Have you ever sat there at the end of the week wondering where the time went?
For 20 years I've been coaching business owners to scale their companies. During that time I've watched the things that habitually get in their way.
Here are what I consider to be the six most damaging Time Addictions that hurt entrepreneurs as they struggle to execute on their dreams and plans.
Time Addiction #1: Email
This one addiction outweighs the other five combined.
Think for a moment how email is designed:
• You get new messages coming in every few minutes.
• Of these messages, a certain percentage contain good news, which means you're getting randomized, intermittent positive reinforcement when you check it.
• It just "takes a moment" to check it, so why not glance down at your phone or look over at your monitor...
• Often its accompanied with an auditory "ding" or visual flag.
• And when you "handle" an email you get a slight boost as if you did something important--you "got something done".
Most business owners would agree that email is a major impediment to their creating real value for their business, but most of them would also cling to the belief that they "don't have a choice", they have to keep on top of it.
But when they see it for what it is, an addiction, they can relate to it differently. You don't control an addiction through willpower, you put the power of environment, insight, and habit to work to help you do it.
Time Addiction #2: Social Media
While I do think social media serves a real purpose for a business, too often it can take on too much of a place in the business owner's attention, costing her flow and larger blocks of time within which she could have been creating real value for her company.
Remember, the real cost of a quick check or post on social media isn't the 5 minutes it took, it's the 15-30 minutes it now takes you to get back in the flow of what you were doing before you got lured away.
Time Addiction #3: Television
Whether you're watching it on your 70 inch TV or your 7 inch tablet, mindless TV still holds its spot as a Time Addiction that robs business owners of hours each week. Time that could be invested in reading a book, enjoying your family, or even getting a better night's sleep (this last one is aimed at those entrepreneurs who "unwind" by binge TV watching late into the night.)
Time Addiction #4: Deadlines
You've seen it, you may have even felt it -- the business owner who doesn't kick it into gear until a deadline is fast approaching. Then he goes all in and gets the project done.
What's wrong with this? Nothing if it were just the business owner we were talking about, but when you look at it in the context of the harm to the business she runs, this behavior needs to change.
First, it wears your staff out. While you might like the "juice" of tight deadlines, most of them find it exhausting. Second, it leads to an unhealthy company culture which hurts your retention of talent and your production as a whole. Third, it's inefficient. Rushing from deadline to deadline often means you miss the gains you could have enjoyed if you strategically mapped out in advance your pathway scaling your company.
Time Addiction #5: Crisis
A very close cousin to addiction #4, entrepreneurs who become addicted to crisis find themselves rushing from fire to fire within their business. This is satisfying - to be the one with the answer and to stomp out the flames. But what they don't realize is that many times, the entrepreneur who's addicted to crisis is the one who is setting the fires ablaze to begin with.
If you want to scale your company, you've got to go beyond putting out fires to preventing them in the first place. Plus, the most successful entrepreneurs know that they need to grow their team to be the ones who both put out and preempt fires. But when you find yourself addicted to the feeling of stomping out flames, rarely do you ever give your team the chance to solve the problems themselves; you're too quick to jump in.
Time Addiction #6: Escapist Behaviors
I know lots of business owners who use email as a place to hide from the pressures of strategic challenge or intimidating conversation. I know for me, when I get stressed I often wander the isles of my local Staples, buying office supplies that I don't really need (embarrassing but true). Still other business owners will escape by looking for a simple problem at work to solve.
Where do you go when you find yourself overwhelmed or stressed at work?
The best entrepreneurs intentionally choose escapist behaviors that at least cause no harm, and at best actually serve them and their companies.
So What Can You Do About These Time Addictions?
At the start of this article I said, "You don't control an addiction through willpower, you put the power of environment, insight, and habit to work to help you do it."
Here are some tips to help you do just that:
• Change your environment so your prime Time Addiction is less visible or accessible. For instance you could turn off your wireless router for the first 2 hours of the day while you did your most valuable work. You could work remotely twice a week for 4 hours from a place without email. You could leave your tablet downstairs so you get a good night's sleep versus feeling tempted to roll over and start a new season of your favorite show at 11:30pm.
• Talk over one of your Time Addictions with a business owner peer whom you trust and ask them to be your accountability partner in helping you make a needed change. Make sure you get deep into the cost of your Time Addiction -- on your company, your family, your team, your health, etc.
• Consciously design a new habit that will replace your old addictive behavior. Ask yourself what your old habit gave you, and make sure your new habit serves that same need, but in a much healthier and more productive way.
• Consider creating "blocks" of time (1-4 hours) during which you will block out the carrier of your time addiction. If you struggle with email, then during your "blocks" of time, don't let in a device that can check email, or turn off your internet/cellular access. If you struggle with the need for deadlines to prompt you into action, then carve out regular time in which you do things well in advance of the deadline.
For more ideas on growing your business, including a free tool kit with 21 in-depth video trainings to help you scale your business and get your life back, click here.