4 Time Traps That Destroy Your Productivity…
and How to Eliminate Them Forever!
I’m sure many of you are probably seeking ways to get more done so you can spend more time with your family/friends while still managing a thriving business. This is often a big struggle for several business owners.
So what happens when you don’t manage your time well… when you just kind of “go with the flow” or “fly by the seat of your pants”?
First, your business won’t grow. You won’t be able to bring on the number of clients you want or need to maintain your income. You’ll also be pretty stressed, trying to do too much in the time you have available. You may feel burned out or exhausted because you’re working long hours week after week without any downtime. You may even give up on your dream all together, thinking it’s just too hard or too much work. 🙁
Sound familiar? Well, here’s the thing… you don’t have to work that many hours.
You don’t have to be “on” 24 hours a day. You can (and definitely should) be taking time off to hang out with your kids and do fun stuff outside of work. And your income does not have to suffer — not if you properly manage your time.
So if you want to take control of your time instead of feeling like you’re constantly overwhelmed, keep reading…
Below I’ve identified four time traps that don’t directly add dollars to your bottom line, yet are critical tasks that must be done. I’ve also included possible solutions to each of these time wasters, so you can get back to the work that matters.
Time Trap #1: Administrative Work
This one is tough for a lot of entrepreneurs. This includes everything from bookkeeping to email to project management. All of it is critical to keeping your business running and none of it makes you any money.
Not only that, but many administrative tasks are high-level work that business owners often feel only they can do. If your “type A” personality is preventing you from getting this admin work off your plate, then this first strategy is for you.
You need to move these non-money making tasks off of your to-do list and right onto someone else’s. And if that’s simply not possible, then you’re at least going to make them a whole lot easier and faster to do.
- Keep a Time Diary
Chances are you’re spending more time than you think on these time sucks, so the first step to gaining control of your time is to get a handle on what they are. Here’s how to do that:
Keep a notebook on your desk and start recording your time. This “time diary” will give you lots of clues about where you’re spending the majority of your time, and you’ll also see what can easily be cut. It can be something as simple as a list with your time spent, like this:
8:00-8:30am – Email Potential Clients
8:30-9:15am – Phone Calls
9:15-9:45am – Facebook Group
9:45-10:15am – Breakfast
10:15-11:30am – Write Blog Post
11:30am-1:00pm – Client Calls
1:00-2:30pm – Email
2:00-2:45 – Customer Support
- Create Templates
As an entrepreneur, you’ll probably find that your biggest blocks of time are dedicated to phone calls and email. You have potential clients to follow up with, past clients to reconnect with, billing issues to manage and customer questions to answer.
For example, if you find yourself continually creating new emails to request payment or to reach out to potential clients, then it’s time to develop some all-purpose templates you can copy/paste/edit and send off in seconds rather than minutes.
Pro Tip: Want to save even more time? Give your templates to your Virtual Assistant and have her manage your email followups! You can outsource everything from testimonial requests to payment issues. If you’re at all squeamish about asking for payment (and aren’t we all?), then handing this task off will not only save you time, it will save you stress as well!
If you find you’re spending a lot of time answering client questions, then the time has come to set up a Help Desk and FAQ page. Clients can answer many of their own questions simply by visiting the FAQ page, where you’ll want to include answers to such questions as:
* How do I schedule time with you?
* How do I log into your website?
* How can I change my credit card info?
* How can I know if you’re the right person for me?
* What kinds of issues can you help me with?
You can also create “canned responses” within your help desk to answer your most common questions. This will make it easy for your VA to help your clients find the information they need, and you won’t have to be involved at all. Just imagine how much time you’ll save when you’re not having to worry about retrieving login details or cancellation requests from clients!
Time Trap #2: Technical Support
Have you ever heard the expression “working in your business rather than on your business”? I’m convinced the person who coined that phrase was talking about technical work.
You know what I mean. It’s those things that just have to get done so you can build your brand and get paid, but which probably aren’t in your list of favorite things to do. Things like setting up webinars, creating shopping cart links and installing new landing pages.
Here’s what you should do so tasks like these don’t take up your valuable time:
- Make a List
Brainstorm a big list of all the things you do every day that involve some kind of tech work. It might be creating a new mailing list, tracking down a missing affiliate link or uploading videos to YouTube.
It might help to keep a piece of paper and pencil near at hand as you go through your day. Then each time a task such as this takes you away from your money-making work, jot it down. Include how much time it took you as well, and by the end of the week you’ll have a really good idea just how much time you’re wasting on these tasks.
- Calculate Your Own Value
How much is your time really worth? Do you know? Sure, you know what you earn for every hour you work with a client, but that’s not a good gauge of your true worth. To find out, head over to GetMoreFreeTime.com and register for access to Melissa Ingold’s free calculator. In just a few simple steps, you’ll know exactly what each hour of your time is really worth and you’ll be able to quickly see which tasks you should be outsourcing based on cost alone.
Now that you know what your time is worth, and you have a list of tasks that suck your time and aren’t adding dollars to your pocket, it’s time to move those tasks off of your to-do list and onto someone else’s. Now before you go thinking that you can’t afford to outsource yet, keep these points in mind:
Skilled Virtual Assistants will often spend far less time completing a task than you will, so the cost will likely be lower than you think. You might spend three hours wading through the documentation for your webinar management system just trying to integrate your autoresponder, while a VA who is familiar with the software can have it done in less than five minutes.
The time you’re not spending on technical tasks can be spent working with clients or JV partners instead or creating new content or paid programs. So don’t think of outsourcing as an expense, but rather as a way to make more money.
Time Trap #3: Continuing Education
When you’re in business for yourself, you can’t afford to let your skills slide. You must work to continually increase your marketing knowledge, learn new ways to help your clients prosper, discover emerging technology and a host of other information.
In fact, you could easily spend all your time learning and no time at all actually implementing what you learn. That’s a common time trap that many budding entrepreneurs fall into, much to the detriment of their businesses!
So how do you manage to run your business, work with clients and put in the necessary time to stay on top of the latest developments in your niche? With careful prioritization and planning, that’s how.
- Schedule Your Study Time
I believe that if something is important enough to do, then it’s important enough to put on your calendar. This also includes the time you’ll spend learning.Take a look at your calendar and see:
* How much time you truly have available (it’s probably less than you think).
* What days and times you are less productive — this is the perfect time to watch a webinar or read a business book.
* When you have other things scheduled that you can safely multi-task. For example, if you have to wait in the school pick-up line every day for 30 minutes, that’s a perfect time to read or listen to a business podcast.
Then block out a few hours each week solely for continuing education.
- Plan Your Study
Every day we’re bombarded with offers to watch another webinar or register for another must-have course or sign up for yet one more social media tool. They all sound so enticing and if your colleagues are jumping in, it can be tough to resist signing up for everything. But avoiding the time trap of endless learning requires ruthless prioritization. Ask yourself:
-Do I have a need for this right now?
-Will it help me make more money, reach more people, or otherwise grow my business within the next month?
If the answer to those questions is no, then do not put this on your schedule. It’s of no real use to you at this point. You can’t afford to let FOMO (fear of missing out) cause you to waste your time learning something you can’t use.
Time Trap #4: Overthinking Product Creation
Okay, this is a big one. We all want to create exceptional value for our tribe, so we work really hard to create products and programs that meet and exceed their needs. So you:
- Identify the need
- Outline the solution
- Discover another angle
- Outline the solution
- Discover an interesting (and useful) side trail
- Outline the solution
- Decide on a membership site
- Outline the content
- Research membership options
- Abandon the membership idea
- Go back to outlining content
- And the list goes on…
If you’ve ever been “stuck” in creating your programs, then you know how much time and energy this type of overthinking can cost you. In fact, for a lot of entrepreneurs, it results in no product at all. The next thing you know, it’s a year from now, and you’re still “almost done” with that great program. Or worse, that amazing product is now completely irrelevant to your market.
Don’t let this time trap cause you to miss out on sales. Do this instead:
- Determine Exactly What Your Market Wants and Needs
Like any great business owner, you most likely “have your ear to the ground” and are listening closely to the wants and needs of your clients. Great places to listen include:
* Private Facebook groups
* Your blog comments
* Emails from your readers
* Conversations on social media
* Your Help Desk
If you want more specific results, you can also ask for them in a survey especially designed for the purpose of creating a new product. Using a service like SurveyMonkey, create a short survey asking questions such as:
Where are you in your business journey?
– Just starting out
– Established but not earning as much as I would like
– Well established and earning a great income
Have you ever worked with a [list your specialty] before?
– Yes, with great results
– Yes, but I wasn’t happy with the results
– No, but I want to
– No, I don’t think I need to
When investing in business training, which format do you prefer?
– Video based training
– Audio based training
– Written training
– Combination of the above
When investing in business training, which time frame works best for you?
– Learn at your own pace
– Scheduled lessons over several weeks
– Scheduled lessons over several weeks with the option to download the entire course
What are your biggest struggles in growing your business?
What do you find easy about running your own business?
If you could invest in a program to [ENTER YOUR SPECIALTY HERE], how much would that be worth to you?
– Less than $500
– $500 to $1000
– $1000 to $2000
– $2000 and up
By including both multiple choice and essay style questions, you’ll not only get a good summary that will quickly point you in the right direction, but you’ll also see the key words and phrases your market uses to describe their strengths and pain points. Keep those examples handy because they’ll be perfect for writing a sales page that converts!
- Check Out Your Competition
Savvy businesses know exactly what their competitors are doing. They pay attention to new products and promotions, examine the content/social media and sign up for free webinars to get a peek inside the offers. However, some business owners are concerned that by paying too much attention to what the competition is doing, they’ll accidentally “borrow” their ideas. Worse, you might freeze up, thinking that no program you create could possibly compete.
Here’s how to avoid that…
Simply ask your VA to do the research for you and then reduce her findings down to a few bullet points. That way you can still keep an eye on what’s working for your competitors, without worrying about being overly influenced by their offer.
- Develop Your Idea
Now we come to the fun part! You know what your customers need/want and you know what they’re willing to pay for it. This will help you determine what format and length your program will be. Lower priced offers will likely be much shorter and not be part of a membership. They also probably won’t include any private/group coaching.
For lower-end products, it’s a good idea to keep this advice in mind: One problem, one solution.
This alone will help you avoid the “everything and the kitchen sink” time trap that might be keeping you stuck in product creation mode.
For higher end programs, you have a bit more flexibility. Higher priced products can include video, audio, a membership area and perhaps a group coaching aspect. They can also be much more comprehensive in nature, covering lots of topics in depth.
- Create Your Program
You’re finally ready to begin putting your ideas down on paper. And here is where many of you will freeze up, so I want to give you a few ideas for easy content creation:
* You already may have lots of blog posts, a YouTube channel, Kindle books, email archives, etc., so put those things to work for you! Have your VA compile a list of content that fits with your new program and then you can simple update and refine rather than starting from scratch.
* Gather a few experts together to share their knowledge and you’ll not only have a virtually instant product, but you’ll have built-in JV partners as well.
* You can find a ghostwriter to create your content for you.
* You can kickstart your product creation efforts with strategic use of DFY (done for you) content such as CoachGlue’s licensed workshops or top-quality PLR (private label rights) from respected creators.
Finally, don’t forget about editing and formatting. Your job is to create the ideas and solutions that will help your audience to thrive. It’s not your job to make the documents look nice or to edit the “ums and ahs” out of your video training. Those are tasks that truly are a time suck for business owners, so you should happily hand those off to someone else.
We all have our own time traps. I’ve covered the most common ones here, but I want you to know that no matter what your personal time trap is, there’s a solution for it. So think about what it is that’s holding YOU back from greater success and make a plan to get those time traps out of your life once and for all.
What are your personal time traps? Please share them in the comments below and if you’ve figured out the solutions for them, be sure to include that as well.