Five ideas to reduce the biggest time-wasters
By Anne Bachrach
A.M. Enterprises (The Accountability Coach)
Have you ever thought to yourself: "If only I had more time?" You may even long for the old days when you were young and didn't have many responsibilities. You have the whole world waiting for you. You can do anything you set your mind to -- even the things for which you don't think you have time.
How is this possible? By scheduling time for what's important, as well as what is fun. Of course, along with this schedule, you have to take certain steps to eliminate time-wasters. What are time-wasters? Time-wasters can be anything from an inanimate object to a living and breathing person. It is important that you first learn how to identify a time-waster and then learn how to stop this person, place, or thing from distracting you. Let's start by listing some of the most common time-wasters.
1. There's no question that computers and a high-speed Internet connection can provide many valuable services to you. However, these tools are among the worst time-wasters in existence. Some companies have actually banned Internet usage during working hours. If banning the Internet is not an option for you, then at least make it a rule that you will not open any computer programs that are not directly related to your work. If you catch your hand slowly approaching your mouse with the intent to surf, catch yourself and get back to work. This fasting from interactive entertainment also includes avoiding blogs, e-mail, and instant messaging services. What can you do about important e-mails? If you have a problem with time-consuming e-mails then you might consider creating a separate e-mail account for all your professional contacts. That way, you won't be distracted by any forwarded messages or alerts from friends. Even better, ask your friends to not include you in the personal e-mails they like to send to other friends. You may even choose to only check e-mail one or two times during the day, and for a specific period of time -- preferably not first thing in the morning when you arrive at work.
2. Interruptions from phones, team members, or pop-in visitors can be very distracting. Human beings have a natural inclination to sit around and chat. There's certainly nothing wrong with this pastime, and there is no need to be rude with your peers, associates, friends, and neighbors. However, you do need to set some rules and inform everyone who adores your company that during certain working hours, you are unavailable. This applies to team members, also. Create set times when others can meet with you.
3. Unless you work on the phone, you may choose to unplug this device, since telephone conversations can easily take up a lot of time. Once again, explain to family and friends that during working hours, the phone is not an option. You also might want to tell them that it's only appropriate to call during a life and death situation, since "emergency" can be liberally interpreted.
4. The next time-waster to consider is not actually a tangible object, but a lack of time management. When there is no time management or scheduling taking place, a person tends to become unfocused in his or her approach. A person may not prioritize their tasks, or in the opposite case, try to take on too much responsibility. Along with the threat of procrastination, a lack of time management makes for a potentially devastating time-waster. The use of a calendar for time management will lead to more efficient and effective behaviors that produce even better results and increases your overall success.
5. One of the most frequently reported problems with office employees is the lack of education that newcomers received. Having to explain procedures and demonstrate how to work various systems takes time. You could apply this lesson as well, whether you own your own company or work independently of others. Try to learn new systems or new information on your own time, so that by the time you start working, you are not wasting any time reading over instructions or surfing for help resources online. Creating procedures manuals for all positions in the firm can have a huge impact on productivity and reduce wasted time. Set a goal to create one or more procedures each week for each position in your firm, and put them into procedures manuals for each person and their position.
Other time-wasters include stress, burn-out, and sickness. Stress and burn-out are oftentimes linked, so if you sense that the quality of your work is suffering because of this, it may be time to take some time off. Sickliness is a tricky issue, because some businesses prefer employees to come in sick, while others only want to pay workers who perform at prime level. If you work at home, then you also have to find a compromise. You obviously wouldn't disturb others if you work alone, but are you so ill that the quality of your work is suffering? It may be wise to take a sick day and regroup so you can be at your best, mentally.
Keep in mind that the more you incorporate health and fitness into your life, the more it reduces stress, burnout and sickness.
These are some of the most common time-wasters. If you sense that you are losing a lot of time, take steps to eliminate the source of distractions. This may include sacrificing some items altogether, or at least making it more difficult to access such fun, time-wasting activities. But your office productivity will improve and you will be better off!
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