There’s nothing quite like the feelings you experience after being robbed, of having your personal belongings selfishly taken by another person. It’s infuriating and scary at the same time, but I’m going to wager that you get robbed every day of your most precious asset. I’m talking about Time Robbery.
Here are a few time robbers that I try to avoid in my personal and professional life:
I’ve written about procrastination and time management quite a lot in the past few years. Procrastination has the potential to be my number one time thief and I have to constantly stay vigilant against it. About 15 years ago, I was the point of contact for 26 outside salespeople and I learned that procrastination was a job killer. My motto became “do it now!” If I could get a request handled in less than 5 minutes, I did it then. Later, I read Getting Things Done and my strategy was confirmed!
Not Knowing Where To Begin
When I find myself in this position, I’ve learned that I’m either unorganized, lack enough information, or lazy. I break out of it by doing something, anything, to get me started. I personally feel better when I’ve gotten a project started and I’m able to evaluate what needs to be done next.
The result for me is that I’m stretched far too thin. It’s like having too many goals and getting nothing done. Don’t get me wrong, volunteering to help is a great quality – until it results in poor performance. I try to keep in mind:
- What MY responsibilities are
- Not everything HAS to be done
- Helping co-workers or subordinates on everything means they will never learn to do it on their own – and I’ll be called in to do their work again in the future.
Failure to Delegate
Sure there are times I look at a situation and think, “I might as well do it myself so it gets done right.” That usually results in the classic case of me running out of time while a subordinate runs out of work. Both are money losing propositions! Most people are more than eager to steal your time and shift their problems to you, so I always try to make sure I’m not the victim of “reverse delegation.”
What was originally a fantastic time saver has morphed into a constant barrage of unnecessary communication. I’m constantly connected, either through a computer or my company Blackberry and I’m constantly fighting to eliminate my Pavlovian response to it’s little dings, bells, and chimes. If you can pull it off (and I’m still struggling), try these tips:
- Use a different email address for personal messages and check it only after you’re home
- Respond to email only at specified periods during the day
- Educate your correspondents by letting them know your communication preferences (“Keep sending information like this,” “You don’t need to copy me on these types of messages,” “Direct future information on this subject to [someone else].”)
Is there anything that steals time more than a useless meeting? If you’re like most managers, you spend 30 to 50 percent of your time in meetings of some sort, many of them worthless. The whole purpose of a meeting is to facilitate interaction between attendees, to make a decision, to share information, or to coordinate action. If I don’t specifically plan for any of these things to happen at a meeting, I won’t schedule one, and I certainly avoid attending one if I suspect there’s no agenda and it will drag out into a time-waster. Don’t accept an invitation to “sit in” on a meeting if there’s no agenda!
A distraction is anything that stands between me and what needs doing. Distractions are actually setbacks when I consider the opportunity cost of time. I let my voice mail pick up when I’m working on something important. I ignore (or turn off) my email, and sometimes close my office door so I cannot get distracted. Another key point is to maintain a clean desk! Tough, I know but if it isn’t a priority, should it BE on your desk?
One of my basic tenets of time management is that you can realistically work on only ONE thing at a time. Switching between three or four projects only serves as a distraction. I’ve found that working on just one thing, bringing it to completion, and then moving on to my next priority allows me to get more things done.
Paperwork and Filing
In my position, there is a lot of paper .. a LOT of paper. I’ve created a hard and fast rule that keeps me from printing everything and then having to worry about filing it: I won’t print any reports that are stored digitally unless I need to go over it with someone. Why print it only to file it?
A tempting as it can be to sleepily stare out the airplane’s window, or watch the in-flight movie, or just listen to the radio on a car trip, I try to use this time to get something done. I write reports or read a book when I’m stuck in an airport or on an airplane; in the car, I listen to motivational CD’s. If I don’t, I am robbed of that time!
There are few things that, once they’re gone, are irreplaceable and one of those is your time. Make certain your time isn’t stolen because it is truly your most precious asset.