7 Common Time-Wasters – and Ways to Weed Them Out

Ok, people, listen up. There’s no way to sugar-coat this: there are only five Mondays left until Christmas.

And – breathe. Because as alarming as that realisation may be, we’re here to help. We know that at this time of year, while it’s more important than ever to eliminate all those little inefficiencies, it’s also more difficult than ever to maintain momentum. You’re tired. Distractions abound. Willpower wanes (chocolate Santa, anyone?).

Well, we’re calling time on all those inefficiency enablers. This week, we’ve collated what our clients consider to be the seven worst workplace time-wasters. And in true PEP-style, we’ve also provided some practical pointers for their prevention. (’Tis the season of giving, after all.) Read on, then, for our round-up:

1. Email

No surprises here. Keeping control of your inbox is a battle that’s both endless and exhausting. “Our work performance is not assessed on how many emails we answer each day. Yet we spend so much of our time mired in email,” observes PEPworldwide:nz managing director Kathryn Anda. “But think about it. How much of all this email admin is actually moving your business forward?”

PEP tip: Unneccessary ‘cc’ emails can inundate your inbox, explains Anda. “Take a second to think about what you are sending and who you are sending it to. Do you need to ‘reply to all’ or ‘cc’ that person? If someone keeps ‘cc’-ing you unnecessarily, tell them! Explain that you don’t need to be copied in.”

2. Meetings

Overwhelmed with meaningless meetings? You and everyone else, it seems – it’s a pretty common complaint (so much so that we’ve already devoted an entire post to this particular problem). “Not every meeting is essential,” points out Anda. “And the ones that are essential still need to be run properly and kept to time, with key outcomes identified.”

PEP tip: Ensure an agenda is issued prior to every meeting and stick to it, advises Anda. “Agree on what actions have been delegated to each person and establish accountability for follow-up. And keep to your scheduled meeting timeframe.” And if your meeting’s going nowhere fast? Leave.

3. Interruptions

Urgent requests, chatting colleagues or a noisy workplace are all time-draining distractions. “Once distracted, it can take us up to twenty minutes to regain our focus,” notes Anda. Is that time well spent? We think not.

PEP tip: Start by assessing your own behaviour, advises Anda. “Be considerate of those around you. Think about what sort of impact it has on someone every time you interrupt them.” And if you’re the long-suffering interruptee? “Communicate your concerns,” says Anda. “Encourage whoever keeps interrupting to batch their queries and meet with you at a scheduled time instead.”

4. A Disorganised Workspace

Stand by for the scary statistic: we can waste the equivalent of six weeks a year simply looking for information. And we’re not just talking about sifting through piles of paper on your desk – clutter creeps into your computer and smartphone, too.

PEP tip: Be disciplined about decluttering. “It’s simple. Only keep what you need,” says Anda. “And I know you’ve heard this before, but ensure you have a place for everything and everything’s in its place.” That may or may not include a special place for chocolate (Santas or otherwise).

5. Smartphone

Despite its many advantages, this clever device is actually a classic time-wasting culprit. In fact, alert readers will recall that our previous post explored effective smartphone use in detail, such is its potential to derail a day’s good intentions. “Ask yourself this,” suggests Anda. “Is your phone adding any value to your work while you’re sitting at your desk?”

PEP tip: Nix the notifications. “Do you really need them all?” asks Anda. “And silence the alerts from the notifications you do retain. Consider this: would the world end if you could only use your phone for phone calls?”

6. Internet

Time to ’fess up. Sixty-four percent of people admit to using the internet for personal reasons during work. Are you one of them? “Be aware of how much time you spend surfing the net,” advises Anda. “Is it enabling you to procrastinate?”

PEP tip: Discipline. Again. “Stand firm against distractions,” says Anda. “If it’s too easy for you to fall down that rabbit hole, stay away from the edge.”

7. Coffee Breaks

“Clients always protest that they like to get up and have a wander,” observes Anda. “And yes, regular breaks are certainly essential to maintain focus. Random breaks, however, start to look a lot like procrastination.”

PEP tip: Book in those breaks. “Allow yourself five minutes every hour for a quick breath of fresh air or a snack,” advises Anda. “You’re more likely to stay on task if you know exactly when you can have a breather.”

We assume that some, if not all, of these issues elicited a flicker of recognition. And recognition is the key: better behaviour always begins with self-awareness. (A decent dose of discipline won’t go astray either.) So acknowledge those potential pitfalls and prep yourself accordingly. And then embrace that festive onslaught. You’ll finally have the time to enjoy it.