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We’ve all been there…busy all day but didn’t get anything completed. Don’t you hate that? It seems to be a common frustration for every small business & entrepreneur I know. Up early, home late, and they didn’t get one thing done to move the business forward because they were so busy doing all the little stuff that needs to be done to keep the business going and put money in your pocket.

The simple truth is that if these business owners could just avoid or manage the following list of time wasters and energy zappers they would be free to rapidly grow their business :

1. Multi-tasking or Shiny Object Syndrome – Every time you have to change your mind to work on something else, you’re not giving the original thing you were working on your full attention. It is very important to absorb yourself with one thing at a time, give that thing your fullest attention and complete it (at least the part you were planning to complete now) before moving on to the next thing. Give the tasks you work on the attention they deserve, otherwise most things will be done half-assed.

I’ve previously written about my tool for solving this problem. Write down on a 3×5 card each morning, the 5 or 6 things you WILL get done today. Then do them fully before you open e-mail or do anything else. You will be amazed at how much you can get done and how quickly as well.

2. E-mails – E-mails are one of the biggest time wasters known to man or women kind. They can be an important and valuable tool that can be used to get business done more efficiently but the sad fact is that my business owners let their inbox rule their workday.

I recall coming back from a holiday and spending almost five hours on e-mails and a couple phone calls. I decided never again. Now I have a set time daily where I respond to my e-mails, typically later in the day, because earlier in the day I want to do things that will move my business move forward, to help me make the future dollar, and to grow my business.

When you’re answering e-mails, you’re in the reactive mode; you’re responding to other people’s needs. Now, I understand that this has to get done, but typically I’ll put this off until later in the day, and I have a scheduled time that I do this. If all the e-mails don’t get done in that time, too bad, I’ll get to them the next day. Typically when I do an e-mail it’s only a few short sentences. If it needs to be longer, usually a quick phone call will handle it better than an e-mail. If e-mail is a task which is wasting too much of your time, then consider delegating it out to someone else.

Have someone else go through your e-mails, make a list of the important stuff and bring it to you so you can tell them which ones to respond to and what to say in the email. Most e-mails can wait 48 to 72 hours to be responded to, even in a society where we act like we have to jump every time someone wants us to jump. That’s just not the way it needs to be.

3. Phone calls – Phone calls are another one of the biggest time wasters I know. I rarely answer my phone live. My phone is on silent 95% of the time, and typically what I do is I return phone calls once a day at the same time I do e-mails. I’ll do my e-mails, and then return my phone calls. This way I can pre-screen my calls, know who I’m calling, know what it’s about, and it can be on my terms. In today’s society, many of us run around with mobile phones attached to our hip, and we act like those mobile phones are for everybody else’s convenience. The truth is that my mobile phone is for my convenience, as your mobile phone is for your convenience. Likewise, I do not have my mobile phone number printed on my business card. If needed, I will handwrite the number, which signifies to the recipient, that you’re treating them as special by giving them access to you via your mobile phone.

One strategy that works great is to let people know that you will be returning phone calls during a set time of the day. Let’s use 3:00 to 3:30 as an example. So what you can do is let everybody who you work with is that you will be returning phone calls between 3:00 and 3:30, simple. You can also leave a message on your out going voice message that explains this if needed.

Another thing that I find very useful is to let people know, when you get on the phone, that you only have 2 or 5 or 10 or 15 minutes. Use whatever time frame you think you need to get that phone call done. So typically if I have a call that I know will take eight or nine minutes, when I get on the phone, I’ll tell the person, I’ve got nine minutes, let’s get to the bottom of this. That gets the small talk and the dilly dallying out of the way so you can take care of business.

Some people might think you’re being selfish with your time when you treat your phone in this way, but I say I think if there’s one thing you SHOULD be selfish with it’s your time. And typically the people who get annoyed aren’t all that important anyway, and if they are and you explain your reasons they soon will understand.

4. Text messaging – Text messages are a huge waste of time. Yes, sometimes they can be valuable and you can get a quick message to somebody but this back and forth text messaging that most small business owners I know, do with their friends, employees, and family members, is a complete and utter waste of time. There’s nothing that irritates me more than driving down the road and seeing the guy drive next to me swerving around because he’s text messaging.

5. The OCD Loop – Eben Pagan talks about something he calls the OCD loop. When I first heard Eben talking about this, I was blown away because I honestly thought I was the only one that did it. What I used do on a daily basis is I would, many times throughout the day, check my search engine rankings, check my pay per click ads, check my text messages, check my phone calls, and check my e-mails. I would do this in a loop, about every hour or two. This is a giant time waster. Now I have a scheduled time, once a day, where I get these activities out of the way. Instead of doing this multiple times through out the day, which I’m convinced was wasting many hours of my day, I schedule it once a day, usually in the second half of the day, and whatever doesn’t get finished in that time period gets forwarded to the next day. This system I convinced has saved me at least 10 hours per week.

6. Time Vampires – Dan Kennedy talks about something he calls time vampires. These are people who just want to sit and chat, waste your time and drain you of your energy. I absolutely refuse to get into a conversation with one of them. I used to work in a large office and most of the people in the office who I knew would spend a large portion of their day hanging out talking, wasting time and would do anything to get you into a conversation with them so they could waste your time too. They did this at a sub-conscious level but none the less, they were doing it and I was not going to have any part of it. What I found that works really well for me was I would look busy. Typically I was busy, but even if I wasn’t, I would look busy. People generally don’t bother a busy person.

7. Not Using Time Blocks- If you don’t have a planned schedule of what you’re going to do with your time, that time will get taken up by little things that won’t necessarily move you any closer to your goals, but will seem urgent and like they need to get done. The truth is, most of these things aren’t important, but they will fill your time if you allow it to. It is almost law that any part of the work day that is not planned out will get filled with seemingly urgent tasks, usually tasks that don’t move the business owner any closed to his or her goals. It is extremely important to have your day blocked out in a set schedule of time blocks so you know what’s going to get done at what time, and it is very important to stick to that routine.

8. Do your most important work that moves you toward your goals first thing in the morning. Do not start your days with e-mails or responding to people’s phone calls. Like I said, this puts you in the reactive mode, responding to other people’s needs and values. What you want, is that by the end of the day, when you’re done working, that one thing you did in the morning for 90 minutes to 2 hours, if that’s all you did all day and you got off work at the end of the day and weren’t able to accomplish anything else, you know you moved towards your goals. I used to start my day off with e-mails and phone calls, and this was a huge mistake. Now I start my day off with something that moves me towards my goals. At this point in my life in business, that’s creating content. So, first thing in the morning, every day, on work days, I spend two hours developing ways to market and sell.

9. Interruptions – Do not allow interruptions during your work day. Let people know that you respond to e-mails and phone calls only at a certain time of the day and to only come to you at other times if it is an absolute emergency.

10. Doing errands and lower end work that you can delegate for less per hour than you’re worth. Quite simply, figure out what your worth per hour and then any tasks that you can pay someone else less money to do, unless that’s a task you truly enjoy, delegate it.

BOTTOM LINE: Focus your time and energy on the highest value, highest profit driven activities that you can do that moves your business forward. Anything else should be delegated out to someone who is better at that task than you are and will do it for less money.

Manage your time, or it will manage you. Properly managing and/or avoiding these 12 activities will free up your work day so you can work on the task that will truly help your business evolve.