How I Banish Unproductive Time in My Business

Taking it from Annette’s personal experience,  especially when you are starting with your business, there will be use of time that is not going to be productive for you and the business.  

In these Training Tuesday live sessions, Annette will share how she is able to cut the unproductive time that is taking her time which should have been for productive use for the success of her business.  

Here are a few insights you’ll hear in today’s show…

  • Tracking time is the first important step to know where your time is going.
  • Why is establishing boundaries and knowing when to say 'No' is important, not only in business but in your life? 
  • Having a structured schedule helps in getting all your tasks done. 
  • Why is it important to understand which tasks you need to prioritize?
  • Annette's 5th step - Assess what else can be automated and technologically systemized in your business.
  • What should be checked first before delegating to others?
  • The final step - Setting goals and tracking progress.


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Hello, hello, everyone, I hope you are well today. Happy, happy Tuesday. Today is Training Tuesday. Training Tuesday is a live series that I used to do, for a couple of years ago now and it kind of slipped by the wayside. So one of my resolutions this year is to get training Tuesday back up and running.

This is where I'm going to share with you all things business really. We're going to speak about a variety of business topics. As we go through, you can have any questions, feel free to ask them in the chat boxes, but that is what we are covering off today. So, we are currently live in a number of places.

Today we are currently live on various places on Facebook, my profile, my page, and within the Profit First UK Facebook group. We are live on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Tiktok. So thank you everyone who is watching and tuning in. I massively appreciate you coming on today.

My Personal Strategies for Banishing Unproductive Time

Today's topic for training Tuesday is 'How I banish unproductive time from my day'. I'm going to speaking about this from my perspective, what's worked for me, and hopefully it will give you some tips around what might work for you, as well. So do say hello, say hello to me, if you are tuning in on the live today. Hi, Paul, I can see that you're on, thank you so much for hopping on today.

Do let me know that you are here, it is always great to see interaction and people in the comments. And it means a huge amount to me. Now you might see me looking around a bit, I actually have two cameras working for the various platforms that we have set up. So apologies if I'm not looking directly at your one at any point in time. But that is what I am doing with my kind of eyes flitting around the place.

Actually, how do you stop live feeds being shown, you unfollow the person doing it. So if you are not enjoying this broadcast, you can just unfollow me, and, and that will get you out of, get me rather out of your feed. But I hope that people are going to get great value from today's session. So like I said, today, we are covering off how I banish unproductive time in my business. This is basically what I do. And I hope that I will be able to help and support you as well. We have about six or seven points that I'm going to cover off today with you. So bear with me, be prepared to take some notes, and we will get going. 

How I Banish Unproductive Time in My Business

1. The first step to banish unproductive time - Time Track.

So I firmly believe that we can't really banish unproductive time, if we don't actually first of all, understand where our time is going. And that therefore means identifying how you currently spend your time. And I suspect that you have probably heard people say that before and thought, 'Oh no, I do not want to time track'. But in all honesty, you can't get to where you want to be unless you know where you are. And when it comes to time, that means analyzing how you spend your time and where you spend your time.

In my business, we time track all the time, everyone time tracks. And this is something that I've had to do basically all of my professional career. It's very common in the accounting space to have to track your time, track how long you're spending on clients so that you know that a billing is in the right place. It's also something that's very common in certain other professions, as well. But whichever business you're in, perhaps you're not used to time tracking and perhaps it might seem a bit daunting.

The easiest way you can time track is actually just on pen and paper. You can just write out what you're doing, when you change a task and then you can tally it up.  I recommend doing time tracking for at least two weeks because in all honesty, if you only do it for a couple of days or a week, you may just subconsciously alter a little bit of what you're doing. Whereas if you do it over a longer period of time, you can get some really proper data to be able to work with.

The importance of analyzing your time spent to increase productivity.

As I said, we do this all the time. And it really does help to go back and review what people are spending their time on, how they're spending their time and if we could be redirecting our time to something a little bit more productive than perhaps is already happening. So like I said, you cannot work out where you want to be unless you know where you are. It's the same with all things in our life, isn't it? It's the same with our finances.

It's the same with, with our exercise regime. And it's absolutely the same with time. So that is the first thing. What we use internally, incidentally, is a system, it used to be called TSheets, but now I think it's called Intuit Time, it’s produced by QuickBooks, although we don't typically use QuickBooks that often. But it is a QuickBooks product. And we use that for tracking time. But there's also a program called Toggle, which I believe is free or very cheap, that you can use if you don't want to just use pen and paper.

So, that is step number one is, to identify how you are currently spending your time, you can't know what you need to change, and you can't know where you need to go unless you understand where you are just now.

2. Why is establishing boundaries and knowing when to say 'No' is important, not only in business but in your life? 

Number two, establishing boundaries and knowing when to say 'No'.  This can be a really tricky one. I am not saying this is easy, but what boundaries do you want in your business and your life? When do you want to be going on holiday? What time, what hours of the day do you want to be working?

Understanding those means that you are able to say no to the things that don't fall within what you want for your schedule. So for example, for me, I don't work weekends. If I had somebody requesting me to go on a weekend, it's a very easy no for me, because that is my boundary, I don't work weekends. And I don't break that. I mean, I'm trying to think if there's any situation where I've ever broken the 'I don't work weekends'.  In the last few years, I can't think of one. So it's very important to me, because that protects my personal time with my family and that means a lot to me.

I typically don't work evenings, either.  I usually finish at about five o'clock for the day.  There will be, the very odd occasion that I might do something a little bit extra in the evenings, if my husband's out and the kids are in bed, for example, but it is very, very rare, I usually leave my laptop in my office. The only things I can do are things that are on my phone, if I choose and even then I can't do everything on my phone. 

So I put these boundaries in place, and I am strict with my boundaries, so that I don't end up leaching work time into personal time and end up feeling like I have neither under control. So that is, that's a really, really important one to me is establishing those boundaries and knowing when to say no, based on the boundaries that you have. Same with holidays, get your holidays in your diary, get the time off that you want in your diary now, so that you can have some time off, and you can have some downtime as well. 

3. Create a structured schedule. 

And the third point this feeds on really from what I was saying on the second, which is creating a structured schedule. So typically, I will work Monday to Friday, nine to five, however, I don't typically often do client calls on Mondays or Fridays.  Mondays or Fridays tend to be the days where I do planning, I maybe produce content and I typically only do client calls on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Now there are some times where that changes, just as a result of my schedule changing a little bit. But I typically, that's typically what I operate to. And having a structured schedule really helps me get everything done. Because I know that each week, for example, we produce two podcast episodes, each week we produce a YouTube video.  

I know that, therefore, in the times I have available on my Mondays and Fridays, I know I need to record those things. So I've got scheduled for my content and schedules for my day. And it really helps me structure so that I know when I've got a gap of half an hour my schedule, I know I can go off and record a podcast episode for example, because I know that I'm on a say Monday, that is one of the tasks that I have for that day. Understanding what needs to be done in a structured way and having a routine to that can really be helpful when it comes to how you manage your time. 

4. Why is it important to understand which tasks you need to prioritize?

The next thing I have on my list point number four is prioritizing tasks. We all know that some tasks are more important than others. And it's really important to understand which tasks you need to do now, which are going to move the needle in your business and which are perhaps just nice-to-dos at some point.

Getting those ones done first that are either deliverables for your customers or clients or that are going to move the needle in your business, just that little bit are going to be the ones that you typically want to prioritize. How I do it is very, very old school. I have believed it or not a paper diary. This paper diary by the way is from ponder Lilly who are one of our clients. So you know, if you're looking for paper diary, I highly recommend checking out Ponder Lily, but I use a paper diary and I write my to do's in my diary.

My high priority tasks go in each day, into my paper diary. That is how I make sure that I get them done. I have tried all the project management tools, all of them, I think I've tried. And in all honesty, they all were just lacking real ease for me. And you know, I love that I have my diary, wherever I am, wherever I go, I can consult it, it makes things really, really easy for me. So that is a big one that I actually still use a paper diary and they have my priority to-dos in there. I have my diary, I'll just take, turn you to a blank page so you can see.

I have a week, week double spread, set up. And so you can see we've got the days here, and I just put my to-dos down each day, so that I know. So once I've achieved that to-do for the day, then, you know, I can get oh, just dropping things here, I can get ahead of myself and I can do the next days if I need to and if I want to and that means I can reschedule things, but it does mean that the priorities are absolutely done for the day.  

5. Assess what else can be automated and technologically systemized in your business.

Now, in some instances, you are going to want to utilize technology and automate processes and that is my, now what number are we on 1,2,3,4, that is my fifth suggestion. There are some things that you are going to be able to automate. And you know, make bits of software speak to each other. So you don't have to do manually and use up your time. It's probably a good idea, maybe once a month or once a quarter to sit down and just assess what else can be automated and technologically systemized in your business.

This is something, again that we do a lot of, and we use Zapier or Zapier, however you want to pronounce it, to do a lot of that to make our pieces of software speak to each other. But even simple things like filters on your email can help massively. So I came back from being off for three weeks over Christmas, I was incredibly fortunate to be able to take the entire time, my kids were off school, I was able to take that as holiday over the Christmas and New Year period. And I came back to 360 something emails. Now in most situations, you might expect the business owner to come back to significantly more than that. And by the way, I didn't, I didn't check them in between.

So it wasn't like I'd already done a pre-go on them. And the reason that I only came back to that many is because I have rules and filters set up inside my email client, which for us is Gmail, so that emails, if they have a certain subject title, or they're from a certain person, they will automatically either get filed, or they will end up being auto forwarded to the appropriate person in my team who can then deal with them.

So these things do not clog up my inbox. And I highly recommend that you do the same if you have people who work for you. You can set these up so that they auto send, they don't even come into your inbox, they’re archived and they auto send to the right person in your team. If you have a situation where you always know that if there's X and the subject line or the email is from white person, then it's actually not intended for you at all, it is destined for someone else, then you can set that up. And you can clean out your inbox from being a massive drain on your time as you go through every single thing, one by one and archive and send and forward and mark and all those kinds of things you can start getting resistance, do that automatically for you. It is a real massive time saver for me.

6. Delegating work to others where you can.

And the next point, which is what are we on 1,2,3,4,5,6. Point number six is delegating work to others where you can. Now some people will be in the infancy stages of their business and you won't have the revenue to support delegating to others and taking other people on in your business.

I get it, I've been there, I've done that. But if you're starting to get traction and you have steady recurring revenue, then it might be worth, working out whether your business is finances, can support you taking on a little bit of help and delegating some tasks to others,to free up some of your time to do the higher value tasks.

The tasks that are going to be more profit producing than the ones you are perhaps currently doing with your time. 

As part of, during that time audit, you'll be able to see and identify perhaps some of those tasks that you may be able to give to someone else, but don't start delegating everything to everyone else, unless your finances is in the right place. Make sure that you've done a profit plan for your business and that you understand if you can afford other people financially In your business to take those tasks off of you.

What we often see is we often see people just going out and you know, hire, getting lots of freelancers on or hiring lots of people and actually, they're running too fast with the hiring process and the revenue doesn't catch up, and they end up in a bit of a pickle. So make sure that you have that planned out so that you can take on and delegate but you can do that without bankrupting your business at the same time. 

7. Setting goals and tracking progress.

And the final point, the 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, I've got some notes. So I got my points written down. The seventh and final point is setting goals and tracking progress. If you've identified that you want to spend less time doing X and Y, or you want to make sure that you take every other Friday off, set those goals in your business. 

See how often you're achieving the things that you want to achieve. You can set time goals just in the same ways you can set financial goals or marketing goals or sales goals, or any other goals in your business. You can set goals, and you can track your progress towards achieving them. You may, it may help to keep you motivated and keep you engaged in the process of really banishing unproductive time from your day. 

Take Action and Grow Your Business: Join Me for Training Tuesday Every Week!

So I hope that you have got some great value from Training Tuesday today. I would love to know which of these points that you might want to implement in your business. Is there anything that you think 'Oh, actually, I'm going to go away and do that. That's a great idea.' I would love for you to let me know in the comments, it would be totally, totally awesome. Wherever you are watching, of course, we are doing these Training Tuesdays every single Tuesday.

We are doing them on Tuesdays at 11am. UK time, so do make sure you mark your diaries and join me for that. And let me just look up the topic for next week, which I have planned out. Next week, we are covering what I've invested in to grow my business and what the money leaks were in hindsight. This may be quite revealing to a number of you. I have done some silly things and some great things to grow my business. So do make sure that you, as I say, mark that in your diaries and tune in for that. 

Thank you for tuning in. I hope today has been helpful. For those of you that don't know me by the way, my name is Annette Ferguson, I'm CEO of Annette and Co, UK based accounting firm. I'm a chartered accountant, certified Profit First professional and small business growth strategist. And I help business owners take home more money from their business for them and their families to enjoy.

So whichever platform you're watching on, do make sure you give us a like, make sure you give us a thumbs up or follow, hearts wherever you happen to be. Please do make sure you do that. Of course share this broadcast out to anyone who you think might get value from it, as well. And I will hope to see you all again next week. Take care everyone. 

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About the Author

Owner of Annette & Co. - Chartered Accountants & Certified Profit First Professionals. Helping online service-based entrepreneurs find clarity in their numbers, increase wealth and have more money in their pockets.

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