Time eaters are tasks that happen on a daily basis and are categorized for me as things that are unnecessary to my overall productivity or happiness. Most time eaters are thrust upon me by others usually paying me to work for them. Some might argue that because I am being payed that my time is now partially owned by this client. The truth is that if someone is paying you for X result then they are owed X result. Whether I spend 10 seconds or 10 hours on that project makes no difference as long as X result is accomplished. A lot of individuals firmly believe that if they are paying for X what they are really getting is X, Y and Z and the ability to have continual following up which alone doubles the amount of time budgeted to produce just X.
Understanding why people think this way may help to stop the craziness and improve your daily time spent on time eaters if not remove them completely from your schedule.
People are Insecure
I have found that most people have no idea what to do with free time during a work day. Usually they will fill it with checking social media or email and then after an hour of that decide to get back to “work” on their project out of guilt that they haven gotten “anything” done. Its been wired into us that we have “things” to do each day and “places to go” except nobody actually can define what those things or places are.
If everyone could stop worrying about filling their 8 hour work day and instead focus on the tasks at hand we would probably all only work a couple hours a day (excluding tasks that actually take longer like open heart surgery etc. Sorry docs!)
Defining the Important Vs. Unimportant
Before you can block the time eaters from your life you need to define them. I’ll give you a little insight into what I find are time-eaters for me.
- Social Media
- Idle gossip
- Customer Support
The last one may cause some controversy but I’ll get to the why on that one.
Email is just mail through your computer. Do you walk to your mailbox every hour or half hour each day to see if more mail is there? No that would be absurd because its mail. Even knowing that people tend to use email like a chat system than a mail system. I have had clients get angry because I took too long to email them back. Whether I took too long or not really isn’t important. If the email was that crucial why didn’t they just pick up the phone? I would propose checking your email once per day. When people realize they have to wait for your response they will get in line and just wait for you if its not important and if it is then they will just call you.
A complete waste of time. Sorry guys but besides stalking our friends and liking everything that amuses us for 10 seconds before we scroll down and can’t recall what we just looked at, social media is a total waste of time. I do like to follow what my family is doing but usually I can check that in about 10 minutes once per week. That’s it for me. If someone can give me a better way to use social media that is actually productive and adds value to life I am all ears.
Food / Snacking
When I get a lot of work done or if I am in a rut I am always tempted to go to the food area or water cooler to browse the fridge. Really I am just needing a break which is fine but when anything becomes an escape from work you will tend to use it more and more until it is an unhealthy habit. If you need a break take a break but stand up, do push-ups, walk around your office but don’t wander outside your work area or coming back will not only be hard but you will be teaching yourself to avoid your work.
Take what I said about social media and copy it here. Idle gossip is not only hurtful but immature. Everyone involved won’t trust you as far as they can throw you and you won’t feel any better about yourself. Don’t get involved in it and don’t waste your time on it.
I get solicited every day with new products and services that I just can’t live without. Although I occasionally bite it is only on items that I actually am looking for vs. being introduced to by a sales person. With the internet sales have changed as we are used to being able to look for what we want so giving time to sales people shouldn’t be a part of our daily routine. If you are a purchaser for your company and it is your job to meet with these time wasters I would suggest you require them to send you a formal proposal of services before meeting with a summary page that you can review. If interesting great meet with them, otherwise kick them to the curb and move on
I have found that by just asking for an agenda when meetings are imposed on me often get them canceled. People meet like the eat because it’s something to do. Half the time people want to meet with me just because it’s been a while so we should probably meet. Really? Sometimes projects my team work on take months to complete and after two weeks in my clients will want to meet to get an update. Usually after a 5 minute phone call they have the update they need and I just saved myself hours in traveling to and having a meeting that could have been handled in a matter of minutes. There will be times that you need to meet with clients to keep them happy which would fall under customer service but recognize it for what it is and don’t act like it is necessary if it isn’t.
I really don’t like customer support. Its not that I don’t think it is important or a necessity when running a business, but most clients are completely without respect for your time after they hire you and assume customer support is readily available regardless of how much time you actually have available. Whew! That was a mouthful. This may sound extremely cynical but 9 times out of ten as soon as a client engages my firm they want constant proof that they made a good decision. They are so incredibly jaded from past experiences that they automatically assume the worse and refuse to expect anything but failure.
The solution? I put every client in the same customer service pot whether they like it or not. If they hate it they can move on but I feel it’s fair to me and fair to them. I will have a once per month meeting with them and cover what I feel we succeeded at and failed at in the last month. This shows that we can own what is and isn’t working vs. assuming we are Gods that never fail at anything. The good clients will respect that you have to put time into their actual project and the once per month meeting is normal for them. Beyond that when you bring up what you feel was a failure they won’t have to go looking for problems but will realize you are going to do that job for them. The load becomes significantly lighter.
Understanding the time wasters are step 1 in reducing them and reducing your work hours per day. Make your own list of time-wasters and find a way to eliminate them. Don’t fill your time with other time wasters but instead find ways to relax and reduce your work per day.