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Combating the top 10 small business time wasters

In a five-part article series, we look at the 10 most common ways small business owners waste valuable time and offer some solutions for combating this damaging behaviour. Part one looks at tackling shifting priorities and interruptions.

Time wasting. We all do it. We fluff around, aware of that piling basket of ironing or growing to-do list, but we really don’t want to do it. In fact, we will do everything in between so we don’t get to it. And finally, when the deadline approaches, we get in to a panic and start cramming it in to what is left of the day and do a bad job. Not that far removed from how a teenager approaches studying for an exam or handing in an assignment.

Unfortunately, even though we all do this, 99 percent of people don’t recognise their behaviour for what it is. There is a lot of internal talking, a lot of excuses being made, and a lot of denial of this behaviour. Why? Because it’s just easier and, as a general rule, people don’t like to admit when they are doing the wrong thing. It’s self-preservation. A natural, automatic, protective, defensive stance.

In my next five articles, I’m going to outline the top ten small business time wasters. Use it as a tool to recognise what stage you or your employees are in and combat it. Watch your productivity sky rocket, but most importantly, watch for the change in yourself (or others).

Problem 1: Shifting Priorities

We all have priorities – whether it is lodging a bid for a new company, getting that pitch to the client on time, getting the kids to school, making the school concert – they’re all there. Often we have many in a day and often it’s the case that people just don’t know where to start. This is where chronic shifting comes in to play. People can find themselves jumping from one thing to the next, trying to cover all bases, but actually making matters more difficult than necessary.


Prioritise! Prioritise and focus. Work on one thing at a time with full focus, without distractions. Complete your first task and move on – not before. Don’t let anything else creep in and compete for your attention. If something pops up (like a new idea) write it down so you don’t forget it and get back to your original task.

Most importantly, recognise when you are starting to drift and take yourself back to task. Flex your willpower muscle and take control.

Problem 2: Interruptions

We all know what an interruption is. In fact, subconsciously we welcome them or even go looking for them when we really don’t want to be doing something. But at the end of the day, we can’t get through what needs to be done when we keep getting distracted – welcome or not.


Learn how to politely ask people to leave you be. Tell them that you need 10 minutes, an hour, or the day, but let them know that you need some quite time. Have your secretary redirect people, or close your door and hang a ‘please do not disturb’ sign on it.

Most importantly, don’t invite distraction in. Don’t look like you want to chat, don’t encourage it and when you see someone approaching look like you are focused on something and you will find people generally won’t disturb you. Just remember to not be rude.