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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.