Here is a list of my time wasting activities. Thanks to Raymond Aaron, Tim Ferris and Mark Joyner for teaching about them.

Look for things that are easy to implement and have the greatest impact on your life. Do not think you need to do everything at once. That probably leads to overwhelm and you will not achieve anything. Pick one from this list of possibilities and implement it.

Most of these suggestions take less than 5 minutes to implement and do not cost a thing. But they will result in huge time increases, far more than the time you spend on the things you enjoy, so you can do more things you enjoy.

Email

Don’t start your day by checking your email. You react to other people, rather than doing what is most important for you first.

I used to check emails every 15 minutes – all they long. I would look at every incoming email immediately. Later I would go back over them and reply. It took me out of what I was doing and I had to handle them twice (at least).

Now I check them once a day, after I finished all my important tasks for the day. I answer them immediately and file them. I also use Spam Arrest, which has reduced the amount of emails I received by 90% (from a few hundred a day).

Reduce interruptions (unscheduled tasks) from your team

An open door policy gives your team free access to you at any time. Sounds great, but interrupts your workflow. Give your team specific times when you cannot be interrupted. Close your door.

It is far quicker to focus on one thing and finish that, rather than dealing with different issues and having to pick up where you stopped.

You might be surprised how much more people can do by themselves if they don’t have you at their back and call.

We’ve got a large room for an office, so it needs even more discipline to adhere to that. I catch myself asking others things that are really pressing for me, but they take them out of their workflow. So my focus is as much on not disturbing my team.

Reduce interruptions from your phone

Have someone answer your phone and take messages. Ideally, they should handle the frequent questions and issues. Where that is not
possible, they need to elicit the problem, so that you can call back
with a solution.

Turn your mobile off or leave it with someone to answer it in that time.

I’ve managed to get rid of my mobile phone when I stopped producing events. People look at you funny, but otherwise it works really well.

Reduce meeting times

The first question before any meeting should be: Is it necessary? Especially when travel time is involved.

Meetings are useful when a solution to a complex problem needs to be found. Especially when it involves specific knowledge from various people. But most meetings are unnecessary with your time spent better elsewhere.

What about meetings with clients? There is nothing better than face-to-face communication for building trust, no doubt. But your clients buy from you to solve their problems, not to socialise.

Balance the time input with the return you get from them (and possibly the joy you get from those meetings).

Meetings are more effective if you specify the expected outcome. This is more than just an agenda. It specifies the problem, possible solutions and what action you want all participants to take by the end of the meeting.

Some people suggest meeting with your team standing up. I have not practiced that, but can imagine circumstances where that might be useful.

Plan your day each morning

Write a list of all the things you need to do in the morning. Delegate what you can. Pick out the 5 most important tasks and do them before anything else. There are lots of tools to help with that. I have been using Simpleology (a free tool and in depth training on how to get things done) and it really works for me.

Surfing the Internet

It is so easy to get lost on the Internet and stumble from interesting site to the next, stop off at YouTube and end up reading a Blog of something totally unrelated to what you went on the Internet for.

That is probably one of my biggest weaknesses. What sometimes helps is that I define what I am looking for and set a time limit when I will stop looking. There is unlimited information, but the return on your research time diminishes quickly with too much time.

Handle each piece of information only once

Have an IN-tray, an OUT-tray and a WAIT-folder. Whatever comes in goes in the IN-tray without you looking at it. When you go through your IN-tray, make a decision on everything.

Either dump it, delegate it (put a note on it and leave it in the OUT-tray), do it straight away, or plan it (file it under a specific day in your WAIT-folder when you are going to deal with it).

You can do the same with your emails. If you use Outlook, you can drag any email into the calendar and specify the date you want to be reminded of it.

Use electronic phone books

Put the numbers that you dial frequently into your phones (not just the mobile, but also the office phone and the fax machine). Use speed dial, rather than searching for and typing in numbers.

Outlook or any other address book makes it fast and easy to write emails without having to type in the email address every time. It does take a little bit more time to enter all the information at the start, but it saves a lot of time in the long run.

Physical Setup

Look for tasks that you do repetitively that involve getting things from far away. Rearrange your setup, so you can access the most important (and frequent) things easily and quickly.

Driving time

Bundle appointments and errands, to reduce your driving time.

Television

Choose consciously what you are going to watch and whether it is worth your time. Remember that time is your most precious resource, so choose wisely.

I have been living without television forever. That means I cannot comment on the latest Seinfeld episode, but otherwise it frees 1,460 hours (or 60 days of non-stop watching) per year (the average American watches 4 hours a day, that is half as much time as you spend working). So if you cut out TV, you could run another half-time business. That is if you are an average American…

Get personal services done for you

Pay for personal services: get your car washed, your pool cleaned, your dry cleaning picked up. Unless you absolutely enjoy any of these things.

Basically anything that costs  less than your hourly return is worth paying for. Not to mention the joy of coming home to a sparkling clean home. I love it.

Say No

It is easy to get in the habit of taking everything on. Make conscious choices as to whether taking something on serves you. In your private life this might be easier than when clients ask. But even with clients it can be worth saying No when the time investment is too high.

Now onto Freeing Time in business.