What are your biggest time wasters? Is it all those interruptions – people stopping by your desk seeking assistance… or just to chat? Do you find yourself getting mired in email? Or what about those meetings where you don’t seem to accomplish anything? Based upon ten years of coaching professionals to be more productive and make better use of their time, here are the top 7 time wasters I hear from clients. I’ve also given suggestions for how to combat these time wasters.
- Interruptions – When someone stops by your desk to talk, and seems to be rambling, ask, “How can I help you?” This helps him get to the point quickly. If he just wants to chat, let him know you’re working on an important project, and ask if you can talk later.
- Being distracted by email – Turn off your email notification which indicates new email. This way you won’t be distracted by it. Rather than continuously checking email throughout the day, set aside a few times each day to check email, so you can focus on the task at hand.
- Unproductive meetings – Set an agenda and stick to it; avoid going off on tangents. Assign a time keeper to help ensure you cover the important topics.
- Being tied to the phone – Have others screen your calls. Or if you don’t have an assistant, then forward your phone to voicemail when working on important projects. Schedule a telephone hour to return calls.
- Not wanting to say “no” to requests – You can’t say “yes” to everything without getting in over your head. Decide what you must do – and what you want to do – and say “no” to all other requests.
- Being afraid to delegate – It’s not necessary to do everything yourself. You’ll be more productive if you delegate. Let go of control and trust others to do the job.
- Procrastinating – Tackle the unpleasant tasks first – if they’re important. Divide large projects into smaller tasks so it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. Reward yourself when you accomplish a project.
For more suggestions on how to better manage your time, listen to “Take Control of your Time” audio CD.
Wow – what an exhilarating experience! I just returned from the National Association for Professional Women conference in New York City where I spoke on the topic of work-life balance. Star Jones, former co-host of The View, hosted the conference. Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post, and Martha Stewart, Founder of Martha Stewart Living and Emmy Award-winning Television Show Host, were keynote speakers.
Balance appeared to be a key theme at the conference. Both Star and Arianna talked about the importance of taking care of self, and the high-powered women on the Power of Networking panel also discussed their challenges and successes with managing work and the rest of their lives.
For Arianna Huffington it took fainting from exhaustion on her desk, breaking her cheekbone and getting five stitches to make her slow down at work. Arianna shared her fainting incident with the audience. Five years ago, she was building the Huffington Post and had taken her daughter on a tour of colleges. Once her daughter went to sleep at night, Arianna would start working. When she came back from that trip exhausted, the fainting incident happened.
That was her wake-up call. Arianna told the audience she’s “rediscovered sleep”. “I’ve made a lot of changes in my life…I now strive to get seven or eight hours of sleep a night. You need time to recharge.”
Arianna encourages the same sort of stress-free living among her employees. She had two nap rooms installed at the Huffington Post offices, and “they’re full all the time,” she says. The company also offers weekly meditation and yoga classes for employees.
Star Jones had her own wake-up call when, at the age of 47, her doctor told her she needed open heart surgery immediately! Star had no idea her health was at risk. She just didn’t feel right. She became very tired, started having heart palpitations and shortness of breath. Fortunately, Star went to see a doctor, and an echocardiogram revealed she had heart disease.
Star now makes health a top priority and urged audience members to do the same. As a result of her experience, Star is now a National Volunteer of the American Heart Association and is dedicating her “entire life’s work” to raising awareness about the disease.
There’s a key message we can all learn from these speakers. It’s absolutely critical that we slow down and take care of ourselves. Otherwise, we may not have a second chance.