Hidden Time Wasters and How to Resolve Them


Have you been trying to find more of that elusive free time, but just can’t figure out how your time is wasted? In our hectic lives, we are always trying to chisel out a few extra minutes here and there.  Maybe you’re trying to find a little more time to spend with your family/friends. Or time to do a little reading to help you get ahead at work. Or maybe time to rejuvenate during the week. Whatever your reason, it can often feel like a difficult task.  It’s not hard to think of some obvious time wasters— binge watching your favorite TV series or scrolling through your newsfeed for that next funny video. But you may have developed habits, without even being conscious of it, that are time wasters. Here are a few less obvious, but insidious time wasters.

Not making a plan

You say "I’m too busy to stop and plan or make a list.".  I’ll just figure it out as I go along and save time, right?  Not likely.  If you’ve already started your day or your meeting without a plan, you’ve already wasted time (and that of your co-workers). The time spent up-front planning, will be saved many times over.  How many times have you gone to the store without at list, only to have to return to the store to get the forgotten items?   Solution:  Start small.  Make a to-do list and/or schedule for tomorrow.  And, actually follow it. Good intentions aren’t enough.  Write and distribute an agenda for that meeting you’re leading.  The agenda keeps you and others focused on the goals of the meeting and less likely to waste time going off on tangents.  Once you’ve made daily planning a new habit, you can move onto weekly/monthly/long-term planning. By using a planner like the iStratus® DayPlanner, you can consolidate your schedule, calendar, lists, tasks and even documents (like that agenda) in one place and access via your smartphone or other device wherever you are.

Starting meetings late  

It’s only a few minutes here and there, right?  You can use those few minutes to chat with co-workers or check your email.  But think about the collective time waste of everyone in the room—5-10 minutes X the 5 people in the room X how many times a day X how many days a week?  That’s significant time wasted over the course of a month. Solution:  If you’re the one calling the meeting, be clear in your invitation that you will to start on time.  Start thinking of it (and messaging it) as self-respect/respect for others, and you might get those around you onboard more easily.  It may be bumpy at first, but late comers who see they’ve actually missed out on the beginning of the meeting, may be more apt to make it on time.  Set a timer a few minutes ahead of the start time, so you are prepped and ready to go on time. This strategy reduces time waste for you and your co-workers and can move your work culture towards better time efficiency.

Meeting attendance

You’re invited to that meeting...you have no idea your role, there’s no clear agenda, there are other attendees who potentially overlap your function.  You’re thinking, “What a waste of time when I’ve got a project that’s on deadline.” Or maybe you’ve been invited to a social event that, while you’re flattered to be included, isn’t how you want to spend your evening.  Don’t just blindly add these to your already cluttered calendar. Solution:  Ask questions about the agenda, anticipated outcomes and your potential role in discussing or meeting those outcomes.  If it’s unclear that you are critical to meeting those outcomes, suggest that a colleague attending fill that role. This will leave you available to work towards your deadline.  By asking questions, you’re also bringing time efficiency into the collective consciousness at work. And, if social events are your challenge, follow your gut.  If the event is not one of those “must-do” events and/or it’s going to add stress to your life, politely decline and thank the host for the invitation.  It may feel good to feel wanted, but attending all meetings/events might not be the best use of your time.

Delaying routine maintenance

You know that dentist appointment you keep putting off?  Or that oil change that’s overdue? You tell yourself you’re too busy.  You’ll find time later. Whether for your car, health or home, waiting could cost you more time (and money) later when a potential small problem becomes a bigger problem if left unattended.   Your cavity becomes a root canal and your missed oil changed becomes a breakdown. Solution:  Use recurring appointment reminders on to remind you to make those critical appointments ahead of time.  Otherwise, routine maintenance becomes an emergent situation that throws a wrench in your day and wastes time unnecessarily.  

Working towards perfection rather than “good enough”

 You’ve got a proposal due with a deadline looming, but you avoid submitting the draft for initial review.  What if she doesn’t like it?  Maybe if I spend another hour tweaking that section, it will be perfect.  Sound familiar?  Some of us are plagued with this tendency and confuse perfectionism with a solid work ethic.  If you are working for perfection, you are unnecessarily wasting time to avoid critique because of a fear of failure.  Time wasted “perfecting” one task means time not spent on other important tasks. Solution:  Of course, you do NOT want to sacrifice quality, but what is perfect?  You could endlessly edit and not create a substantially improved product.  The better question is, “What is good enough?” The key is to strive for high enough quality that serves the purpose, submit your work knowing that others may critique it (a good thing—fresh eyes and a new perspective) and move on.  As a safety net while you get acclimated to “good enough”, ask a trusted colleague to review your work first before submitting to the boss and offer to reciprocate. It may help you both save time. Give yourself a firm deadline (a day/5 hours, etc.), include that deadline on your calendar and commit to submit on time.

Just Can’t Say No

We know...you’re a pleaser.  You like to be that dependable, go-to person that everyone can rely on for everything.  Whether at work or at home, never saying no means you are consistently putting the needs of others ahead of your own.  It’s an admirable quality to want to help others. However, if you consistently put the needs of others ahead of your own, you are not respecting your needs.  It puts your ability to meet your responsibilities and reach your goals at risk. In turn, others may not be respecting your time. Solution:  Back to the idea of using the iStratus® DayPlanner. With your calendar loaded and in-hand at the ready, you are armed with the information you need to make an informed decision about what to add (or NOT to add) to your calendar.  By politely communicating your need to meet other responsibilities, you’re valuing your time and asking others to respect it as well.

In short...

Be mindful.  Break time-wasting habits. Protect your time. It’s a precious commodity.  Check out the iStratus® DayPlanner to find powerful, integrated tools to help you eliminate time waste and get the most out of your day.

Phil Matronetime wasters