The Biggest Time Wasters at Work

How do you avoid these time wasters?

How do you avoid these time wasters?

Do you ever have those days at work when you check your phone (no one wears a watch anymore) and it’s already 3:30 p.m.? “Where did the day go?” Performing a “time audit” at your organization will cut out the clutter and remove your biggest time wasters.

1) PROBLEM: Length of meetings. Why do meetings always seem to be scheduled for an hour? Who can really pay close attention to anything for 60 minutes? Smart phones have 15-minute segments in their calendars for a reason. 

Experiment: Try a month-long experiment where no meeting can last 60 minutes. Shorten the scheduled meeting time to 45 minutes; then, half an hour. You might be surprised how much more efficient the meetings themselves become, and your day as a result. Employees just might discover they now have the opportunity to action their “to do” items when they come out of a meeting.

2) PROBLEM: Frequency of meetings. A common complaint is: “I was in meetings all day!” But when you ask that same person what they were doing in those meetings, the answer isn’t so clear. Meetings are the absolute biggest time waster at work. To some managers, meetings are an excuse to appear to be doing something when, in fact, meetings absolutely kill the actual efficiency and productivity of any organization. 

Experiment: Try a month-long experiment where your company is meeting-free one day a week. For example, no meetings can be scheduled on Tuesdays. Watch how your organization’s efficiency grows on that meeting-free day. People will hunker down to actually do some work without keeping an eye on the clock for the next meeting, or preparing for those meetings.

3) PROBLEM: Frequency of conference calls. Do you know what most participants do during conference calls? Other work. The sad but true result is that they are only giving 50 per cent of their attention and effort to each task—the call and their emails. We can all attest to the fact that at the end of many calls, we often ask ourselves, “What was that call all about?” 

Experiment: Try scheduling one week per month where no conference calls are allowed, other than those of an emergency nature. The freedom employees will feel when they look at their calendars and don’t see any conference calls will be most stimulating, allowing them to focus on greater production for your organization. 

4) PROBLEM: Performance appraisals. There’s no question they are needed, but some organizations do quarterly performance appraisals. The amount of preparation from both the manager and the employee before such appraisals can be crushing. These types of human resources exercises can suck productivity down the drain. 

Experiment: Switch to annual performance appraisals, and schedule them for the same week every year. There will be no surprises. Employees and managers can plan in advance and finish all of their paperwork well before the dreaded week.

5) PROBLEM: Needless emailing. Emails have completely taken over our planet. Some 50 billion are sent and received each day, not counting spam. There are the endless ‘cover my behind’ emails; there are the massive distribution list emails; there are the most annoying emails in your inbox where somebody on that massive distribution list has hit “reply all” just to answer, “OK.” On average, it takes about 10 seconds to see an email in your inbox, open it, read it, and delete it. Do the math on that time waster. 

Experiment: Try adding the words “do not reply” in the subject line of your information-only emails when you do not require a response. Or, in the subject line, try adding only the person’s name from whom you are seeking a reply. For example, “Bob, please respond.” This immediately tells everyone else that they are not required to action this email. Any directional flag in an email subject line will assist efficiency and reduce wasted time.

Adriana Girdler is the President of CornerStone Dynamics Inc and an expert in business efficiency, helping leading corporations streamline internal processes to work smarter and improve productivity. Learn more about Adriana Girdler

Originally published in HR Professional
Feb 2012, page 61

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