewer will come back to clog your inbox.

Unsubscribe! Speaking of your inbox, how many irrelevant emails do you get from sites you subscribed to in the distant past? Whether it’s a sales newsletter, promotional messages about exclusive vacation offers or notices from online publications you no longer read, take every opportunity to click on “Unsubscribe” when these messages appear. It generally only takes a few minutes to complete this process—and saves you untold amounts of time and distraction when they no longer pop up in your inbox, demanding your attention.

Make use of email productivity apps and collaboration tools. There are plenty of apps designed to help users organize and control what appears in their inboxes. Enlist the help of an assistant or someone in IT to install the right app to reduce the flow of unwanted (or non-urgent) emails you see on a daily basis.

Also, if your team is presently using email as a collaboration tool for ongoing projects, opt instead for more advanced collaborative resources (Google Documents is a good start, but there are many other tools out there). This way, people can conveniently access the information they need from co-workers on a shared site, rather than communicate incessantly via email (and often copy managers or others). This alone can significantly cut down on the flow of emails throughout your company.

Communications is always a top business priority, but by setting guidelines and adopting the use of superior technology, it doesn’t have to consume nearly as much time and energy as in the past. Email remains a great tool, as long as you stay in control of it, rather than the other way around.

Want more advice on making your business more productive? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!