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Guide To Time Management: Time Thieves

Identify Your Time Thieves

Identifying your time wasters is the first step to managing your own time.


Do you find that when you have something important to get done, you keep getting interrupted or distracted?

If you take your concentration away from a task, it can take 15 MINUTES to get back to where you left it..

It is time to tackle these issues. Here are the common culprits and practical steps for dealing with them.


1. Unexpected Visitors

What do you do if you are constantly interrupted by people dropping by while you are trying to work?

In today's workplace, open plan offices are common and you cannot close the door when you need quiet time to work. At the same time, you do not want to appear rude to your visitors.

Try these tips to tackle this common time waster:

  • Invent a deadline and suggest meeting later
  • Get rid of any comfortable spare chairs in your workspace
  • Stand up when someone comes to visit
  • Lead the person to the coffee machine or water cooler - it will be easier for you to make excuses and leave
  • Visit them before they visit you

2. Emails/Phone calls

There was a time when people left work on Friday evening and were able to switch off until Monday morning. With advances in technology, we are now available 24/7. This is a major time waster - of our precious leisure time! Try these suggestions to get back your work/life balance AND be more effective with your time:

Check/respond to your emails and phone messages at set times during the working day, for example, early morning, just after lunch, and late afternoon. We live in a world where an instant reply is expected, but is it really necessary?

Switch off email alerts and put your phone on silent outside of those times. I know it is hard, because we feel important when someone tries to contact us. Your callers may be impatient at first when you don't give them an instant reply, but they normally get used to it and learn to respect your schedule. And you will get that important task done!

3. Interruptions by your Manager/Team Members

You may have spent time on your To Do list and your Schedule, but what do you do if your manager is a poor time manager and constantly interrupts your time management plan? Or your fellow team members put their agenda ahead of yours? This time waster can feel out of your control.

This is not an easy position to be in, but if you are regularly bringing work home in order to keep others happy, you need to change this habit. Firstly, be ruthless with your own time wasters. Then assert yourself with others in a constructive way. These tips on time management may help:

Ask to meet your manager at least once a week so that you can discuss your plan of work for the week ahead. If your manager is more aware of your workload, he/she may think twice before giving you short notice to do extra tasks. If this does happen, discuss what work should be dropped in lieu of the new tasks.

Similarly with your team members, inform them of what work is on your agenda and negotiate reasonable timeframes for completing new tasks. Get back up support from your manager if necessary in order to keep time wasters under control.

4. When the culprit is YOU

Are you someone who finds it hard to work on a task for prolonged periods? Are you constantly looking for diversions, such as a cup of coffee, a quick browse on the internet, or a quick check of social media? These are all great pastimes, but NOT when they are taking you from the task at hand.

If you are finding it hard to stay motivated, take this time management advice:

Set short term deadlines - that keep you challenged - for completing the task and tick them off in your time management log when you have them done.

Are you up with the larks, or are you a night owl? Chart your energy cycle. Find the time of the day when you have most energy, and plan your important work for that time. 

Early morning exercise such as a  walk can really help concentration levels so that you make the best use of your time.

Take yourself off to a quiet spot - an unused office, the library, a local hotel - and stay there until you have the task done.

Time wasters can be very frustrating - but being aware of them - and resolving to do something about them - is the first step.


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