The 3 Biggest Time Wasters at Work

By May 31, 2016 December 12th, 2022 Self Management Tips

Last Updated on December 12, 2022 by Dave Schoenbeck

Can you imagine the power of finding more time in your busy life?  It seems that every business leader I talk to complains about how busy they are, how much stress they feel, and the imbalance between their work and personal life.  The good news is that you really can find more time if you get better organized and have the courage and tenacity to do some things differently.  Changing your habits, or the way you have always done it, is very uncomfortable but worth it in the end.  In order to figure out how to find more time, we need to clearly identify the biggest time wasters at work.  Here is my list of the big time wasters at work to attack:

 Interruptions are Time Wasters at Work

If you are running a business or business unit, you will never completely eliminate interruptions but there are ways to cut these back significantly.
Close your laptop, turn it off, or hide it several times per day.  It is a fact that email disrupts us 37 times per hour.  Think about how focused you could be if you aren’t distracted by a “bright shiny object” 37 times per hour.  I coached an attorney that only read his email 3 times a day and his email responder and phone recording reinforced his discipline.  He was and is, highly productive and his clients understood that he stayed focused on their work in between.
The best defense is a strong offense.  Or said another way, instead of waiting for your direct reports to interrupt you, schedule a short meeting with each of them each week.  Take it to them by helping them get direction once vs. multiple times.    Insist that when they describe a problem, that they come prepared with a solution.  Thinking through alternatives slows interruptions later.
Find a quiet place to hide and focus.  You can’t be interrupted if you aren’t there.  Great places are libraries, quiet coffee shops, your car, a plane, a friend’s office, a local park, a conference room, etc.  Your team won’t miss you for a few hours and you will be amazingly productive.

Disorganized Desks are Time Wasters at Work

Clear off your desk now.  Most busy executives and business owners have significant clutter right in front of them.  Turn your “wilderness of free association” into a productivity machine by filing your in-process work into a pullback system in a drawer.  Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by anything that allows you to wander from what is really important.
One project at a time.  Most of your work is not linear but if you keep only one project in front of you at a time, you have a much better chance of getting it done.
Display your top 3 goals.  Allow yourself only one other piece of paper on your desk.  That should a succinct list of the top 3 goals that you have for the quarter.  If you find yourself doing work that does not support these three goals, you are working on the wrong projects.  If you haven’t written that goal list, start there before anything else. Or better yet, find a business coach to help you get organized.

Not Understanding How You Add Value is a Time Waster

Draw out this grid.  You need an x axis and a y axis on a blank piece of paper.  On each end of the x axis write out “I love it” or “I hate it”.  On the y axis write “I add value” or “I don’t add value”.  Find the quadrant where you where you can write out the things you don’t like to do and where you don’t add value.  Take that list of duties and turn it into your personal Stop Doing list.  There are people in your business that can and should provide these services.  You may have to outsource some of these or your next hire should be that person.  Regardless, if you spend your expertise on the items that matter and that you love, your results will be unbelievable.
It is time for you to pivot away from the biggest time wasters at work and create an environment and processes that will ensure that you are wildly successful.  If you are interested in additional business tips, please read some more of my blog articles.
Good luck!
Coach Dave
Dave Schoenbeck
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