Did you know that most office workers “lose time” inevitably due to the very nature of our work? Here’s how:
1. In an ever-changing workplace, most of us do not have crystal-clear job roles and boundaries. In a typical day, we need to spend time understanding what is expected of us and why.
2. Being part of a wider organization, we spend time on planning, discussions, reports, people-relations etc. The larger the organization, the less actual time we actually have for “real work.”
3. Many tasks require minimum chunks of time for completion, e.g. developing a strategic plan or direction or finishing a report. When done in dribs and drabs, we end up re-doing much of the work and wasting time.
Eliminate the Time Wasters
Peter Drucker (in his book The Effective Executive) highlights a 3-step strategy to identify where your time actually goes.
Know your time, he says, so you can manage it. Here are the 3 steps:
1. Record Time: Record actual time-use (using any method that works for you), so you become aware of where your time is going.
2. Manage Time:
Identify unproductive, time-wasting activities by asking 3 diagnostic questions:
(i) What would happen if these were not done at all?
(ii) Which of the activities on my time log could be done by someone else just as well, if not better?
(iii) Ask others: “What do I do that wastes your time without contributing to your effectiveness?
Then, remove the time-wasters if possible, either by cutting down on the activities deliberately, or by redirecting your energy to the causes that are generating the time-wasters.
These could include:
• Recurrent “crises” due to lack of system or foresight (invest time to identify the root causes and focus your attention there).
• Excessive interaction instead of real work (often due to overstaffing)
• Too many meetings due to mal-organization
• Malfunction due to incomplete or ineffective information
3. Consolidate Time: Estimate how much discretionary time you really have, then set aside continuous and uninterrupted blocks of time, with deadlines to complete your activities within the allocated time.
What’s Consuming Your Energy?
Well, just knowing your time may not be enough. In his book Finding Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi shares a powerful insight – everything we think, feel and do consume psychic energy. When managing our time, we are also managing where we direct our energy. Here’s an overview:
Besides keeping track of where our time is going, he suggests that we discover the activities and people who add to or deplete our energy levels, so we can choose our activities more carefully.
Eliminate the Time Wasters and Energy Vampires
To use our precious time and energy optimally, we need to start by taking stock of how we are using them.Use the tips in this email to start taking stock of how you spend your time and energy, so you eliminate the time-wasters.
Download the book summaries and reading graphics of The Effective Executive and Finding Flow, or purchase the books online, to learn how to become more effective and to get in “flow”!