Time Wasters

Time Wasters

Most of us don’t realise how much time we waste until we really think about it.

It’s easy to get sucked into reactive and unimportant tasks.  There are so many distractions and tasks, which waste our time.

The secret to achieving more with less is setting boundaries around low value tasks, and blocking out time to complete high value activities.

We need to get brutal with our time.  I’ll repeat this a few times as it’s so important. With the right framing, we can do so without offending anyone.

Universal time wasters

Ever have those days when you feel as though you’ve been running at full pace and you didn’t actually get anywhere?  Chances are you’ve been caught up in time wasting activities which have found their way onto your “to do” list.

Our Workplace Productivity research tells us 79% of professionals’ report being constantly interrupted at work.

Other research tells us it takes up to 24 minutes to refocus each time you are interrupted.  Sometimes we never get back to the task at hand because one interruption leads to another.

1. Too many unproductive and unnecessary meetings

When we work with clients one of the first things we do is to ask them to introduce better meeting disciplines.

Usually they’ve developed the habit of accepting any invitations which hit their mailbox by simply checking if they’re free and clicking the accept button.  It only takes a few seconds to give away 30 – 120 minutes of your time with little thought.

The trigger is the invitation, the habit is to check your availability and accept the invitation, and the reward is you’ve replied quickly to the requestor.  You think you’ve been efficient in getting the task of considering the request off your list. The impact is you’ve given away time which could be better used elsewhere.

Trigger:  New invitation hits your mailbox

Action:  You ask yourself:

  • “Is this meeting really necessary?”
  • “Am I the best person to attend this meeting or should someone else attend?”
  • “Can the issue to be discussed be resolved by a phone call, or email more efficiently?”
  • “Is there an agenda?”

Diarise between 5 minutes and 20 minutes after the meeting to action any agreed outcomes.

All meetings should have agendas, and outcomes.   They should start on time and finish on time.

The Benefit:  We’ve had clients save 2 hours per day by introducing better meeting disciplines and habits.

2. Email overload

55% of our survey respondents indicated they check their email every ten minutes or as they come in.  The problem with this approach is email becomes the main focus of our day.  It’s estimated about 70% of the email we receive have no impact on our goals.  We simply turn into Pavlov’s Dog, jumping to requests.

Very few jobs actually require us to constantly check our email. Most of the email we receive are other focused on other people’s priorities.  Essentially, we are letting other people tell us what to do.

The trigger is the email notification, the habit is dropping everything to read our email, the reward for this behaviour is knowing the content of everything that comes into the inbox as it arrives.

The impact however, is we lack focus on the high value work that moves us towards our goals.  As mentioned previously, it takes between 1 minute and 24 minutes to refocus on the task at hand when we let ourselves get distracted.  When you consider the average professional receives an email every 13 minutes it’s clear the maths simply doesn’t work.

New habit

Trigger:  Instead of relying on email notifications to trigger your email checking habit, diarise two or three 30 to 60-minute appointments in your diary to batch your email each day.
Action:  During batching times, you will first triage your inbox to decide what should be actioned, what can be replied to straight away, what needs to be delegated, and what needs to be scheduled for action later.

The Benefit:  Email batching is life changing.  Not only will you be more focused when working on high value tasks, but you’ll action your email more methodically and mindfully improving your communication with clients, colleagues, staff and stakeholders.

3. Interruptions and Distractions

Interruptions and Distractions can waste two hours of your time each day.  Interruptions are caused by others, whereas distractions are caused by us.

Triggers include requests for our attention from phone calls, email and colleagues.  Our current habit is usually to immediately switch our attention to answer phone calls, jump all over email correspondence, or speak with colleagues.  The rewards and impacts range from feeling needed to feeling annoyed.

We may become passive aggressive as we give half of our attention to the distraction and try to keep working.  We can also become frustrated because we may be seen as the “go to” person for tasks and responsibilities that should sit with others.

The new habit to develop is to create non-interrupted time. Introduce “do not disturb” protocols to your environment.

Talk to your colleagues about “do not disturb” protocols.

Batch low value tasks and encourage your staff and colleagues to save their questions to ask all at once, rather than interrupting yourself and others every time a question comes to mind.
Let team members know when you’re about to go into “do not disturb” time.  Ask them if they have questions or any needs before doing so.

Get in touch

Profusion Group consultants, coaches an facilitators are leaders in their field.  We offer both recruitment services and executive search services.

If you’d like to work with our team to help you, your team or organisation achieve your goals get in touch.


Rod Jones

P.S. If you enjoyed this newsletter, maybe your friends will too.  Feel free to share it via one of the channels below and invite others to subscribe to fortnightly updates here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>