Entrepreneurial Time Theft: Top 5 Offenders

I’m using any moment of free time for the rest of this month to simplify my work life and reduce what I have to handle this year. I am dedicated to finding better ways to handle the essentials of my business and my personal life.

I want shorter, more productive workdays and more time to call my own this year. Peace begins with simplicity — and simplicity is my goal.

As a freelance writer and marketing consultant, I need to reduce the interruptions during my workday to increase my productivity. If you are self-employed, you may want to use a few of my tips and tricks:

Phone

If you haven’t already listed your numbers on the national “do not call” directory, do so now. It’s not ok for telemarketers to interfere with your ability to earn a living or interrupt your family time when you are not working. Getting your numbers out of their reach is the first step to making this happen.

Be sure to inform anyone who calls thereafter that you are on the do not call list and request that they remove your number from their database. If a company continues to call, report them.

(Note: I didn’t register my cell phone number because I don’t give OUT my cell phone number. That’s one number that only a handful of people have — or will ever have.)

If you don’t have set business hours and a firm weekly work schedule, make it now. Let your family and friends know that you are not able to take personal calls during work hours. Don’t be negative about it and always give them a time when they CAN call:

“I work from 8 a.m. until 5:30, but I’d love to hear from you anytime between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. that way you and I will have eaten dinner and we will have quality time to visit.”

If they still call during business hours, cut it short (even if you aren’t swamped at that particular moment), “Joe, I’d love to chat, but I’m in the middle of a project. Can I call you back after work, say around 7:30?”

It won’t take long for family and friends to begin to respect your work time if you stay consistent and fewer interruptions means you will accomplish more (and make more money).

Mail

Reduce the amount of junk mail you have to handle, sort and discard. Visit http://www.directmail.com/directory/mail_preference/Sto to remove yourself from a number of the top junk mail offenders. It will take up to two months to see any results, but you could have a cleaner, clearer mailbox before the first quarter ends.

E-mail

If your email account has been distributed to everyone under the sun, chances are you are overrun with spam. If you have a good spam program in place, great! If not, you may want to investigate getting one (a task that can devour days of your time).

If you are able to simply change your email address, without throwing your life into a tailspin, do so. A clean slate is a nice way to start the new year.

If you get a new “primary” email address, be sure to inform only the people that you trust not to share your information. This should be an account you protect and keep “clean” from spam.

If you are in business, set up a second account to put on your website. I use an altered image of that email address, rather than typing it in, to help reduce spam. It won’t prevent clients from reaching you, but it does slow down the bots. Since I never give this “web” email out to anyone, I can change it without a huge impact if I’m over run with spam. So far, I haven’t had an issue with that. To make it easy for me, I forward that web-only account to my main address so I see any contacts without divulging my primary account.

Set up a junk account. This can be a hotmail, gmail or yahoo account — or you can set up one using your domain name. I use my domain name and use this one account for all those places where I have to divulge my email and they actually require a verification before permitting me access.

I also use this account for any family members or friends who can’t stop sending me jokes, forwards of whatever, and email chainletters. If this email gets forwarded to everyone they know, it’s not a huge deal.

I have this account come into its own inbox. It’s loaded with spam and I just access it when I need/expect something to come in. If it’s a username/password that arrives in it, I transfer this information immediately to my KeePass program and delete the original email. Once a day, I dump the entire contents of this inbox and don’t waste my time reviewing any of it. Nothing that arrives on this account without my explicit request matters.

Passwords/Usernames/Logins/Etc.

The biggest timesaver I have for working exclusively online is my KeePass Password Safe program. This is where I store all my “username/password” combinations and the stuff I need to access to work online (host passwords, admin information, FTP for various sites, etc). This is my brain. I probably access this program 40-50 times a day and when I get a new computer, it’s one of the first programs to be installed.

Before I started using a password management program, I’d sometimes spend 5 or 6 minutes hunting around for the “critical” information I needed for my own work, or to help clients. Having websites “resend” passwords takes forever and knocks a hole in your time to work.

If you are still trying to remember them all, if you are using a spreadsheet to manage them or if you are using a single username/password combination for everything you touch, stop that! It’s not a secure way to handle delicate data.

Download your free copy of the open-source password manager today and start putting every one of your passwords in it.

Use it to store:

  • Website username and passwords
  • Access information for your website and hosting account
  • Email setup instructions and Pop mail configuation settings

If you find the task of finding everything to put it in there daunting, just add them when you “touch” them next. That makes it painless to get the most often used ones in there quickly and you can add any new ones directly into KeePass without recording it elsewhere.

(Note: Be sure to backup your database! I lost mine once in a hard drive crash. It was horrible going back to the old methods to figure them all out again. Now, I keep it backed up once a week on a thumbdrive, and it’s always backed up in my regular backup series.

You

If you sabotage yourself during your work day, you need to correct this. Do you find yourself cruising Amazon or Ebay during your work day, or researching things that “seemed” to have something to do with work initially — but left you derailed somewhere during the search process?

Do you look up and realize that two or three hours have gone by and you have not finished the 15 minute project you started?

Entrepreneurs and freelance folks have a terrible time separating work from living. We almost always love what we do and spend WAY too many hours a day doing it.

The problem is, we also feel that we “deserve” a break and take it in little pieces, rather than in planned chunks. If you need some time, online, to chase some personal interests or to do research that’s not really related to creating income, then do it — but schedule it.

Plan to have one or two 15-30 minute blocks per day for any of these personal activities. Block it out on your daily schedule and set a timer to be sure you don’t “run over” the time allotted. Then, enjoy it — without guilt.

When your time is over, get back to work. The change of pace will probably refresh you and help you to be more productive. Limiting the time and not “fooling” yourself about how much time you are spending will prevent it from impacting your income.

Having a scheduled workday will also help with this. If you work all the time, you feel that you deserve some downtime (and you do!). but taking it without recognizing it can often leave you feeling that you work constantly without relief.

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