Categorized | Featured Articles, Management

Test of time

Controlling time means controlling time wasters

By Christy Crump

Everyone feels a need to better manage time. Just as you look at controllingexpenses to improve your budget and bottom line, it’s necessary to control outgo—or the things that waste your time—in order to manage time.

Let’s look at some environmental and personal time wasters, and how they relate to your professional life.

Environmental time wasters

1. Other people. To help control how others waste your time, make an effort to:

• Close your door at certain times of the day for uninterrupted work time—even if you have an “open door” policy.

•Discourage drop-in visitors by turning your desk away from the door. When you face the door, everyone who walks by can be a distraction. Out of sight; out of mind.

•Control your environment by standing up to talk to visitors. Don’t invite them to sit if you don’t want them to stay.

•When meeting with a colleague, go to his or her work area. This puts you in control of your time, and when you are finished, you can leave without seeming rude.

2. Phone calls. One way to aid with this time waster is to limit your phone call time. Try to:

•Screen calls when possible, so you can prepare before returning the call. If you are prepared, you can cut the call time by 50%.

•Review which calls need personal follow up, and delegate others.

•Provide short answers when possible. Give good customer service, but don’t give detailed information and answers if they are not asked for.

•Stand while on the phone. This not only burns calories, but causes you to end your call sooner than if you are seated in a comfortable chair.

3. E-mails. Studies show people’s heart rate increases when there are unread e-mails waiting, but you really should attempt to:

•Shut down e-mail during scheduled, uninterrupted work time. When you “switchtask” from your work to e-mail and back to your work, it can take up to 20 minutes to re-engage.

•Avoid copying multiple people on an e-mail when assigning work. When you send an e-mail to multiple people, one of two things will happen. Either each will assume that one of the others is doing it and no one does it, or all of them do it and waste time duplicating work.

If you must copy numerous people on an e-mail, spell out what you want each to do.

4. Meetings. To assist with this time waster, meetings should be well-planned, organized, and time-sensitive. You should also:

•Develop and follow an agenda with time limits on each agenda item, and assign a timekeeper to enforce time.

•Prioritize items according to importance, and eliminate unnecessary items.

•Avoid “off track” or prolonged discussions. Use the “parking lot” to handle extra or prolonged discussions.

Personal time wasters

Personal time wasters can be just as devastating to your calendar as environmental time wasters. The difference is you have complete control over personal time wasters. Are you exercising that control?

1. Social interaction. People with a high need for social interaction have problems when the need is not met by the job and environment. This becomes a time waster when you leave your work area to look for interaction.

When you do this, your work is not being completed in a timely manner, and you may be inflicting yourself on others who need and want to work uninterrupted.

2. Can’t say “No.” Those with a high need for acceptance tend to have problems saying “no.” This becomes a time waster when you take on too much, and rather than doing a few things well, you do a lot of things poorly. Learn to say “no.” It is better to under promise and over deliver than to over promise and under deliver.

3. Perfectionism. This becomes a time waster when you continuously work to perfect your product to the point you miss a deadline. I would never encourage someone to produce a substandard product, but at some point you have to let it go. If you’ve done the best job you can, it’s as perfect as it can get.

4. Risk avoidance. A person with a high need for risk avoidance looks for backup, clarification, and approval to the point the project and deadline are compromised. A good example of risk avoidance is when you want to invest in a particular stock.

You analyze the stock, watch it for a few weeks, research it, call a broker, and ask a friend their opinion. When you finally make a decision to invest, the stock has shot up so high, you can’t afford it. You avoided risk, but in doing so, you missed your opportunity.

5. Procrastination. Procrastination creeps in and takes over before you realize it. When you put off doing something that must be done to the point it becomes an emergency, you are procrastinating.

Good ways to overcome procrastination are to:

•Make time to get organized, and designate time to stay organized. Organized people tend to procrastinate less.

•Ask yourself, “What is the best use of my time right now?” And do it.

•Break down overwhelming tasks into small tasks. Henry Ford said, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”

•Eat your frog! Brian Tracy’s book, “Eat That Frog,” says to treat the one thing you procrastinate doing the worst as a frog. Commit to eat the frog every morning, so the rest of your day will seem great. Write your procrastination on a sticky note, and place it next to your computer. Every morning, eat that frog before doing anything else. The rest of the day will seem more pleasant. When you beat the procrastination written on the sticky, throw it away and start over with a new procrastination.

Go out and conquer your environmental and personal time wasters!

Christy Crump is president of Crump & Associates, a company that enhances human capital through a unique, proven approach to staff education and training that improves performance and increases efficiency and effectiveness.

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