Time Management – Identifying and Dealing with Your Time Wasters

Manage_TimeEver wonder how you can possibly work so much and never seem to get anything done? As small office communicators, one of the most important time management skills we can develop is actually identifying the things that waste our time and, most important, take control of them. Here are a few of the time wasters I’ve found and how best to deal with them.

Online Distractions
Here is where FOCUS comes in very handy. Today, we do a lot of research on the internet – but my goodness, look at all the bright shiny objects (SQUIRREL!) that can draw our attention away from what we are looking for: social media sites, videos, and online forums are the worst. How do we cut out these distractions? As I said, FOCUS! First of all, take an honest look at what you’re doing – seriously log your time as though you are getting paid by the hour (you are, you know). After a few days, examine your log. Bet you’ll find LOTS of time where you’ve allowed yourself to be distracted by squirrels running through your attention span.

So, once you’ve identified your distracters, a great way to get control is to actually specify time for them in your schedule. For example, try this; budget just 15 minutes a day for social media (unless it is an active part of your promotional activities for your business). When your 15 minutes are up, close that tab for the day to get rid of that distracting temptation – the old cliché works, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind.”

If you work in a home office as I do, there are always going to be interruptions, especially if you have a family (I’m lucky here, both our children are now grown and have moved out). But you can’t shut yourself off from the world entirely (like the chain saw buzzing across the street as I write this). The best way to deal with interruptions is to let everyone know that you’re ‘at work’ for the next couple of hours. For instance, since I work in a home office, I use a two line phone, but have different rings set for the home line and the business line. I don’t answer the home line during work time. When the work line rings, Caller ID helps me quickly decide if this is a call I need to answer now, or can let it go to the answering machine and deal with it later. But sometimes, interruptions will occur that will distract you (the postman just rang the doorbell). Deal with those or they will actually destroy your focus and your work product will suffer.

Meaningless Meetings
Many jobs are rife with meaningless meetings that can really drain your time. That’s especially true for us home office types who have to add travel time to meeting time. Good time management practice says, “Skip meetings that actually move business along.” If you do have to attend, give yourself a, “Hard Out” (what we called it in video production when we had to be clear of a studio by a certain time for their next client) and when that times comes – leave. Actually, the other attendees will appreciate the time you’re saving them too.

No such thing!
Many folks believe that multitasking saves you time. After all, you’re doing several things at once so you must be getting them all done faster. Not Really! Each time you shift to another project, you have to shift your thinking also. Think about it. What if you eliminated all that refocusing time? Keep focused on one project to completion… only then stop, refocus, and move to the next. Try to avoid multitasking as much as possible, and put all of your focus into the task at hand.

Loss of Focus and Burnout
You can waste time by working too much or too many hours. When I was responsible for major meeting production at Minolta, I outlawed working all night – which used to be a “badge of honor” among production teams. What we found is that when people knew they were not allowed to work all night, they got finished faster – and here’s the important part – they went home, got some sleep, showered and changed clothes – and actually came back more productive the next day. Long hours really don’t mean greater productivity for most people. When minds and bodies get tired, focus is lost. And when focus is lost, everything takes longer. And tired workers aren’t motivated. Often it’s better to do something else for a bit to avoid getting fried. So make sure that if you and your team do need put in some long hours, you’re at least taking enough breaks to keep your focus together… but no all-nighters!

Tracking Your Time
As I said up top, one of the best ways to deal with time management is to actually track the time that we and our teams use. Keep that record of what everyone is doing for several days. This will show the “time leaks” and it’s almost always a big surprise. Use this information to actually create a time budget (hey… isn’t that a production schedule?!). That’s time management and that will help you get rid of those time wasters.


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