Three Ways to Use Your Screw-Around Time to Improve Your Business

Working from home has many perks. For example, I just recently placed a small microphone under a tree stump in my front yard. When the mail carrier tries to go by my house without picking up my outgoing mail, I pretend to be Satan tallying up that willful disregard for my postcards as a mark on the “bad boy” list. That guy NEVER forgets my Netflix.

One of the reasons I can do things like this is because I work from home. The other reason is that I don’t have a conscience to speak of.

The point is that I am of the privileged minority that gets to do stuff at home when I feel like taking a break instead of having to hang out by the water cooler trying to drain it quickly so Study McMuscles from Accounting comes by and heft a new bottle into place for me.

If you have a small business, you know there are only so many hours in the day to get things done. You know there are also all sorts of little mindless tasks that you never do that could improve the quality of your business.

Start making better use of that time than hanging out on YouTube watching cats play Parcheesi. (Incidentally, does it ever worry you that there are animals out there who know how to play games you don’t know how to play? It worries me.)

“But I don’t want to work in my spare time!” you say. “I want to hang out and eat potato chips! What’s the fun of working from home if you can’t just screw around when you want to?”

To which I reply, “Oh, my little biscuit. There will be plenty of time to screw around. Wouldn’t your spare time be way more relaxing if you had fewer things on your mind nagging at you because you knew you should be doing them?”

Yes, yes it would. Let’s think about some of them:

Doing Your Own Files

Doing your files means anything from the accounting to sorting your tax receipts from your grocery receipts to putting all the information about each of your clients in a nicely labeled folder decorated with sunflowers and lightning bolts (very avant-garde, that).

Every writer, designer, coach, consultant, hell, MASSEUSE I know has a pile of paperwork they never get around to taking care of. Invariably, this costs them money.

Filing is fairly mindless work, which means you can throw on an episode of your favorite TV show while you’re doing it. You won’t even feel like you’re working. You’ll have nice neat files, and you won’t have to worry that you’ll have to scramble for receipts at tax time and won’t be able to write off that $2,000 bucks for a new computer because you can’t find the slip.

Money and mindlessness! It doesn’t get any better.

Update Your Email and Client List

You have a huge number of people you know you should follow up with. But you don’t. You’ve forgotten. Let’s face it; anyone who sat in your inbox for longer than a week has been given up as a lost cause.

The next time you have a spare hour or two to mess around with, put on some nice rockin’ tunes and go through your inbox.

While you’re at it, figure out some sort of sorting system for your emails. I have a file in my email right now called “Contacts to Follow Up With”, which is grammatically incorrect, but since it’s my email no one cares. Once nicely sorted and perfectly organized, I can manage my email easily, save time better spent elsewhere (like learning Parcheesi) and make money from reminding clients they really do want to work with me.

The next time you have spare time, go through that inbox, make a contact list and throw out a few emails. If only one in ten of those friendly nudges works out, that’s still a huge return on your little time investment.

Go Hunting

Before you hightail it to the nearest gun store, I’m talking about client hunting. Browse around your favorite blogs, websites, and forums. Pick up that stack of magazines and read them over again. Look through the news.

Feels like screwing around, doesn’t it? Well, it is. The difference is that it’s screwing around with a purpose. While you’re re-reading that article on how to get the grout in your tub sparkly white without using chemicals, take note of the products they’re recommending. Go see if that company needs the services you’re selling.

Do the same for interview subjects, companies mentioned as doing good work, or the authors of articles. If you read an article about great marketing and the author owns their own marketing company, see if they need your services. Mention the article. Tell them you like what they do. It works.

There you go. That’s three ways to use your screw-around time without feeling like you’re working. Who’s got more to add?

Post by Taylor

Taylor Lindstrom (fondly known as Tei) is a twenty-something copywriter and journalist from Boulder, CO. She’s the team’s rogue woman who wowed us until our desire for her talents exceeded our desire for a good ol’ boys club. She loves the color green, micro-point Uniball pens, and medieval weaponry.