By Tina Dietz
January 29th, 2014 Edition
There has rarely been a better time in history to start a business. In 2013, more than 135,000 jobs were added to the US market and guess where nearly half those jobs came from? SMALL businesses. To really make it as an entrepreneur you need tremendous tenacity, top notch networking skills, and a no-fear approach to sales—even in the most heart-centered of business ventures. But if you’re reading this, I’m probably not telling you anything new yet, and what you want is to break through to the next level of time and money freedom in your business.
Every industry I’ve worked with-and there have been more than 20+ industries internationally-has its own unique quirks and challenges. However, some very common trends arise when it comes to how you’re likely to sabotage yourself regarding time and your productivity.
Productivity Killer #1: The “Perpetual Expert”
How much time do you spend collecting information, certifications, and more training so that you’re “ready.” Collecting information is only useful if it is immediately practical. If you have a client who has a question, look it up. Google is your friend, and problem solving when there’s actually no problem is a drain of time, energy, and resources. The brain only retains about 10% of the information that it is exposed to, so chances are you’re going to have to look it up again anyway if you need it at all. Your time is better spent finding out what your ideal clients need, and focusing on filling those needs in a targeted and concise manner.
Productivity Killer #2: Having an Open Schedule
There’s a difference between being available and being a 24/7 hotline. Have a policy that you will always return communications within a certain amount of time (say 12, 24, or 48 hours) and honor that policy. This gives you room to breathe, builds trust with your clients, and also sets clear expectations. People value a service more when they know they have to plan for it, and most “emergencies” resolve themselves or quickly become non-emergencies if you don’t feed the energy of a knee-jerk reaction. Limit checking your email and voice mail to 2-3 times a day for a half hour at a time. Unless it’s someone you’re waiting to hear from, don’t pick up your phone when it rings. These practices will have you focus on your most important tasks and keep your responses to the point.
Productivity Killer #3: Being Too Friendly
This goes for both colleagues and clients. Obviously you don’t want to be a jerk, but it’s completely doable to be kind even when you’re setting a boundary or saying no. Gossip, social media, and instant messaging, and other kinds of chitchat can wipe out hours of your day, leaving you frustrated and scrambling to get your priorities handled. The same goes for meetings. Start by wearing a phone headset (in the case of an office setting) or putting a “please do not disturb” sign on your office door if you have one (even at home) to reduce distractions and interruptions. Minimize your time in live or phone meetings by partnering up with a colleague and trading off going to meetings and taking notes for each other. As for clients, steer clear of personal entanglements. If you’re with a client who is on a roll with a personal story, reach over and give a gentle, compassionate squeeze to their shoulder or hand and say, “you’re really going through some difficulty right now, so why don’t we take a step back and see where I can best help you.” You can then redirect the conversation to a more solution-focused place. Don’t be afraid to interrupt them, they will thank you for it later.