Busy but Unproductive?

The classic response when you ask a business person how they are going is for them to say, “Fine thanks, but very busy.” From morning to night they are running with more things to do than there are hours in the day. Busy has become a bit of a standard response. Some wear ‘busy’ like a badge of honour. It is meant to imply they are hard working and doing what it takes to make their business successful. Sometimes this will be accompanied with a hint of resentment and a dig at those on wages or on a public service salary who have little idea what it really means to be busy.

I am the first to say I admire the work ethic and the courage of small business people who are the backbone of the Australian economy. Their lives are on the line every day. They have usually taken huge financial risks, including mortgaging their house to be in business. They carry a huge sense of responsibility for their employees. They love to do a great job for their customers.

I have noticed that many business people become stuck in unhelpful work patterns that keep them busy but unproductive. Their business history can get in the way. As their business grows they fail to recognise that their methods and work habits need to change as well. Some things would be better delegated to others. Other things are simply not effective use of time and energy. A good goal is to always seek to know the 20% of activities that will get you 80% of results (see Pareto Principle). As a business grows it is harder to know what those things are and ensure they are a priority. This is why small business success is always a personal growth journey.

5 things business people do that make them busy but unproductive

There are many things that business people do that make them busy but unproductive. These 5 are among the most common:

  1. Start their day without a plan – it is critical that each day you know the top 3 things you MUST do today that will help you take your business forward. If you have a business plan with clear vision, values and goals it is much easier to know what this daily plan will be.
  2. Check their emails first thing – you can lose an hour or two responding to other people’s demands and agendas which will often take your day in unplanned directions. Far better to start your day doing important things you need to get done and squeeze emails and returning phone calls into a couple of 30 minute slots late morning and mid afternoon.
  3. Always answer their phone – this is similar to the email issue. I have seen business people take phone calls in the middle of doing important work that requires concentration. Research shows that it takes at least 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the level of focus you had before an interruption. There have to be times DURING THE WORK DAY when you can shut the world out and get things done.
  4. Try to do everything themselves – as a business owner with staff you need to develop leadership skills which will help you learn to empower people to take responsibility and carry weight within your business. If you do not know how to build trusting relationships you will always tend to do things yourself rather than take the time to delegate and train people to do things well. This is such a common reason why many business people are still working late into the evening when they would rather spend time with their family.
  5. Try to please everyone – this is best measured by your ability to say ‘NO!” It is surprising how often business people want to help everyone. I have seen some business owners waste huge amounts of time trying to help someone who is not their ideal client. While it is good to be generous, it is a sign of insecurity if you cannot politely say ‘No’ when required.

We could add other things such as: perfectionist tendencies, lack of strategy, lack of systems and processes, poor staff training, poor staff inductions, lack of a daily routine, lack of business structure, focusing on the wrong things, lack of or unclear business measures, poor communication, and more.

What would you do with an extra day each week?

In most cases when I start working with business owners I can help them to buy back a day per week into their lives. Simply having an extra set of trained and objective eyes looking at your business helps to see your blind areas. What was clear and worked when you first started out will not take you the whole business journey.

To set up a free 30 minute conversation about your situation please contact me

INTEGRATE: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth | John Drury

Integrate: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth and what you really need to create a fulfilling lifestyle

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