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Understanding and Handling Time Wasters

Aug 17, 2007
What is a time waster? A time waster is anything that decreases your productivity and your effectiveness. Usually, a time waster causes a shift in attention away from your No. 1 priorities. Many time wasters are a form of interruption. 3 Major Categories of Time Wasters:

Time Waster No. 1: Lack of Planning

Those who think they are too busy to plan will always waste more time managing by crisis. Even on calm days, their energies will be scattered and, if they achieve their No. 1 priority, it will be by accident.

Sometimes people claim they have been successful without planning. Once they invest time in careful planning, however, they are astounded to see the investment pay off many times over in increased effectiveness. One hour spent in effective planning usually saves three in execution and this will definitely enable one to achieve far better results. Add up those hours. Using a 40-hour week, the total additional work time made available to you through effective planning is four months per year. People who do not take time to plan waste time; people who make time to plan - invest time.

Once you have made the hard choices in establishing real, long-range and short-range personal and professional goals, you have standards for focusing your time. You have standards for yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily planning. You have a basis for determining your No. 1 priority each day and you have a powerful motivator to replace old time wasters with new habits which can turn your life and your time around. Definitely, a WIN-WIN!

Time Waster No. 2: Lack of Self Management

Human nature makes this time waster a lifelong challenge for almost everyone. Its solutions are similar to the solutions for many other time wasters. For example, planning encourages disciplined action. Setting priorities focuses effort on the most productive tasks. Realistic deadlines impose discipline, as do daily and weekly written plans, project control charts, and progress reports. Rewards, when tech points are successfully reached, improve self-discipline, but only if you refuse to enjoy the reward early which is more self-discipline!

Time Waster No. 3: Lack of Control Over the Work Environment - Elements in your work environment can be real time wasters.

Controlling the Telephone - One of the most efficient tools for saving time, the telephone, also is a time management problem. When we assume that a phone call is a legitimate demand for our attention and we interrupt our own work to answer it, we are concluding that whatever the caller wants is more important than whatever we are doing. This is not always true. You need to remember your No. 1 priority!

Beware of the following telephone traps:
...A desire to know what is happening.
...A handy excuse to leave a difficult or boring task.
...The urge to socialize before and after the business part of the call.
...A feeling of importance because others called you. Fear of offending others.

Your telephone is a tool; it does not have a life of its own.

Drop-in Visitors - We all know this question, Have you got a minute? never means one minute. It seldom means five or even ten minutes. It really translates into Can I interrupt your No. 1 priority by coming in to talk? But most of us continue to permit drop-in visitors to infringe on our time. To eliminate this time waster, you must recognize that drop-in visitors fritter away precious minutes that should be invested in achieving your No. 1 priority. These minutes add up to years thrown away and goals not achieved.

Unclear Communication - Clear communication is vital to efficient time management. Before you communicate anything, note your goals. State the goal clearly to the person with whom you are communicating, ask for input, agree on specific steps to achieve the goal, ask questions to ask for understanding, and follow up to check performance, clarifying the communication as necessary. These steps are especially important for achieving effective delegation but can improve any communication. Avoiding time wasters is essential to effective time management. Periodically, review the solutions for time wasters and keep them in mind as your work. If you do, you can save hundreds of hours each year.
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Pj Germain
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