The web is full of productivity advice for entrepreneurs. And while these tips, when implemented appropriately, can be incredibly helpful, there’s a corollary that’s missing. What about the things business owners should not be doing with their time?
Your to-don’t list is just as important as your to-do list. Here are eight items that belong on it:
1. Shuffling past-due items on your to-do list
“When you find yourself constantly rescheduling something, you need to ask whether it actually needs to be on your task list. The most successful people really know how to focus on their priorities, so they’re comfortable with deleting tasks that aren’t highly relevant.”
2. Scheduling meetings
Quit it with the back-and-forth over the days and times that’ll work for your next meeting. Use collaboration tools that let people book with you directly or that find shared availability among multiple parties instead.
3. Attending unnecessary meetings
Oh, and about scheduling meetings? As you optimize the way you set them, don’t forget to ask yourself whether or not they’re truly necessary.
Are you holding an update meeting for a client that could be covered with reports instead? Are you inviting people to a meeting who don’t need to be there? Respect your time and the time of others by putting unnecessary meetings on your to-don’t list.
4. Updating your books
Call it quits on manual bookkeeping. Your time is better spent elsewhere. Free it up by hiring a bookkeeper (these days, options exist both online and offline) or by looking for an automated bookkeeping solution.
Susan Kearns, writing for Intuit, suggests one way to do this:
“Accounting is another time-intensive area where you can automate the process and manage your books more effectively. You can sync your bank accounts and financial apps with your accounting software to get up-to-date reports and analysis, keep track of your expenses for tax purposes, pay bills, and send customized reports to your accountant.”
5. Running payroll
6. Following up on proposals
Chasing down past proposals you’ve sent is a major time-waster for many small business owners. If you’ve ever found yourself searching through your inbox—trying to figure out what you sent, when you sent it, and who you’re waiting on for a response—you know what I mean.
Again, collaboration tools can help. Look specifically for solutions that automate the follow-up process and centralize communication among all involved parties.
7. Networking with no measurable ROI
I’m not getting down on networking. I’m calling out the networking you’re doing simply because people told you that you should be doing it—not because you’re seeing any actual results.
Take a hard look at your networking approach. Has it led to valuable contacts? New business? Greater opportunities? If not, don’t keep beating a dead horse. Change up your methods for better results.
Multitasking isn’t a task itself, but it deserves a mention here since trying to take on too many things at once almost always leads to bad results. Nina Zipkin, a staff writer at Entrepreneur, explains why and offers an important solution:
“When your attention is pulled in different directions, the quality of the work you are putting into each task will suffer. Not everything requires the same amount of mental energy, so step back, prioritize, and move your way through your to-do list one thing at a time.”
Obviously, your results may vary. Some of these tasks may be necessary for you to handle, or you may have others that take up time and space on your agenda without providing sufficient reward.
Constantly evaluate how you’re spending your time. Check in with what you’re doing, and answer honestly as to whether or not you’re getting value out of each activity. Where you see weak spots emerge, it’s time to move them to your to-don’t list.
By Sujan Patel