Managing Your Time Drains

Manage time drains

So far in this series on Time Management for self-employed business owners, we have looked at ’40 time management hacks that can save your life’, and the negative effects of multitasking. Now we turn to managing the distractions that drain your time and ruin your productivity.

There are many ways to improve your productivity and they revolve around the time drains that are all around us and need to be managed.

These time drains are like a swarm of locusts, and they gobble up your precious time. By removing them altogether or by careful management you will free up your time restraints and have more time to run your business.

It is important to remember that the time drains are not always things that disrupt your time but can be important as well.

You will need to keep a handle on these things to avoid problems in productivity.

Your Emails

Firstly, make sure that you turn off your notifications as they can be very disruptive as well as annoying. This simple step can be very effective. However, there are many of us than need more help than that.

Probably the most notable issue with emails is the suspense of wondering who, what and where the next email will come from.

You may a person that never stops checking for emails. It becomes a compulsive behavior, and it is a massive time drain.

Of course, everyone takes time checking emails as they are a very important part of our lives. However, as I mentioned above, compulsive checking can really eat up your time.

Managing your emails consists of making behavioral changes and reducing the actual time you spend on it.

The first thing that you must do is set up a specific time every day, when you handle your emails. At this time you respond to emails that are short and to the point. You can respond to these as you read them These could be the non-important emails.

Some emails require a longer response, so you will have to set another time to respond in detail.

You can take a moment and fire off a quick message indicating that you have received their email and you will respond later in the day.

Then make a specific time to read and respond to these important emails.

To help you with being organized and efficient, use a good kitchen timer or the timer on your smartphone to keep you on track. Use this timer to set up the boundaries for working on this task.

In business, emails are very important so perhaps you could set up a 20-minute focused email response session in the morning and another session later in the day.

  • Start with the most important first and continue from there, remembering that your timer will go in twenty minutes.
  • Spend some of your valuable time organizing your inbox.
  • Make a folder called “important” for those emails that are important and high priority.  This folder is the one that you go to first, every time you arrive in your inbox.
  • Make sure to separate your business and personal emails. (It is always best to have both a personal and business email address.)
  • Use the tools provided to you for organizing your emails and create an automatic response when you are away and when you are returning.
  • Set up specific response templates that you can send to those emails that only require a short to the point reply.

There is no denying that your email in box is super important, so make sure that you know how to use it.

The Internet

How can something so helpful to business be so destructive at the same time?

When you really come down to looking at the internet, you will have to say that it is not the product, it is the user that is to blame.

Of course, you can say that you have good intentions and that you were only looking for something specific. However, 2 hours later you are still playing some silly game on the internet, or wasting time on something that takes your interest rather than something you should be doing.

When you find what you are looking for, close the browser until you need it again. Work time is not the time to be “surfing the net”.

With the advent of social media, you can get lost in the sea of social media applications.  The time drain caused by people on social media sites during work time is ridiculously huge. Use social media when you are waiting in line, or at the dentist office waiting to get in.

Use the timer I mentioned earlier, to control your usage and set up a specific time in your schedule to be on social media applications.

This is a very difficult thing to do. However, it is a must, as it is an enormous time drain.

Phone Calls

Take a day, and track just how many unnecessary phone calls you make and receive during the run of a day. I bet you will be surprised at the results.

Stay off the phone unless it is a client, business prospect, or a family emergency.

The phone can be your best friend so keep it that way.

Set up a voice mail that will tell people that you will give them a call back within the next 24 hours.


During the Pandemic, applications like Zoom have really become popular and necessary. With things loosening up a bit and people going back to the office to work, face to face meetings will be on the increase.

Try and keep meetings to a minimum!

Yes, some meetings are unavoidable so try and be prepared. Make yourself a comprehensive agenda so you can keep referring to your notes to keep on focus. Send out your agenda to others prior to any meeting you are going to be involved with.

Try to continue using Zoom or Skype to hold the meeting and cut down on travel time.

If your meetings are held on a regular basis, see if you can get the participants to agree on a specific time and a specific day. A little time management trick is to have the meeting at a specific time such as 12.20pm instead of 12.15 or 12.30. This will reduce lateness by people who are generally tardy.

Eliminate, Delegate, Outsource, Automate

Embrace these words. They are action words, and they work together to assist you in stopping the time drain.

For example, when you evaluate a task, the first question you should ask yourself is: “Is this a task that actually needs to be done?” If the answer is “no”, then simply Eliminate it. If it cannot be eliminated, can you Delegate it to someone else?

If there is no one qualified to perform the task, then you may be able to Outsource it to someone who is qualified to do it.

Take a close look at your business and try and Automate as many functions as possible. You will be surprised at the number of unique and interesting apps that are available to help self-employed small business owners.

Take action to reduce time


  • Eliminate: Ask yourself whether the task really needs to be done. Does it actually deliver any tangible result or is it just something you do out of habit? If it’s the latter, cross it off your to-do list permanently.
  • Delegate: Find someone else in your organization who can do the work for you. Find someone who is less busy or who has fewer specialized tasks and reassign the work to them.
  • Outsource: Find help outside of your organization for routine tasks. You can outsource many types of online tasks to a virtual assistant.
  • Automate: Look for online tools, software programs and organizational tools that can help you handle repetitive work.

Mindless Entertainment

A great number of our time drains are simply mindless entertainment. Especially if you’re working at home, you may find video games, TV, music, social media, YouTube videos, kids, online solitaire, and virtually anything else fun and entertaining eating away at your time.

We need these distractions. They give us pleasure and take our minds off of the work we have to do. It’s okay to spend some of your time indulging in these leisure activities, but you just need to be in control of it.

One idea is to indulge in your favorite fun activities during your breaks. When you’re losing focus or coming to the end of a set working time, dive into some mindless entertainment to give yourself a break. Just make sure that you can easily pull yourself away from it and get back to work. You may want to set a timer for the end of your breaks as well as the beginning.

Another idea is to set aside a certain time of day to indulge to your heart’s content. Naturally, the end of the day is perfect for this. After lunch is another good time to take an extended fun break.

The bottom line is: you must manage your time drains to maximize your productivity!




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