6 “Time Bandits” That Can STEAL Your Day …
… And How To AVOID Them!
Have you ever had days when you KNOW that you worked hard all day, but you don’t really have any tangible results to show for your efforts? Have you ever wondered HOW has the day just gotten completely away from you?
If you’re like most of us, you have occasional workdays when you realize that your day wasn’t as productive as you originally planned. While our intentions are noble and we’re NOT lazy workers, often the underlying causes of our “wasted days” are “time bandits” … the little, often intangible inefficiencies that rob us of our day and undermine our ability to get things done.
While not a comprehensive list, I’ve noted (6) of the most-common “time bandits” that most of us encounter in our respective workplaces. Just being more aware of circumstances we CAN control will help make us more efficient, and give us a greater sense of accomplishment at the end of each day!
- Desk / Cell Phone
No doubt, making / taking phone calls is a vital part of our jobs. But when we make calls, have we planned what we want to say and ask? Or does the conversation just ramble? Take a few seconds before making a call to organize your thoughts.
Regarding inbound calls, we’ve been trained since childhood to answer a ringing phone. (Especially those of us in my generation who grew up “pre- answering machines” and “pre- voicemail”!) If at all possible, block some quiet time each day to concentrate, and let your voicemail take your calls!
Meetings are important, but are they always required? Look for the classic “symptoms” of wasted meeting time: off the topic, no agenda at all, no notes or follow-up afterwards, etc. Be discerning … some issues can be solved without meeting about them.
Do the math … if you save just (1) hour / week of meeting time, for 48 – 50 working weeks / year … that’s the equivalent of saving about (6) full workdays / year!
E-mail is a wonderful tool, and a wonderful way to “hold multiple conversations”. However, it does have the potential to interfere with actual work / production if you find yourself constantly checking your e-mail or addressing every inbound item. Develop a personal method for checking / replying to e-mails, and stick to it each day … make sure that your “system” meshes with your work environment and task maintenance. (E.g., what works for me: if an e-mail subject is pertinent to the project I’m working on or is an urgent matter, I will open / read / reply as quickly as I can … I read / answer all other e-mails either before or after lunch and again at the end of the day … personal subject matter, I forward to my home e-mail.)
- Lack Of Priorities
We tend to accomplish more when we know exactly what we want to accomplish. Yes, “stuff can happen” each day, and even the best-laid plans can get uprooted!
Break-down your annual / monthly goals and objectives into daily “bite-size pieces” of the “big pie”. Take a few minutes at the end of one day or the beginning of the next to plan the day ahead … try to think only in “daytight compartments” so as not to get overwhelmed.
- “Fire Fighting”
Sometimes we have days in which everything seems to be a crisis, and we run around all day “putting out fires”. (See “stuff can happen” above!) These crises might truly be circumstances that must be immediately addressed … or they might be caused by losing focus of our own daily priorities when we jump from one task/project to another. It’s important to recognize the difference between “urgent” and “important” … and react accordingly.
- Drop-in Visitors
While it’s nice to take a brain-break and chat for a few minutes, it’s so easy to get absorbed in conversation or caught-up in someone else’s personal drama. We tend to be aware of our own drop-in visitors, but sometimes we are the drop-in visitor! Consequently, not only is our valuable time lost, but so is someone else’s.
Sometimes getting out of your chair and making a move toward the door will clue your visitor to wind-up the conversation. Other times, you simply have to be politely blunt and say “I need to get back to work.” The important thing to remember is to not only guard your own valuable time, but be careful not to infringe upon others’ time as well.
What other “time bandits” do YOU encounter? And what do you do to alleviate them, and keep YOUR day from being stolen? Our readers and I would love to know your thoughts and experiences … we can all learn from each other!