The ordinary office has many Time Thieves can come in many forms, some technological, some environmental, some habitual, but they all do the same thing. Steal time out of your work day.
Many of us have been there. There’s an important task we simply have to get done by the end of the day, we start in earnest with a whole day to complete the task, there’s the odd phone call a few emails here and there and before we know it we’re struggling to get everything done in those last desperate, few minutes of the day.
Well, the good news is that once you know who the Time Thieves are, you can start to do something about them. These are the worst five Time Thieves in the office.
It’s a familiar situation in many work places; you’re desperately trying to complete an urgent task, when a colleague passes and discusses last night’s game with you, or one of your colleagues needs your advice on how to handle a tricky client. Maybe there’s a problem with the printer, and because you fixed it last time it’s apparently now your job to fix it every time.
If you’re not lucky enough to own an office you can lock the door on, the endless stream of drive-by interruptions from anyone passing your desk can really delay the completion of a task and many of us don’t want to say anything in case we come off as being unsociable or rude.
If you are worried about drive-by interruptions, try and find somewhere else to work temporarily, tell either your boss or a chosen trustworthy employee to screen any requests and only to interrupt you if they’re urgent.
This approach can also have the knock-on effect of encouraging other employees to resolve simple issues by themselves. Plus, if you are not in sight of where the issue is happening, you are less likely to want to get involved and resolve it yourself.
I was once told that the telephone is the rudest piece of office technology. No matter how important the task you might be doing is, when the phone rings nearly everyone will stop what they are doing to immediately answer it. Even if what you’re doing is absolutely crucial, the phone will instantly take precedence because it screams and wails at you until you answer it.
So, when the phone rings, don’t automatically pick it up. Think, ‘Is this call likely to be more important than the job I’m doing?’
You are the only person who can judge the importance of the task you are doing and the likely importance of calls you will be receiving, so ignoring your phone isn’t always possible. If you receive a lot of calls in regards to high importance failures or time critical transactions then you may not be able to deprioritise phone calls, for example.
However, it might be worth wondering if you can re-direct your calls or put your answering machine on until the task is finished.
Meetings, stand-ups, briefings; whatever you want to call them there are a great many of us who have been dragged into a meeting because the meeting owner ‘thought it would be of interest to you’, only for you to sit there, disinterested and think about all of your work that’s currently not getting done.
Meetings and briefings are essential to the running of companies big and small, but like many things if they are not arranged correctly, then they could have the opposite effect. If you don’t think you can have any constructive input into a meeting, question why you have been invited. It may be sufficient for you to just receive the minutes of the meeting afterwards.
I’m not saying that you should refuse every meeting you’re ever invited to, but like many things on the list investigate where your time would be better spent before you attend.
Unless, your job is entirely reactive there will always be a place for planning at least part of your day, and whether you plan effectively or poorly can have a large impact on your time. Try spending the last 5-10 minutes of every work-day writing a quick plan on what you would like to achieve the following day. That way when you arrive in the morning, you can immediately start on the tasks of highest priority.
It might be best not to be too detailed in your plan depending on the level of reactive tasks you have, but a simple list that will show you your key activities and any critical tasks that must be completed will become essential to a smoother start in the morning.
Once you have a plan, you can use one or more planning tools to help you remain focused on that plan. For example, the two planning tools Trello and Kanban can be used to together.
Travel is not so much of a time-sink in itself but if managed correctly, can provide you with more working time per day without it eating into your leisure hours. Many of us drive to work, some of us for several hours a day, if you are able to use public transport instead, you may be free to perform some of the work tasks that usually take up office time while you travel. For example, you could check your emails, or create your daily schedule all while sat on the bus or travelling via train. Any time you have to spend on a plane can be used constructively too, assuming you can avoid the jetlag.
If you can, eliminating your travel altogether (i.e. working from home) can in essence give you all your travelling time back to work with, without encroaching on your leisure time.
Not everyone has the luxury to be able to mitigate every-one of the Time Thieves, but even if you can manage to reduce one of them you will be paid in time, and more time means less stress, and less stress means more happiness, and more happiness is always a good thing.