I’ve fallen for all of these, but now I know better.
The fact is that many of us sleepwalk through building our businesses, totally unaware that we waste a lot of our precious time. We have all the trimmings of efficiency— we have the to-do lists, we earn the right income, we have degrees, potted plants, and a beautiful desk layout.
But truthfully told, we pour our time down the drain and then wonder why our business is failing.
Here are these five habits of inefficient entrepreneurs. Drop these five timewasters and watch your income and actual productivity skyrocket.
1. The old “40-Hour Workweek” mentality.
I finished work yesterday at 11:30 am. So I got up off my chair and went to my farm in the sun.
In the past, I’ve continued working until 5 pm — doing whatever work would keep me busy — even though I finished all my daily tasks well before the end of the day. The result was that I quickly worked myself into burnout that was tough to recover from.
This is a holdover from my old corporate jobs when my boss owned my 9–5 hours. It’s not actually productive to continue doing busywork just because of hours on a clock.
Instead, set yourself a realistic to-do list and a stretch to-do list. Define what needs to get done, and what you’d like to get done during a day and the week. That way you can accomplish the bare minimum for your business, work on any stretch goals if you have the time or inclination, but avoid wasting your energy on pointless productivity just because it’s not dinner time yet.
2. Saying yes to unpaid work disguised as an opportunity.
My inbox is full of emails reading, “Let me know what you think of my new app!” I fell for the first few of these because the sender was remarkably convincing. I really believed that this app, or that service, or this new monetization program could earn me money.
The truth is that these new apps are desperate for early adopters to try out the app and share it with their friends and followers…AKA free marketing. If they were serious about providing you value, they’d book you in as a paid consultant, or pay you to advertise their product or program.
Next time you get hit with an email that says, “Hey Isabelle! We think you’re awesome and that you’d benefit from this great new app we have!” Ask them what their marketing budget is, and whether they’re willing to pay you to do their product testing for them.
This is my biggest timewaster. Of course, there’s always room to improve. I know I can perform better on YouTube, tighten my writing, get better at pitches. So I’ll happily spend hours in front of a screen, watching or reading influencers in those fields.
The problem is when I do that instead of any actual work for my business. I call this edu-crastination, when you procrastinate by pretending you’re busy learning. It’s a very very easy trap to fall into because it feels so productive, but you have to know where to draw a line.
Instead of watching the next Annie Dubé video (my fave YouTube YouTuber), I challenge you to put one of the lessons you learned into action. Do this every time you consume a piece of educational content. That helps you get the right balance of learning and earning.
4. The “I’ll Just Do That Real Quick” fallacy.
You’ve got a free five minutes between meetings! What will you do? Why not just answer that email super fast?
Two reasons: 1, you’ll do a better job if you take your time. 2, you’ll save time overall if you condense these little tasks into batches.
The biggest timesaver was when I stopped doing daily tasks like answering follower emails and YouTube comments, and rolled them up into a weekly task.
You lose a lot of time setting up, doing the thing, and then winding down. This is 5x true if you’re doing it Monday through Friday.
Instead, take any cumulative admin tasks and designate one day a week for them. I now do all my correspondence on Mondays. It takes me about one hour altogether, rather than lots of 5–10 minute bits throughout the week. This helps me give actual good, thoughtful answers because I can take my time. It also relieves stress because I’m not worried about answering emails on Thursday when I know I’ll get to it on Monday.
5. Unnecessararily long meetings.
Sadly, leaving the office doesn’t mean leaving this annoying habit behind. It typically stems from insecurity. Many people believe they need to convey more information or want to capture more nuance, and they worry email won’t be enough. Let me tell you: if you’re a good enough communicator, most meetings are meaningless and weirdly long.
After spending an average of one hour per day in meetings, I took stock of what I was doing and realized most of it was unnecessary. Today, most of my communication is done by email, or in a much-reduced meeting time.
Instead of defaulting to meetings, try communicating with email as far as you can and set your typical meeting time to 15 minutes. If you give someone thirty minutes, you’ll find the talking expands. Conversely, by minimizing your meeting time and making emails your standard, you’ll be a sharper communicator and save yourself (and your contacts) time and energy.