Let’s face it, between working, running a business, and “adulting” in general, time and energy is a precious commodity. And you would never intentionally waste either, right?
Some time wasters are pretty obvious and unavoidable. Long commutes, tracking receipts, etc. But for many entrepreneurs, it’s the small, subtle time wasters that sneak up on you. They sap your strength and keep you from getting your best work done.
Do you recognize any of these in your own day-to-day? Fortunately, they’re easy to fix—you just have to recognize them in the first place.
Trying to do everything in your business yourself
Raise your hand if you’re your own accountant. And intern. And dog walker. And…well, the list goes on. Entrepreneurs are applauded for their “can do” attitude—but too often “can do” ends up meaning “must do everything yourself.”
This makes sense when you’re starting out and when money is tight. But if saving a few bucks means you’re distracted from doing your most important work, you have to ask yourself—is this really benefiting you in the long run?
If you’re doing too many side tasks, you might not have enough time for your “main” job anymore. What starts out as a short-term necessity can drag down your whole business over time if you don’t address it.
Fortunately, you’re not alone, and there are a ton of businesses that specialize in outsourcing and automating work for small businesses—from accounting to photography to watering your plants (ok, hopefully, you can still take care of that one yourself). Many of them are free to use, too. And remember, when it comes to starting your own business, asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Of course, telling yourself to “just delegate” is like telling yourself to “just do a backflip.” Sounds great—but it’s not gonna happen without some practice. Need help drawing the line? Check out our post Should You Outsource or Do It Yourself for some helpful guidance.
Trying to be perfect
You’re never going to be flawless, but you can certainly waste a lot of time trying.
There’s a myth that perfectionists get things done right, but “they often have trouble with procrastination, missed deadlines, and low productivity,” says the Student Affairs Division at the University of Texas. A perfectionist’s all-or-nothing attitude means they might not even try something if it won’t be perfect, or they completely blow deadlines because they’re fixated on small issues.
Instead of aiming for perfection, many productivity experts recommend “healthy striving” instead. You’re still working hard and aiming high, but in a way that’s focused on what you want to do rather than on a fear of what others will think. Some signs you’re a healthy striver rather than a perfectionist? You enjoy the process as well as the outcome, and you’re able to take constructive criticism in stride—and maybe even welcome it (*cringe!*)
If perfectionism is eating up too much of your precious time, take a page from the software development playbook and think in terms of an “MVP”— a minimum viable product. With this technique, you don’t release something when it’s perfect. You release it when it has *just* enough to basically work. That way you can test it, get feedback, and improve it from there. This keeps you from wasting your time trying to build the “perfect” thing.
Comparing yourself to others
You’re working hard, you’re pushing yourself to learn an entirely new skill, and maybe you’re even enjoying yourself. Quick, what’s the fastest way to ruin it? I’d say it’s suddenly thinking of how other people are doing it—maybe doing it better than you, faster than you, or having a much easier time. Suddenly, that feeling of flow you have is gone. You get discouraged, and your momentum is gone.
You’ve just had what psychologists call a “negative social comparison moment” or, in plain English, a familiar twinge of envy. And today, in a world where followers and ratings can seem like a perfectly good marker of self-worth, these feelings are becoming even more common.
But there is a way to avoid the trap. If social media is your weakness, try snoozing some apps, putting your phone in another room, and turning off your notifications. That way you won’t be as tempted to get on the comparison treadmill with other people.
You might also ask yourself what you’re really seeking when you open your social media feed. Is it some downtime? Maybe you need to purposefully schedule that for yourself so you’re not sneaking it throughout the day. Validation or company? Maybe you need to schedule some more in-person time with friends or colleagues for inspiration and support.
Having an outdated website
The other day I took a yoga class with a new instructor who I really liked. After the class, I asked her if she had a website that lists where she teaches. “Oh yeah, I have a website, but it’s terrible,” she said. “The best way to find out my schedule is to just email me.”
Does this sound familiar? Do you dread the question “do you have a website” because then you have to explain “Yes, umm, it’s just not really up-to-date…and, umm…it’s better if you get in touch with me another way….”
If so, you’re not letting your website do the heavy lifting for you. Your website is a lot of things, but above all, it should be a time-saving device.
Maybe it feels like you’re too busy to make some updates. If that’s the case, try to think about all the time you can actually save with a website that’s up to date.
- You can post your schedule and take bookings right through your site—and keep track of them all in one place.
- You can avoid a lot of repetitive messages with a comprehensive FAQ page that covers common questions.
- If people can get information straight from your website, you can cut down on the emails, texts, and phone calls that interrupt your workflow.
If you’re still struggling to keep your site up-to-date, it might be that your site is too big or has too much information on it. Try trimming it down to just a few pages with only your most important info. That way you won’t waste time trying to maintain pages you don’t really need.
For more tips on quick ways to make your website do more for you, check out 8 Ways to Finally Finish Your Website.
Running your own business ain’t easy, and some time-wasters are hard to avoid. But by working on some of these small bad habits, you can lighten your load and have more energy for the important things. And that’s certainly a reason to celebrate.