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Cutting the clutter print Print

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Are you hard pushed for time, with email after unnecessary email and interruption after interruption stopping you from getting on with running your business as you’d like? Read these tips to help manage your time.

5:45am    Wake up. Roll over. Check emails. Get up.
7:00am    Get the kids ready for school.
8:15am    Now you’re ready to start work. Check emails.
9:00am    Meet with potential customer.
10:00am  Write next month’s staff roster.
11:30am  Sit down with accountant and go through tax.
3:30pm    Eat breakfast.
3:45pm    Sit down for Serious Productivity Time.
3:46pm    Deal with staff issue.
6:00pm    Wonder where the day disappeared to.

Cutting the clutter

If this sounds a bit like your day, you’re not alone. Whatever industry you’re in, as a business owner you’re likely to be hard pushed for time. When email after unnecessary email, followed by interruption after annoying interruption stops you from getting on with running your business as you’d like, you can sometimes wish for the ability to stop time.

People who run start-ups can feel like their day is chopped into tiny bits. Each bit is a meeting, a call from a customer, a staff issue to fix, 24 emails to respond to, a weekly debrief, another meeting, until suddenly it’s the end of the day – and tomorrow it’s time to do it all over again.

It’s incredibly hard to get meaningful work done when your work day has been divided into these work moments.

It’s a similar story in the corporate world. Bain & Company, a global consultancy company, estimates that the average manager in 2014 received a whopping 30,000 emails a year, compared to a much more manageable 1,000 messages back in 1970. Unless the manager in question is an Email Sender and Receiver Executive, he’s probably not very effective.

Nick O’Neill, GrabOne’s national sales manager, used to get up to 400 emails a day. “I reduced the number of emails I received by stopping sending emails. If you send an email with four people CCed in, you’re going to get at least four emails back.

“I found that I got stuck in an inbox world, when really I could just get up, walk over and talk to someone about it, and get a much better result from it straight away.”

So, are you getting too many emails? You should probably have a meeting about it…Or should you? Meetings can eat up your time too.

“I attend about three meetings a day, not including impromptu meetings that pop up all the time,” says O’Neill. “When I schedule meetings, I have to give my staff a ‘what’s in it for me’. I take after my old boss who, if you weren’t getting to the point, would just pack up and leave.”

If you don’t get your work done during working hours, when will you? Tomorrow?

Not if tomorrow looks anything like today.

Four tips for de-cluttering your day

Take control of your inbox

Don’t let email notifications control your life. Instead, dedicate portions of your day to checking your inbox. If you simply can’t ignore it for more than an hour, try 10 minutes every hour. If a message truly is a matter of life or death, someone will call you.

Meeting shmeeting

Only schedule meetings if you really need them. Respect everyone’s time by discussing things that actually matter. If it becomes blindingly obvious that it’s a total waste of time, do everyone a favour and end the meeting.

Book a meeting with yourself

Book meetings with yourself, especially when you need to get the big things done, like updating the books, or writing the staff roster. No distractions equals high productivity.

After hours belong to you

This can be harder for small business owners than it is for people who work for big companies, but try to switch work off as soon as you leave ‘the office’ – be it your home office, a building site or your shop. Cook dinner, watch a movie and enjoy the evening. Make your bedroom mobile-free; let it become the haven it was designed for, not the place you sort out business issues.

Looking for more ideas about how to find more time in your day? Read our 19 tips for better time management.

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