Do you need to find ways to get more done so you can spend more time doing the things you love, all while managing a thriving business? That’s a struggle most small business owners face. As a solopreneur, time is one of your most valuable assets. To be successful, you need to avoid the time traps that destroy your productivity.
I’ve identified four time traps that don’t directly put dollars in your pocket, yet involve critical tasks that must be done. Even better, I have solutions for each of these time traps, so that you can concentrate on the important work.
Stay out of the black hole of administrative work
Administrative work includes everything from bookkeeping to email to project management. It’s all critical to keeping your business running, but none of it makes you any money.
The best strategy is to move these non-income-producing tasks off your plate and onto someone else’s. But if that isn’t possible, then you can at least make them easier and faster to do. Especially if they are business tasks that you don’t like.
Step 1: Keep a time log
You probably spend more time than you realize on administrative tasks, so the first step is to get a handle on what they are. Use an app like Toggl to track your time or jot down time entries in a notebook on your desk. As you see where you spend your time, you’ll get clues about what you can cut or outsource.
Be specific and complete. If you participate in Facebook groups from 9:15 to 9:45, put that in your log. If you have a coaching call from 11:30-1:00, write it down. When you log every activity, you’ll get a true picture of your day.
Bonus video tutorial: How to Use Toggl to Track Your Time for Free
Step 2: Create templates
As you track your time, you’ll notice regularly repeated tasks. Creating templates that can be re-used will save you a lot of time. Getting started on a task is often the hardest part and templates will get you past that hurdle.
Consider creating templates for:
- Emails you write over and over, such as:
- Potential clients to follow up with
- Onboarding new clients
- Managing billing issues
- Past clients to reconnect with
- Frequently asked customer questions
- Blog posts
- Graphics for your blog and each social media platform
- Facebook ad creation
Step 3: Create systems
Your time log will also point out areas you can systematize. Any task you perform more than once should have a system. You’ll be surprised by how much time (and mental energy!) you can save once you have systems in place.
To create a system, start by documenting every step as you work through a task. Then look at the steps. Is there a better way to do this task? Should the steps be in a different order?
Don’t get bogged down with technical issues
Unless your business is providing technical support, dealing with technical issues is probably not your favorite thing. Plus it can be (and usually is) a huge time suck!
You know what I mean. Things like setting up webinars, creating shopping cart links, resolving WordPress plug-in conflicts. All those techy things that have to be done, but which bog you down and waste your time.
Step 1: Make a list
Doesn’t every time-saving strategy start with a list? 😊
Brainstorm a big list of all the things you do every week that involve tech work. Maybe it’s creating a new mailing list, fixing broken links on your website, uploading videos to YouTube, etc.
Keep a piece of paper nearby or an electronic note open on your desktop as you go through your day. Then, each time a tech task takes you away from your income-producing work, write down the task and the amount of time it took to complete. By the end of the week, you’ll have a good idea of how much time you waste on the techy stuff.
Step 2: Outsource
Now that you have a list of tech tasks that waste your time and don’t add money to your bottom line, it’s time to move those tasks off of your to-do list and onto someone else’s.
Before you skip this section, because you think you can’t afford to outsource yet, consider this:
- A skilled VA will often spend far less time than you on completing a task, so the cost will likely be lower than you think.
- You can spend the new-found time creating products to sell or working with clients.
If you can’t justify outsourcing at this time, then go back to the section about systematizing. Make a checklist of everything you have to do to complete a technical task. Streamline it as much as possible. If you can’t move the tech stuff off your plate, then you can at least minimize the amount of time you spend on it.
Do you spend more time learning than doing?
When you’re in business for yourself, you can’t afford to let your skills slide. But there are so many opportunities for continuing education today. You could easily spend all your time learning and no time implementing what you learn.
Step 1: Schedule your study time
Take a look at your calendar:
- How much time you truly have available? It’s probably less than you think.
- What days and times are you less productive? This is the perfect time to watch a webinar, work on an e-course, or read a business book.
- When do you have other things scheduled so that you can safely multi-task? For example, waiting in the school pick-up line or going for a walk make perfect times to listen to a business audio-book or podcast.
Then block out the time you will spend on continuing education.
Step 2: Get organized
How many e-courses have you bought? How many free e-courses and podcasts have you subscribed to? How many business books do you own that you haven’t read yet?
At the beginning of the year, I created a simple spreadsheet that includes every piece of educational content I have access to. For the e-courses, I broke it down by module and lesson. I added a column for the topic and another for whether or not it’s been completed.
Now, when I need to know how to do something, I can simply go to my master list and search for any resources I already have available.
Step 3: Create a learning plan
Once you have all your education resources organized, it’s time to create a learning plan.
- What do I need to learn right now?
- What will help me earn more money, reach more people, or otherwise grow my business?
Then look at your master list of resources and map out a high-level plan. Don’t feel like you have to complete a whole course in order or read a book from front to back. Pick out the pieces you need right now.
Once you have your high-level plan mapped out, add the detail into your 90-day plan.
Don’t get stuck by overthinking product creation
We all want to offer exceptional value, so we work hard to create products and service offerings that exceed the needs of our audience.
If you’ve ever been stuck in creating a program, then you know how much time and energy overthinking can cost you. In fact, for a lot of solopreneurs, it results in no product or service at all. That stuck feeling becomes overwhelming and the next thing you know, it’s a year later and you still haven’t finished creating your great program.
Step 1: Determine exactly what your market wants and needs
Great places to learn about your market include:
- Facebook groups
- Blog comments (your own blog or other blogs in your niche)
- Emails from your readers
- Conversations on social media
For more specific results, conduct a survey of your audience. It’s super-easy (and free) to create a simple survey using Google Forms, Typeform, or SurveyMonkey.
Include both multiple-choice and essay-style questions in your survey. With multiple-choice questions, you will get a good summary that will quickly point you in the right direction. Essay questions let you see the language – the actual words and phrases – your target customers use to describe their pain points.
Related: If you’re stuck on this step, ask yourself if you can you describe your niche in 10 words or less. If not, you may need to work on refining your target market.
Step 2: Develop your idea
Now that you’ve learned what your market needs and wants, decide the format and length of your program.
Lower-priced offers will likely be much smaller, such as a 4-module course, a one-hour coaching session, or a simple freelance project. For lower-end products, keep this in mind:
One problem. One solution.
This will help you avoid the “everything and the kitchen sink” time trap that might have you stalled in product creation mode.
Higher-priced products will likely be larger and include more bells and whistles. A longer course that includes video and audio and covers lots of topics in depth. A coaching package that includes several weeks or months and offers more access to you. Or a large freelance project that is more comprehensive.
One last thought about time traps
We all have our own time traps. I’ve covered four common ones here, but know this: whatever your personal time trap is, a solution can be found. Think about where you are stuck and what’s holding you back from greater success. Then, create a plan to cut those time traps out of your life now and forever.
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