The 10 worst time wasters for small business owners

Editorial Team

6 min read
Woman looking at watch

As a small business owner, you can always strive to make more money and find more customers. You cannot, however, add more hours to the day, although there are days you probably wish you could.

While you can’t create time, you can maximize this limited resource in a way that delivers measurable results. In other words, it’s possible to save time if you know how to eliminate unnecessary distractions from your workflow. Below are 10 of the most common small business time wasters — and how to avoid them.

1. Email

Emails can sometimes be a waste of time since most messages: 

  • Aren’t truly actionable 
  • Are longer than required 
  • Include too many people 

While it may be easier and faster to handle internal communications face to face, this isn’t always a viable option. When email must be used: 

  • Include clear subject lines — preferably with some type of indication that the message is actionable versus informational. 
  • Keep messages to 100 words or less. If an email needs to be longer, consider talking to the recipient(s) in person, on the phone, or via a virtual meeting platform. 
  • Use the CC option sparingly — and only include essential personnel.  

2. Paper documents

Filing, retrieving, and sharing paper documents is another huge time waster. Managing such a system can also be expensive. 

Migrating to a paperless office can require a large upfront investment of time, but the long-term benefits are worth it: 

  • Keyword searches allow you to quickly retrieve documents on demand. 
  • You can easily share (and collaborate on) documents. 
  • You spend less money on materials such as paper, toner, files, labels, etc. 

As a bonus, going paperless is better for the environment, too. 

3. Team meetings

Some company meetings evolve into open brainstorming sessions that only involve a handful of active participants. Everyone else is just a spectator. Consider eliminating meetings when possible and handling decisions through one-on-one discussions or via brief emails. In situations where meetings are unavoidable, you should: 

  • Only invite key personnel. 
  • Draft a written agenda of what you hope to accomplish. 
  • Set a strict time limit based on the scope of the agenda. 

Another strategy is to implement no-meeting days once a week where you and your staff can focus on work without disruptions.

4. Difficult customers

Upon close inspection, you may notice that 80 percent of customer complaints come from roughly 20 percent of your clients. Known as the Pareto Principle, this ratio can be applicable to many different business concepts, including negative customer relationships.1 

When demanding clients consume a disproportionate amount of your time, this makes it harder to direct your attention toward the 80 percent of customers who provide your business with value. It may be worthwhile just to let those difficult customers go. 

5. Social media

Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are obvious time wasters when they’re not being used for business purposes. Everyone knows it, but most of us lack the willpower to resist these incredibly tempting platforms. The solution? Install browser add-ons such as StayFocusd to make visiting these sites near impossible during business hours. 

For even better results, consider using RescueTime — an online service that tracks the “who, what, where, and when” of your browsing habits. You’ll know exactly which sites are holding you back, and you can adjust accordingly. 

6. Commuting

If you drive 60 minutes into the office and another 60 minutes back home, your eight-hour workday is actually a 10-hour commitment. However, as we’ve learned from the pandemic, many people can perform their jobs just as well, if not better, from their own homes thanks to email and other digital collaboration platforms. Not only does this save time, but telecommuting has also been known to make employees happier and more productive.2

Some jobs, however, do require that you and your team come into work, but you can help reduce time on the road by adopting an adjusted working schedule. Flextime makes it easier to avoid rush-hour traffic.

7. Invoicing

Are you still sending invoices by hand? Try using an electronic invoicing system to speed the process. Rather than spending time and money printing bills, stuffing envelopes, and dropping them in the mail, you can send invoices quickly and easily through email and allow your customers to pay online conveniently by credit or debit card. This provides your customers with more payment options, and helps improve cash flow.

8. Accounting

Do you spend time balancing the books manually? Even if you only devote one day a month to updating your ledger, this is still time that could be better directed towards other activities that will help you grow your business.  

Automate your bookkeeping by integrating your POS system and payment environment with your accounting software. As new sales come in, those transactions are automatically reflected in the software your team already uses. No manual entry required. 

9. Customer relationship management

It’s great if you receive a customer’s email, phone number, or mailing address. Though, if the customer is writing his or her contact details on a mailing list sign-up sheet at your counter, or completing a paper form, that is time you’ll spend manually entering information into your customer relationship management (CRM) platform.

Just as payment integration can help automate your bookkeeping, CRM technology integrated with your POS system can also help manage customer records in real time. Customers can enter their contact information directly into a digital form or send an SMS text, and you can stay connected with them easily to offer perks, rewards, discounts, and share new product releases.

Additionally, it’s easier to retain existing customers than it is to find new ones. However, the time you save by not having to manually enter or update contact information can now be directed towards creating marketing campaigns to attract new customers. 

10. Payment security

Probably one of the worst time wasters is dealing with the unfortunate events of a data breach. It doesn’t matter what type or size of business you own, criminals do not discriminate when it comes to stealing sensitive data.

If your business becomes a victim of fraud, you’ll have to spend time:

  • Alerting customers, vendors, and the authorities
  • Hiring a forensic accountant, attorney, and public relations professional
  • Securing your environment and recovering data
  • Establishing credibility with your customer base

That’s why it’s important to invest the time and finances upfront to help protect your customers and your business from a data breach.

When shopping for payment provider, it’s best to focus on services that offer: 

How we help small business owners save time

At Clover, our team is dedicated to helping you discover the business management and payment processing needs of your company. To learn how we can help you start saving time and money, schedule a consultation with a Business Consultant today.

1 “80-20 Rule,” Investopedia, 25 May 2020

2 “What if You Don’t Want to Go Back to the Office?” The New York Times, 31 May 2020

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