Business development 30 September 2016

Four common productivity time drains in your small business – and how to deal with them

Social media provides great tools, but can be very time consuming to manage

Ed Molyneux, CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent, gives his top tips for identifying and dealing with four common productivity time drains in your business.

When you’re running your own small business, it’s common to sometimes feel like you don’t have enough time to get everything done. Whether you keep getting distracted by new problems that arise in your admin, or you spend too long on specific projects to the detriment of others, it can seem impossible to complete all of the tasks on your to-do list.


When you look at your time for a given day, do you actually have any blocks of time where you were completely focussed on productivity and the task in hand and weren’t interrupted for any reason? If so, don’t be surprised – it’s a very common problem in business.

Interruptions are one of the biggest hindrances in the workplace and can significantly hinder productivity, with researchers reckoning it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to our full work levels after every interruption. So if you want to stay in the zone and avoid losing that time, try blocking out specific chunks of “uninterrupted time” where you promise not to be distracted for any reason.

Turn off your phone, shut down all of your background apps and browser tabs, hit snooze on your inbox and allow yourself full concentration on the task in hand – and you should find you do your work quicker.

Poor delegation

Routine work like website troubleshooting or admin can be one of the biggest time drains – and it’s also time that could probably be better spent managing high-level tasks like growing your business. So if you’re finding yourself bogged down in these low-level tasks, perhaps you could delegate those tasks to someone else and free yourself up to concentrate on the more “valuable” parts of your work and increase productivity?

Delegate some of these tasks to your employees, but don’t worry if you work on your own. You may find that there is a suitable piece of tech or an online service that can help automate some of that admin – or at least make it easier and quicker to complete.

Not streamlining your social media

Maintaining a strong social media presence can be very rewarding for small businesses – but if you’re spending a lot of time on social media, it may be worth making sure you’re getting the most value out of that time.

Carry out an audit of all your social media channels and wee exactly how much time you’re spending on each one, compared with how much engagement you actually receive from your followers. For example, does it take you a long time to populate useful content for your twitter followers, in exchange for just one or two comments or re-tweets? Armed with that info, you’ll be able to minimise any wasted effort and ensure that you spend your time wisely.

Furthermore, it’s a good idea to take a look at all of the metrics you gather about your social activity and see how long it takes you to collate that info – and then decide how much of it you really need to be measuring. You may also find that purchasing a good social media monitoring tool can help you to gather your metrics faster and minimise any wasted time to increase productivity.

Trying to multitask

When you’re running your own business, it’s hard not to constantly try and juggle priorities or stay on top of a dozen things at once. You’ve got clients to deal with, marketing to undertake, admin to manage – and that’s all in addition to the work you actually get paid for by your customers.

However, trying to do everything at the same time is actually a pretty unachievable strategy – because most people aren’t skilled enough to be effective multitaskers. Researchers believe that just two per cent of people have the right brainpower to be competent “supertankers”, while the rest of us see our productivity drop when we try to do multiple things at once.

So if your daily routine is spent managing multiple tasks at the moment, combat the time drains by scheduling “appointment time” to focus on a specific project, use a system like Kanban to prioritise and sort your duties or simply write a daily to-do list to schedule your key priorities for the day. You should find that you spend less time alternating between things on your schedule and more time actually doing your work.

Ed Molyneux is the CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent.

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