According to a survey by call-handling service provider, Penelope, micro-business owners in the UK are working on an average 52 hours a week, far more than the UK average of 37. The survey also showed a north-south divide, with entrepreneurs in London working an average of 62 hours, compared to just 48 hours in Scotland.
Could an inefficient use of time could be partly responsible for owners working longer hours? Robert Craven, business development consultant and founder of The Directors' Centre in Bath, argues that “Whether unintentionally or not, many of us don't work as efficiently as possible some or even most of the time" adding that "some owners mistakenly believe that working long hours is the key to success, when they should be working smarter not longer".
Communications Technology Means More Distractions at Work
Business owners have always been experiencing distractions at work, but it seems that modern communications technology has created more of them. Craven argues that "social media addiction has become a bigger problem – and being active on such sites is not the same as being busy. Much time can also be taken up unnecessarily with products and suppliers, often at the expense of selling – the most important task".
According to market research firm uSamp, nearly 60% of work interruptions now involve either using tools like email, social networks, text messaging and IM, or switching windows among disparate standalone tools and applications. In fact, 45% of employees work only 15 minutes or less without getting interrupted, and 53% waste at least one hour a day due to all types of distractions.
Time Management is Key to Work Efficiently
Cory Cook, efficiency and time-management expert advises business owners to try keeping a detailed diary for a week in order to identify how they are wasting time, stressing that they should be objectively recording their daily activities.
The next step is to figure out what changes need to be made. Cook highlights that outsourcing could be an optimal solution to make work operation more efficient. She argues that “delegating more responsibility to others could also enable you to contribute more value – and do more enjoyable things".
If outsourcing or delegating tasks isn't an option, better time management could make a major difference to your bottom line and work-life balance. "It begins with structuring your working day", Cook explains. "Knowing what needs to be done and how long you've got for each task encourages focus. And the more focused you are, the more productive you'll be".
Successful time management also requires self-discipline and being prepared to politely say no to non-essential time-sapping requests. Creating to-do lists, prioritising tasks and working through them one by one is essential in maintaining productivity and working efficiently.
Even seemingly small changes like these can make a big difference to your business which in turn can mean you don’t need to work so many hours. You will be working smarter instead of longer.