How Small Business Owners Spend Their Time

If you own a small business, you’re probably working more hours than you’d like. According to The Alternative Board’s Small Business Pulse Productivity Survey, 84 percent of business owners are routinely logging more than 40 hours per week. And that excessive workload is largely the result of inefficiency.

Email: A Virtual Black Hole

The TAB survey revealed that entrepreneurs spend 25 percent of their time on email. In a 40-hour week, that’s 10 hours. Spending too much time on email isn’t a problem exclusive to entrepreneurs – one survey found that white-collar workers spend about 20.5 hours a week on email.

Obviously, email is an enormous drag on productivity, and not just because of the time devoted to reading and writing messages. When interrupted in the middle of a task, it takes an average of 23 minutes to resume focus on that task. So if you’re stopping to check email throughout every hour of the workday, you’ll have a hard time accomplishing much.

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely decided to analyze how email impacts work and how a change of perspective could minimize email’s intrusive, time-sucking influence. People tend to react immediately to each email ping, for fear they may be missing something important. But in an informal survey, Ariely found that, of the last 40 emails people had received, a third of them were unnecessary; and only about one-tenth of messages were actually important and urgent.

Most productivity consultants recommend setting aside a finite amount of time for email, checking it only a few times per day. Getting into this habit helps manage others’ expectations. For example, if someone emails you after hours, but you never respond before 9 a.m. the following day, eventually, those late-night emails should taper off.

Meetings: Eroding Your Bottom Line

The TAB survey also found that, while business owners spend roughly 55 percent of their week on meetings, only 4 percent felt their meetings were 100 percent productive. And, as the saying goes, time is money. According to the Harvard Business Review’s meeting cost calculator, a 15-minute meeting involving three people, one of whom earns a salary of $90,000, and two of whom earn $30,000, will cost a total of $26. Most meetings are much longer, so companies may be losing a significant amount of money during unproductive discussions.

Delegating: Who Can Help?

If you’re spending a large portion of your week on paperwork, payroll, or other menial tasks, it’s time to start delegating. Maybe you’ll need to hire someone specifically to handle those tasks – or outsource them. But your time is better spent on tasks like networking, business dfevelopment, and establishing “big picture” goals.

Sometimes, the can-do entrepreneurial spirit makes it hard to let go of day-to-day tasks. But getting the help you need will ultimately put you in a better position to be successful – and to spend less time working.

Lusk Law, LLC, focuses on assisting entrepreneurs at the start-up phase and throughout the life cycle of their business. We have provided legal counsel and representation to business owners in Frederick County, Howard County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Carroll County, Washington County, Montgomery County, and other counties in Maryland. If you’re in need of legal guidance, please call us at 443-535-9715 or fill out our contact form.

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