David Hargreaves, founder of The Growth Gurus, identifies four business distractions that can impact on growth and details how to keep them to a minimum.
How many hours would you guess you spend working on your business every day? How many hours do you actually spend moving your business forward?
Perhaps your first instinct is to say the same number twice, however that’s unlikley to be true.
As the 80/20 rule states, 20% of what you do actually accounts for 80% of the results you get. Thus, the bulk of tasks you work on each day are probably not helping you. Most of your company’s growth is found in just a few vital tasks that you, and only you, can do.
In fact, while certain tasks you do (the 80%) may feel important, they might actually be hurting your businesses progress because they take you away from those (the 20%) that truly matter. The trick is knowing the difference and then acting on this knowledge.
I’m not talking about the obvious distractions of Facebook and LinkedIn here. I’m talking about things that feel like productive work hbut which can ultimately slow down your progress.
Since diagnosis is the first step in recovery, below I’ve identified four common business tasks that you and I are both guilty of spending far too much time on each day, rather than working on the tasks that are going to drive our business forwards.
1. Checking your emails
Let’s start with the obvious one: email. We spend upwards of 28% of our time each week on email. That’s pretty much 11 hours per week, and over 500 hours per year, gone.
Now, of course, email is important. But, is it “28% of-your-life” important? Of course not. The 80/20 rule applies to email as well; 20% of your email likely accounts for 80% of the benefit email offers.
So, how can you cut down the time spent on email? I’m sure thousands of blog posts have been dedicated to this topic, but these three tips work well for me:
- Check email only at defined times. If someone has an emergency that can’t wait four hours, he or she will call.
- Unsubscribe from every newsletter you get except for the absolutely vital ones.
- Set up an automated response on your email to inform those sending the email that you may take a while to get back to them. At least they wont email you again, they won’t call you and won’t text you 10 times.
2. Reading blog posts
I love to read, and I especially love to read blog posts related to my favourite industries (finance, equity investment, commercial property, marketing, start-ups, etc.). Blog posts are free, numerous, addicting and incredibly helpful.
Of course, I wouldn’t suggest that you stop reading blog posts related to your industry. As President Harry Truman famously said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” So, if you want to succeed, you have to read.
However, reading does have one major downside: It takes time. And that’s time not spent working on your business. If you are anything like me, reading blog posts becomes the passive activity I turn to when I don’t want to do something else (which is likely more important). In fact, the primary task I set for myself today was to write a blog post every morning before 7 am — however I spent almost an hour reading random blog posts first. And most of these were simply not relevant to our business or even a client’s business.
The easiest way to solve this issue of reading instead of working on your most important tasks is to diarise your reading time into a specific place and time. I diarise my reading time for 9am to 10am and 3pm to 4pm. I also bookmark any blog posts that I come across during the day that I am tempted to read. You could use an app like Pocket to manage this if you read lots of blogs. Then, read these posts only after you have finished your most important tasks for the day or at the set reading times.
Blog posts can certainly help move your business forward, but if you don’t carefully govern how and when you consume them, this unproductive waste of your time will hold back your growth.
3. Responding to notifications
These days we are surrounded by dings, dongs and all sorts of other notifications. Each time your phone pings to inform you of a “like’ from a blog, a new LinkedIn contact has accepted or you receive yet another email to a fanfare of notifications from your Iphone, Ipad, Macbook and your Imac, these take up valuable time.
Do what I do and at certain times of the day just switch them all off. Have some silence, lap it up and focus on your more important tasks. This will take some getting used to and expect some withdrawal symptoms. Don’t act as if you are one of Pavlov’s dogs and you’ll gain an extra few hours per day.
4. Ideas Galore!
Ideas are great. After all, it was likely a great idea that made you an entrepreneur in the first place. However, remember this: Ideas are easy and cheap; work is hard and makes all the profit.
I’m sure we could sit down right now and brainstorm a hundred good ideas, and most of them would likely work out just fine. They might all be “£million ideas.” Good for us.
But, in the time spent brainstorming those ideas, what work is not being done? What projects are 50% complete that you are just sitting on? What phone calls do you need to make but you are holding off from because of the brainstorming? What hard choice are you refusing to make because brainstorming is more fun? Be honest with yourself, you probably did this today.
Brainstorming has a place in business. However, like blog posts, you need a process to ensure that its controlled. When a new idea pops into your head, record it within your crm or on a post it note attached to your Mac. That way, you can discuss the idea at another time (rather than interrupt your team right now). Schedule time in your calendar for “brainstorming sessions” if you need them. But before you do, ask yourself, “Do we really need to brainstorm more ideas, or do we simply need to work on the ideas we already have?”
The above four tasks are super important for the growth of your business, but they likely are not contributing to what you need to do now. So, set boundaries on your email, reduce the amount of electronic disruptions, your blog reading and your brainstorming, and use them sparingly so you have the most time possible to actually do the work that matters.
Getting back up to two hours per day can be a lifesaver. Don’t waste your time, deal with these four issues and see your productivity soar.
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