When are you wasting time as a SME Business Owner?

It’s pretty simple really: when you’re doing things that won’t help you take your business where you want it to go, towards achieving the success you want in your business and life.

There are a whole load of things we could be doing instead of this. We are in an age of information overload and everyone reading this will know their key foibles and pet time wasters that can cause them to get to the end of a day and think “what have I done all day?!” Never mind, “what have I done to progress my business today?”

But those things are symptoms. They are the things we waste our time ON. What we’re writing about today is causes. What are the reasons that are the root of our time wasting activity?

So often when people want to improve their utilisation of time, the focus is on tactical time management, organisation of workflow and the “to do lists”.  Of course developing skills in these areas are foundations of success for anyone, but as a SME Business Owner you have a different set of circumstances; you are leading a business, you are not an employee and you don’t have the luxury of the support and resources in bigger companies.

Therefore there is a bigger picture to successful time utilisation (or lack of) that we are exploring here.


1) Overwhelm – leading to being reactive and “fire fighting”


stress-111425_1280A SME Business Owner can become overwhelmed because they have multiple priorities that they have to juggle at all times. This combined with either the lack of a team or having to manage a team and all the challenges that come with that, can be overwhelming.

We rarely meet a SBO who is not busy, but are they busy doing the right stuff? When in overwhelm it’s hard to “see the wood for the trees”.

The issue is that busyness can cause overwhelm and overwhelm leads to being reactive and “fire fighting”. It can also lead to making mistakes which waste time and in more extreme cases overwhelm leads to stress which can lead to shut down in some way.

As we’ve already said, time is being wasted if the SBO is not doing that which will help them to achieve more of what they want in and from their business.  Yet we are in an age of information overload, where there are so many opportunities and possible paths to take that it is easy to find yourself jumping from one thing to the next, without any real plan or structure.

When everything becomes so urgent that it has to be done right now it means that ultimately we spend all of our time working on things that are urgent, but not necessarily the things that are important.

This jumping form one thing to another can be a major source of wasted time in itself.

According to studies conducted into distractions, it can take up to half an hour after you’ve dealt with a distraction, to get your thought processes back clearly on the original task you were working on. If you think how many times you can get distracted in the day, then it’s easy to see why you might get to end of the day and feel like you haven’t ticked anything off your to do list.

Think about what you could do to minimise distractions. Does your business require you to be contactable 24/7 or actually is it possible for you to turn off all of your electronic alerts for a period of time so that you can focus on the important tasks.

It is also important to carve yourself out some time on a daily or at least weekly basis to look at the tasks facing you with some perspective. If this means taking yourself out of your normal working environment then do it. If it means getting up before everyone else then make it happen. Use the time then to make clear decisions.

Which tasks actually really can’t wait? Which ones are symptoms of some other more important task not having been completed  (i.e. do you have vast numbers of invoices to process because you haven’t got round to sorting out the part time support you were looking for?) In which case what are the priorities to ultimately relieve this pressure of fire fighting?

Sometimes we need to find just a bit more time, in order to work out what is important and work more effectively so that ultimately time is spent in the most effective way possible.


2) Needing to work away from areas of strength


Lego people and wallWe know SME Business Owners are driven and talented individuals, but no one has strengths in all areas.

When we work with SBOs we tend to look at planning with them from the point of view of the five key areas of business: Sales, Marketing, Operations, Finance and Personnel or Talent. However there are always areas of the business that SBOs are more comfortable with, and feel they are stronger in and those that are a struggle.

This can be a key cause of wasted time because when the action plans are done and priorities set out, it may be that they key actions that need to be completed are in areas of personal weakness or areas they are not comfortable in for the business owner in question.

It may be that you are an electrician who is fantastic at the practicalities of electrical repairs and installations, but you don’t have many clients and you are very uncomfortable in sales and marketing.

This can be a big source of wasted time for two reasons. One, because it’s not an area of strength, you may not undertake the most appropriate activities as priorities or the ones that are most likely to yield results, because you’re not sure what will yield the best results. Secondly, it could be that because it’s not an area of strength it’s something you avoid getting on with, so it actually prompts procrastination.

In order to make sure time isn’t wasted like this you need to thinking of strategies to overcome it. Do you up-skill? Do you outsource? Do you employ someone else? There are numerous options but the important thing is not to let it become a blockage.


3)  Insufficient strategic and action planning


First of all, the best strategic planning helps you to work back from your vision into the right action in the moment.  Action which is aligned with your purpose ensuring you are motivated, focused and totally “on it”.  People who are in this state and have this clarity of what they should be doing to fulfill their ambitions don’t waste much time, why would they when they have their goals in clear sight!

Unclear business and sales targetsAlternatively, not knowing your key actions for the day, week, month or year is one of the primary causes of time wasting. If you don’t know what you should be spending your time on in the first place, then the chances are you’re going to be wasting time.

We want to ask you a question. Have you ever set yourself a vague goal? Something like  “one day I’d like to run a marathon?” Thinking about that now, have you achieved it yet or not?

For those that have we can guarantee that somewhere between setting the vague goal and running the marathon you will have set much more specific goals. You will have booked the marathon that you’re going to run in. Then you’ll have made a plan. You will have worked out a training programme, you will have prioritised your training, you may have changed your diet. You may have involved someone with experience in running marathons to help you.

You did that because you knew that without that sort of specific planning, you wouldn’t achieve the ultimate goal.

One of the key reasons that people waste time in business is because they don’t know what they should be prioritising. The reason they don’t know what they should be prioritising is because they’re still stuck at the vague goal stage.

If you only ever set a vague goal , say: “I want to make a million pounds” the chances are you’ll never get there. It’s important to cement that goal: “I’m going to make a million pounds in the next five years.” Then you need to work out how you’re going to do it.

If you’re going to achieve that, what do you need to make this year? In order to make that money this year, and be building the platform for the increased revenue you’ll need over the next five years, what is the first priority? What is the key thing you need to do? What is the second priority? Can both these things happen at the same time? What is the most efficient and effective way to get them done?

These sorts of questions should form part of your monthly planning process, out of which you should drive your key actions.

So we hope that this has given you some insight into why SME Business Owners waste time and how to start reducing this wastage.

Which of the three reasons most resonates with you?

What can you do to change this?

If you’d like to work with us on this then get in touch for a free introductory call on 0203 1891287 or email

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