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Craving greater life balance? Identify and eliminate your top 10 time wasters

You arrive to work early most days and leave late.  You carry work home at least mentally, if not physically.  The deadlines never seem to end.

If you want to be more effective and have your team be more effective, challenge yourself to identify all of the ways you’re wasting time.  Once you have that list, challenge yourself to eliminate as many of them as you can.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Failing to identify your highest impact tasks, projects or conversations.
  • Failing to create and/or use a meaningful “to do” list.
  • Not communicating effectively or efficiently.
  • Failing to ask enough questions BEFORE you start the project.
  • Not hiring the right people.
  • Failing to adequately train your people.
  • Taking a job that doesn’t play to your unique strengths.
  • Staying in a job that no longer inspires or excites you.
  • Checking email.  Be brutally honest here.  Track for a day or two how often you’re checking your email.  Estimate how much of it is unimportant.  Aim to check email only a few times a day.  Identify your 1-3 highest priorities for the day and work on those things before you check your email.
  • Meetings, especially recurring ones.  If the purpose of the meeting is just to go around the table and make the usual updates, skip it or send someone from your staff.  If you tend to schedule a lot of meetings, challenge yourself to cut back on the frequency and limit the duration. Lunch meetings are the greatest time waster.  The meeting doesn’t start until everyone is finished eating and that generally doubles the amount of time wasted.  Try to schedule meetings at the beginning of the day and skip the food.
  • Mindlessly surfing the web.  Enough said.
  • Failing to schedule projects on your calendar.  We tend to only use our calendars to track meeting requests.  If you never seem to make progress on larger projects, you need to block the time on your calendar.  If people try to schedule you during that time, decline the meeting request and reschedule it. If you have a staff, establish “office hours” for quick check-ins.  If you need to write a report, schedule an hour on your calendar.  Establish your ideal time for leaving the office and avoid accepting meetings that prevent you from leaving when you want to.
  • Idle chatting.  Yes, you want to connect with your colleagues.  But if you find an entire morning slipping away due to non-urgent conversations, you need to cut back dramatically.  I’m all for keeping the door closed and saying “no” when people ask you if you have a minute.
  • Using quick fixes to solve problems (because we’re in a rush to attend an unimportant meeting or need to get back to checking our email for the 75th time that day) instead of figuring out the root cause and fixing that instead.
  • If you work from home, avoid the quick errand that suddenly turns into 90 minutes.  Keep set “office” hours and communicate that to your clients.  With few exceptions, you should not expect anyone to be available 24/7, nor should you give the impression that you are.

Most of our time wasting has more to do with not being clear on what we need/want to accomplish, laziness, boredom, and fear.  Once you identify your key time wasters, ask yourself what you’re avoiding.  Information is power.  The more you can figure out why you do (or don’t do) something, it’s easier to course correct.  Otherwise, your results will suffer.


Stop a few times throughout the day and ask yourself if you are being productive or just active.

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