HourglassTime is the entrepreneur’s most valuable commodity, and great entrepreneurs know how to make every minute count. Do you? Many small business operators teeter on the brink of failure because they are not using their time wisely – i.e., productively. Here are five of the most common time wasters.

  1. Social media. Social media marketing is the biggest time suck ever created. Don’t get me wrong: Social media can be useful and has its place, but all too often it becomes a comfort zone for entrepreneurs who prefer talking shop with peers to rolling up their sleeves and doing the hard and mentally exhausting work of drumming up sales.
  2. Networking groups. Many networking groups are nothing more than live versions of social media – comfort zones that offer only the illusion of time productively spent. They are havens for people who like to hear themselves talk, or who like to complain, or who are willing to go to any lengths to avoid selling.
  3. Attending conventions. Conventions can be useful if used to cultivate new customers and pick up strategically and tactically useful information. But conventions kill productivity when they become comfort zones for people to idle away the hours in training sessions learning what they already know or don’t need to know.
  4. Technology. The best time to bring technology into a business is when manual systems can no longer handle the volume. Installing a CRM system with 25,000 functions is a monumental waste of time (and money) for an operation that needs to keep track of only five things. The underlying time issue here is perfectionism — a compulsive need to control and account for everything.
  5. Trying to be brilliant. It’s tempting to think your business will become an overnight success if only you can come up with a mind-blowing, original twist. Waste of time! First, ideas like that come along once in a blue moon. Second, investing time in what you probably have, a bad original idea, puts your whole enterprise at risk. Success comes from executing business fundamentals such as building strong relationships, attending to details, managing finances with extreme care and treating every customer like your only customer.

Avoiding these time traps requires entrepreneurs to maintain a skeptical, maybe even cynical, attitude at all times. It takes mental toughness both to shun activities that peers and competitors embrace, and also to turn off the autopilot and stop doing things that aren’t providing value.

Perhaps the best use of time for you today is assessing whether you are best using your time.