The Rolling Stones had a major hit singing, “Time, time, time, it’s on my side—yes it is!” How many small business owners or ambitious professionals could sing those words today and agree with the message they send?

Not too many, I think. Time seems to be the ubiquitous enemy of getting things done, and today there is a fascinating irony involved in this thorny problem. The internet, in all of its app, email, and social media glory, is perhaps the major contributor to our time crunch. We spend far too much time surfing the web, reading and responding to email, exploring new apps, and posting to social media.

The irony lies in the fact that the internet—as our greatest enemy in the wasted-time war—is also our greatest ally. There are a variety of apps and features within apps that can help us gain some ground in the battle against wasted time.


If you’re on a MacOS computer, you probably have “Notifications” turned on. You’ll get an alert every time an email message, text message, and various web-based notifications come your way. Fortunately, you can turn off notifications for certain times of the day.

Productivity experts generally suggest delaying your email deep dive until later in the day; use your productive morning hours to (ahem) actually get things done. While this feature is usually used to turn off notifications when you’re sleeping, you can use it to guard what you consider to be your most productive hours of the day.

There are various notification apps for Windows PCs. Check them out for their ability to give you some peace and quiet.

Time travel

Before we leave the general topic of email, I want to point out another feature you’ll find in some email programs: the ability to “snooze” a message. If you receive an email that requires attention, but you’d rather tend to it the following day or next week, some email programs, like Airmail, allow you to make it “snooze.” This takes it out of your inbox until the snooze date occurs, and then it appears like a new email.

This can be helpful because it declutters your inbox and lets you group together emails that require you to think or take action, so you can more efficiently focus your time.

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When time is money

Sometimes it’s not your time that is costing you productivity—it’s those you have working for you. And while there’s no doubt that the rise of the gig economy and telecommuting have been a boon to small business owners, sometimes accountability can be less than ideal.

A number of app- or web-based “time clocks” have popped up in recent years. If you’re going through a service such as Upwork, they provide their own software. However, you could also be paying a higher rate to your freelancer due to Upwork’s 20% take. So then, in many cases, it makes sense to contract directly with providers.

Typically, these time clock apps do things like take screenshots to verify that the freelancer or distance employee is actually doing work for your company. However, they are getting more sophisticated. OnTheClock even offers fingerprint identification so strangers can’t punch in and take the place of the person you think you are paying.

Break the bad habits

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that endless checking of social media pages is one of the most popular bottomless holes where productive time goes to die. Yet as the internet taketh away, so doth the internet giveth—this time in the form of browser plugins that either block offending sites or monitor time wasted.

Apps like StayFocused, Block Site, and Nanny for the Chrome browser let users block access to certain sites at designated times. However, sometimes knowledge is power, and merely informing you or members of your team about how much time you have all wasted on non-work related sites is enough to change your habits. RescueTime tracks the time you spend on websites and applications, and reports it back to you. This way you can really see how productive you are—or aren’t.

Every second Monday in February is National Clean Out Your Computer Day and we’re urged to get rid of all the garbage files and apps we’ve collected over the year that are slowing down our machines. I urge you to take the same attitude with your time in front of your computer. Weed out the garbage that distracts you from being a finely-tuned productive businessperson and install an app or two to keep you on the straight and narrow.

RELATED: 7 Great Performance and Productivity Boosters to Try Out on Your Employees

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