It is safe to assume that, if given one wish, most entrepreneurs would ask for more hours to their day. No matter what stage in its start-up life a small business may be in, time is precious and must be used carefully to ensure that the company stays on track and focused with what it’s doing and where it’s going. This is where the small items that sidetrack a business begin to pour in. Sometimes you can get away with not addressing them immediately, other times you can’t. But usually, they wind up taking up more time than you initially thought they would which can be more detrimental to your business than you think. Having owned my own business for several years now, I’ve made up a list of items that sidetrack start-ups the most and added some solutions on how to best schedule in your time to focus on these areas.
1) The Issue: Answering every email/phone call.
It’s easy to feel like you need to be glued to your Outlook or iPhone all day replying back to your emails and voicemail messages as fast as you can as a means to get your inbox down to zero.
The Solution: Delegate what you can and address urgent items first.
In this case, delegation is a reference to email addresses. If you run a small business on your own, you may want to create additional email addresses that inquiries can be sent to outside of your personal email. One for general information, one for press, another for tech support – these all help spread out your emails to the appropriate places and make your inbox a little less terrifying. For phone calls and emails alike, always address the most urgent messages first and work your way down from there.
2) The Issue: Shooting from the hip.
You’re an entrepreneur and you make your own rules, so why abide by a stiff schedule? Why not do everything as it comes your way?
The Solution: Making a list is good for keeping priorities on track.
Some days you may have less to focus on than others, but for the most part, especially as your business is starting up, doing everything the minute it comes up might wind up leaving you gasping for air. Creating a to-do list is the best possible method for staying on track with your responsibilities. You’re able to constantly add to the list and once an item is completed, crossing it off makes you feel on top of your game.
3) The Issue: Social media.
Checking Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, LinkedIn, your RSS feed… and repeat on an endless loop. If your job involves spending a lot of time online, it’s extremely easy to let a 5-minute break refreshing these sites turn into a 15+ minute break.
The Solution: Go where you need to the most, save the rest for later.
If you’re on a time crunch for projects and assignments, it’s not going to be feasible to spend 20 minutes aimlessly scrolling through your Tumblr dash just because you want to be all caught up. Save that for after work and go where you know you can get in and get out fast – a quick Facebook login to wish a friend happy birthday or like a few statuses is simple enough to manage.
4) The Issue: Long partner lunches.
You want to meet with potential business partners and investors to discuss moving forward with your company. They want to meet for further discussion over lunch. Between driving to and from the eatery of choice, waiting for a table, ordering drinks and appetizers, then the meal, waiting for the check… the entire process can eat away several hours of your day.
The Solution: Explain your situation and offer alternative options.
Rather than not say anything and squirm during the meeting or staring at the clock hoping the potential partners get that you have places to be, voice your concerns up front. Tell whomever you’ll be meeting with that ideally, you’d like to conduct the meeting a little closer to where your business is and that your schedule is a little tight. Ask if they’d rather meet for coffee instead of heading to a restaurant, earlier in the morning rather than later in the afternoon or evening (to better avoid traffic), or even conduct the meeting via Skype. Chances are, the partner’s schedule is as busy as your own and they will probably be grateful you spoke up!
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.
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