Rising red tape and admin now cost Australian small businesses an average of 541 hours and $14,857 each year, which would equate to more than $20 billion across the economy, according to the study by accounting software firm Reckon.
Nearly half of more than 1300 small business owners polled said admin and red tape were “killing the dream” that made them start up in the first place.
“That’s concerning because it’s that vision that keeps you going, it’s the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Shivani Gopal, small business mentor and founder of The Remarkable Woman.
The theme of the research was identifying the barriers to small business owners getting “in the zone”, or being at their most productive, looking at distractions and other worries that impact efficiency.
More than one in five said the pressure of admin made it hard for them to get “in the zone”, while nearly half said they were taking proactive steps to structure their workday to better enable them to do so.
Ms Gopal said there were a number of simple things people could do to be more productive. “You’ve got to do the hardest things first and you’ve got to do it in the morning,” she said. “I call it ‘eating the frog’.”
Eliminating distractions is also key. “Technology can be seen as a good thing and a bad thing,” she said. “Our notifications, pings, social media, all distract us from what’s important and prevent you getting into ‘deep work’.”
Deep work, she said, was distinct from “urgent work”. “Important work, you’ve got to do that first. You’ve got to move away from doing urgent work. Urgent work is actually email, it’s everyone else’s priorities for you.”
Ms Gopal abides by a “strict routine” and she has what she calls an “ideal week”. She prioritises important work for Monday and Tuesday and leaves a space for short meetings on Wednesday afternoon between 3pm and 5pm.
“The benefit of routine is it actually embeds your habits in your brain,” she said. “It keeps you on autopilot, at the most efficient. When I do it that way I’m incredibly productive.”
Fifty per cent of respondents in the Reckon survey said they sacrificed their wellbeing, including sleep, to stay on top of their admin, payroll and compliance requirements — 13 per cent said they did those tasks before 6am.
“To stay on top of emails, admin and compliance reporting, I’m often up at 4am to make an early start on the day,” said T.E.C.K.nology Indigenous Corporation managing director Leslie Lowe
“There have been a number of times when I found myself prioritising work over health and wellbeing, such as skipping on sleep, when the everyday demands of sustaining a profitable business and admin pressures build up.”
It comes ahead of the July 1 deadline to adopt Single Touch Payroll — which will require more frequent reporting of payroll information to the ATO — the biggest compliance change for employers since the introduction of GST almost 20 years ago.
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