It's hardly surprising that most business owners work long hours and have a lot of stress. But a survey by The Alternative Board, which helps small businesses by creating advisory boards, demonstrates the extent of the problem.
As you might expect, 84% of business owners log over 40 hours a week. But here's where it gets interesting: Business owners cite poor time management (35%) as the #1 productivity killer for their business, above poor communication (25%), personal problems (18%) and technology distractions (16%).
The result? The average business owner only manages 1.5 hours of uninterrupted, high-productive time each day.
As CEO of my firm for more than 30 years, I can tell you that the key to success is allocating time for thinking, planning and problem-solving. If your day is carved up into meeting after meeting and interruption after interruption, you're like a hamster in a wheel, running as fast as you can to react, rather than proactively driving toward your goals.
This not only has a negative effect on your business, it also takes its toll on you. You put in long hours since you can't get everything done during the regular work day. And you stress out because you always feel like you're behind.
It's time to stop the madness. Here are five reasons you're in trouble--and advice on how to change these factors:
- Email is your puppet master. I was shocked to see that the majority of business owners surveyed say they spend most of their time on email, even though only 9% feel it's the most important use of their time. As The Dixie Chicks sang, "There's Your Trouble"! It's time to turn off that Pavlovian "You've got mail" chime and put email in its place. Yes, you have to spend some time managing email, but it shouldn't dominate your work life.
- You're not managing your time. Look at your calendar for today. If it doesn't have a big empty space for getting your most important work done, then you're not in control of your time. When I'm working a big project, I don't schedule any meetings in the morning, so that I can concentrate on that priority. And, on almost every day of the week, I keep a one- to two-hour block open for planning, writing and thinking.
- Your meetings suck. Business owners bemoan time wasted in meetings--only 4% say meetings are 100% productive. That's because most meetings are ineffective: too unfocused, too long and too lackluster. You need to demand better meetings in your organization. Start by insisting that every meeting be only as long as it absolutely needs to, which means most can be completed in 30 or even 15 minutes. Then make sure that every meeting has clear objectives so that any time you get together, it's time well spent.
- You're not delegating enough. It's time to admit that you're a control freak. I hope you've hired good people. (If you haven't, that's a bigger problem.). Now you need to unleash their intelligence and abilities. I'm sure there are 15 things on your plate that should be dished out to someone capable on your team.
- You're not investing enough time in communication. Of course, to delegate effectively, you need to spend focused time at the outset providing direction, allow for check-ins throughout the project, and be available to help propel the project to the finish line. At first, the may actually require more time than you're currently allocating. But clear communication is worth investing in to set up your people for success.
Here's the upshot: To achieve your goals, you need to stop wasting time and start actively managing your day, week, month and year. When you do, you'll work fewer hours and actually accomplish more.