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Time Wasters and Time Stealers

Ask anyone: one of the things they’d love more of is TIME. “There aren’t enough hours in the day!” Yet we all have 24 hours. It’s how you use that time that makes the difference.


Bill Gates had 24 hours in each of his days as he launched and grew Microsoft. So did the creators of Google. Steve Jobs and Richard Branson…they had 24 hours every day to play with.


If they can build multi-million pound businesses and reach the pinnacles of achievement with that amount of time, you have the same possibilities too. We’re not suggesting everyone starts a dot.com business or tries to create products to rival Windows, but what we are suggesting is that most of us allow ‘time wasters’ and ‘time stealers’ into our daily lives. And that, if these were tackled, more hours – more time – could be found, used and enjoyed.


So, what is a time waster?


Essentially, anything that’s a distraction. The internet was invented to connect us all, but the downside is: we’ve got used to a 24/7 world. But just because we’ve been conditioned to expect everything instantly, doesn’t mean we have to conform.


Emails, Skype, instant messaging, social media…they’re all examples of 24/7 connectivity. Believe it or not, they’ll still be there, unaffected, if you take your time to respond.


Rather than react to new items in your inbox (or elsewhere) as soon as they appear, make a conscious effort to log in and deal with your messages at just two points in your day – perhaps at the beginning and the end of your working hours; whatever suits. And file all the newsletters and messages that require reading in a separate folder to peruse when you have the appropriate downtime, such as on your commute or while you’re relaxing in the bath. Once you’ve dealt with your most pressing messages/items, turn your notifications off completely or log out; don’t have these types of applications permanently open on your taskbar.


Time-wasters don’t have to be digital. For instance, do you have a daily natter with Emma on reception about the soaps last night? Or routinely stop by Dan’s desk to ask what he thought of the match? Keep a diary for a day or so to really look at your time and how you spend it. Identify wastage; what actions could be cut out, reduced or reorganised?


Consciously breaking time-wasting bad habits, being more disciplined about how your working day unfolds (less chopping and changing), and ignoring/getting rid of distractions, could net you many more hours over the course of a week. Being more focused because you’ve eradicated your time wasters will also help you get through your work faster, which means more spare time – bonus!


What’s a time stealer?


A time stealer is something that doesn’t need to be done at all, as opposed to a time waster that eventually needs a response, but only when the time is right.


Procrastination is a typical time stealer. It serves no purpose and only delays the work/outcome you’re avoiding. Poor delegation is another example. Clear, firm structure of roles and responsibilities in the workplace means tasks can be delegated more easily, leaving you with more time on your hands to do the things only you can do.


People ‘dropping in’ and expecting you to be free are time stealers. It’s important to recognise that your time is as precious as theirs, and if it’s not convenient to see someone, be strong enough to say so. Arrange instead to see them at a time that’s convenient to both of you.


Meetings can be another time stealer. Though they’re necessary across most industries, poor management and a reliance on shared consensus can result in unnecessary meetings. Before you automatically stumble into the various meetings booked in your diary, ask yourself: what’s the benefit or outcome of this meeting? Is the result all but agreed? Can the same result be achieved via an group email or a conference call (the latter is particularly relevant if you’ve to travel off-site to the meeting)?


Branson, Gates, Zuckerberg et al use their time wisely. They have to delegate to be able to manage the size of their enterprise. They need to focus to remain competitive. They can’t afford to waste any time – after all, time is money.


You’re not going to be given two extra hours for your birthday, or find four more hours a week hiding down the back of the sofa…the amount of time you have to play with is already here. If you want to do things better, you have to do things differently, which mean being more conscious about the way you spend your time – both working and leisure time – and tweaking areas that drain your focus, or which don’t serve any purpose.


All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but winding down when all your work has been done feels far better than when you’re sat there, trying to enjoy yourself, knowing you’re only halfway through a project you should have completed. There’s a time and place for work, and a time and place to let loose – just don’t confuse the two if you want to get ahead.


Emerge offers career and personal coaching, and support with the implementation of organisational change. For an informal, no obligation chat about your needs, contact us on 01329 820580, or email us at info@emergeuk.com.

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Established in 1997, and since then we have seen year on year growth and success in the national and global development market. We are proud of our client base and delighted that our growth has been based almost entirely on referrals from our satisfied customers...

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