What are your big time wasters?

Don’t waste my time. One of the greatest sins of modern society is to waste time. It is even worse to waste someone else’s time. Unfortunately, there are numerous ways that you can waste time. Pace Productivity conducted surveys among 690 employees and entrepreneurs across North America. The first question they asked was designed to find out which factors impeded respondents’ productivity that were outside of their control. The following were the top ten wasters that respondents felt they had no control over.

1- Paperwork / administrative tasks
2- Customer requests: service / problems / complaints
3- Phone calls / phone interruptions / inquiries
4- Computer / system / equipment problems
5- No internal support / other departments’ inefficiency
6- Unspecified interruptions
7- Traffic / travel
8- Meetings – too many / too long / unnecessary
9- Volume of work / not enough time
10- Staffing issues / people absent

This is a very interesting list. No doubt there are many aspects of time that we cannot control. However, the first question I have when looking at this list is the validity of the respondents’ assumption that they have “no control” over these time wasters. I admit that in several of these areas, it is difficult to have control, but the operational word is difficult. I would stop at the word impossible. I lean towards looking at what I can do to have more control over my life and I refuse to abdicate control in many of these so called time waster areas. I might only have partial control but once I assert this control, I can minimize the impact of the time wasted.

Do you see some areas above that you also feel you could take some control over? What are the biggest time wasters in your life? Do you think they are all out of your control or do you think you have some control over them? Pick one large time waster in your life. What could you do today that would help you to gain control and minimize this time waster in your life?

How can you stop procrastinating?

Procrastination is a word to be feared, yet it is a word that we are all too familiar with. The dictionary defines it as “To postpone or delay needlessly.” It also traces its roots to the Latin wherein pro-crastinate means to “put forward.” Thus, when we don’t want to do something today, we put it forward until tomorrow. Sometimes that works and other times it starts creating a kind of sandbag effect in which it just seems easier to keep putting things off. Why do we procrastinate? There are many reasons. Here are some that I have found:

• I don’t know where to start
• The task seems daunting and monumental
• I am afraid I don’t have the ability
• I fear I will not be able to finish
• I am afraid of looking stupid
• I tried before and failed
• I just don’t feel like doing it

You could probably put your own list up but I would guess that it would have some similarities to my list. Is there a secret to overcoming procrastination or a solution? I think the answer is yes. We are all intimidated by the world. The people that accomplish the most are the ones who find support from others. Every year at graduation, I listen to the seniors talk about how they could not have made it without the help and support of someone else, usually their family, a teacher or friends. Going to college for four years is a major undertaking. We can never be sure if we will pass or graduate or even manage to pay the college loans off. Anyone who starts school begins a very long and precarious journey. However, as the song says “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

When you find that you are procrastinating that can be a red flag or a signal that you need some help from a friend. Working together we can do anything. Remember Ben Franklins famous quote “Either we all hang together or we all hang separately.” Why try to do it all by yourself? Musicians, chess players, actors and sports figures all have coaches. Coaches help us stay on track and provide moral and mental support. You may not be able to afford a high paying professional coach, but I will bet there is someone in your life that could help play this role. Seek this person out and enlist them in your endeavor. The secret to overcoming procrastination is to find others who can support and nurture your effort.

What are you putting forward today that you really need to do now? Who can you enlist to support you mentally, physically or emotionally in your effort? Do you need ideas or simply willpower? Who do you know that would best provide them? By the end of the day, will you be able to contact them? If not, is there someone else who could help you? Don’t procrastinate, contact them now. You will be glad you did.

Are you procrastinating?

“Think big, start small and deliver quickly.” I found this advice from a Vice President of Cisco Corporation. At the time, Cisco was one of the most profitable and fastest growing firms in the world. It struck me as the way we must all do business in this highly competitive global era. We must think big. We cannot just look at the world from our own petty perspective. We must view the world from the eyes of our customers, stakeholders and other world citizens. Things we do in New York affect the Amazon Rain Forest and vice versa. We must start small. Every journey begins with a single step. Every large organization or endeavor started out quite humbly.

It is no shame to start on the bottom and work your way up. We all must pay our dues. It is all too easy to see those who have achieved success and think they did it overnight. However, when you look closely at success, you see it came from very humble beginnings. Finally, we must be quick. Opportunities are like a window that opens and closes or like an elevator going and down every few seconds. Opportunities do not last long. If you do not seize the moment, someone else surely will. Nature abhors a vacuum and an opportunity is a vacuum just waiting to be filled. Opportunities are like the waves in the ocean and whenever one comes in, it is quickly spent but soon replaced by another one. You must pick the right wave and jump on it quickly or you will miss it.

I posted Cisco’s phase over my desk as a reminder. Thinking big reinforced the need for a vision worth achieving. Without a vision, we may end up building a molehill. We need a vision but we also need determination and speed. You need determination to have the stamina and patience to build your vision one day and one step at a time. You cannot know in advance if you will succeed. You will need determination to see you over the hills and valleys. You will also need speed. While you are still contemplating your great new idea, the chances are excellent that a competitor is also thinking about the same idea. Haste can make waste, but timing is everything and today you must act fast or lose the opportunity.

What good ideas do you have that you are procrastinating over? What opportunities are waiting for you to seize them? Why are you still waiting? Who or what could help you get started? If you are not sure how to get started, find someone to help you. You will regret it later if you do not act now.

What are your excuses for being late?

A stitch in time saves nine. Even if you do not sew, you will know the meaning of this old saying. It is probably just one of many that you learned as a child. By now, you have heard it so many times, that you know longer remember how or when you learned it. It is very interesting how so many of our morals and values are guided by little sayings that we learned so far back in our early childhood. They tell us we learn 90 percent of our values and morals before we are six years old. Did you ever think you were learning about time management before you were six years old?

In some ways, this saying about time tells us more about planning than all the project management courses we may take later in our lives. It is simple and memorable. It has meaning and relevance because we can all relate to the idea of prevention before a cure is needed. We also all realize that once a problem has occurred it is more difficult to deal with. The time to deal with problems is before they occur. But doing this requires good timing and planning ahead for emergencies and contingencies. If you were practicing this little homily when you were six years old, you were doing contingency planning and you probably could not even spell the word contingency.

The question is “Do we still practice it?” Is it always good advice? Are there exceptions to this pithy piece of wisdom? If you were ever in the Boy Scouts, you would be familiar with the motto “Be prepared.” But how can you be prepared for all possible emergencies? How can you be prepared if you do not take the time or have the time to think ahead? It is not always easy to “Be prepared.” One secret is not to wait until the last minute to plan. Start a list of what you will need long before you will need it. You will be surprised at how the list will grow. I can guarantee you that my students who wait until the last minute to do their assignments or papers are always the ones who do the poorest job or have the most excuses why they could not get the paper in on time. “The snow came, my computer crashed, the baby was delivered, the dog ran away, and I was sick.” These things happen to each of us every day. But if they happen on the day the project or work is due, you now have a problem.

Do you wait until the last minute or do you think ahead about what you need? Are you chronically dealing with emergencies? Do you plan ahead or wait until the deadline draws near? Where would a stitch in your life save you nine today?

Are you killing too much time?

“Well, I’ve got some time to kill today.” We have all heard and used this expression. It means that somehow we have some unexpected free time. It is time that does not need to be accounted for or time when nothing is scheduled. Many of us wish we more often had time to kill. It is a very interesting thought. I am going to kill some time. What measures do I take to kill time or how does one go about killing time. There are lists you can find of time killers. In airports, one finds that arcade games are often used simply as time killers. However, more often today, one finds people doing their work on the kiosk type internet connections available in airports. In Japan, Pachinko parlors are a major way to kill time. But can we really kill time?

How does one kill something which does not exist? If it does exist, then is time alive? Most people would say that time is not something living or biological. However, the expression seems to indicate that time is something that has a life of its own and that we can kill. With time in such short supply, it might seem immoral or unethical to kill it. It is certainly not illegal. I have not yet heard of anyone going to jail for “killing time.” But with time in such short supply, maybe killing time should be a crime. How could anyone have the audacity to kill something that is so precious and limited? Maybe we should declare that time is an endangered species and put a moratorium on “killing” time. Religions could declare it a mortal sin to kill time. We could create police units designed to ferret out people who kill time.

We could stop killing time, but then life might not be very much fun. Killing time is actually one of those breaks that we all need to take. We manage, coordinate, plan and schedule too much of our time. Time to be killed may just be one of the last pleasures of modern life. Do you ever kill time? Do you spend enough time “killing” time? Do you worry and feel guilty because you could put the time to better use? As the song goes, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all could find more time to kill and worry less about being productive and managing our time?

What is more important – Time or Money?

I have often thought that time and money are a lot like matter and energy. Physicists tell us that matter and energy are convertible or exchangeable. Matter can be transformed into energy and energy into matter. Indeed the famous equation by Einstein E=MC2 is evidence of this ability. I believe that the same is true of time and money. If I have a great deal of time, I can do things that it would normally take money to do. For instance, I can do my own home repairs, car repairs, house cleaning etc. On the other hand, if I have lots of money, I can exchange it for time by paying someone to do these things for me and thus creating more time for myself. My theory about time and money helps me relate my time and money to each other. Thinking of them as interchangeable allows me to prioritize both my time and money and to conserve on what is most important to me. I do not treat either as them as fixed and immutable.

If I job needs to be done, I simply review my priorities and my assets (time and money are both assets to me) and decide the best way to get the task done. I might pay someone to mow my lawn if I want to do something else more productive or fun or I just might do it myself. I do not feel that I have to do all of the chores or tasks in my life. It will all depend on what it happening at that time in my life and what my goals and objectives are. A great deal will also depend on what I really feel like doing with my time and money. Without this theory, it is very easy to let people pressure you into spending time or money that you would rather conserve or exchange. For instance, I always pay a shop to do my motorcycle oil changes and tune-ups. I would rather be out riding than repairing my bikes. Many bikers abhor the thought of anyone working on their bikes. I have friends who spend more time repairing and fixing their bikes then they do riding them.

What is most important to you today? Are you sacrificing time for money when you would rather have more time? Or are you sacrificing money for time by paying to have something done you could do yourself? Are you happy with your balance between the two?

How are you at being on time?

Let’s talk about being “on-time.” This is probably one of the most desired yet ill met goals in modern society. Almost everyone would agree that being on time is a good thing. It respects other peoples time. Not to mention that it helps us in many ways. From getting to work on time, getting to the theater on time or getting to our plane on time, we all have many schedules that must be met. However, we all know people who never seem to be able to arrive anyplace on time. They frustrate the rest of us as we wait for them to arrive.

When we are committed to being someplace at a certain time and we arrive within acceptable limits, we probably feel that we are “on-time.” The acceptable limits for some of us include both before and after the agreed upon time. Perhaps this is the key factor to being on time or being late. The acceptable limits for some of us are not the acceptable limits for others. Indeed, people may even complain that you arrived too early. Have you ever noticed that some people seem to always be on time and others are always “out of the acceptable limits?”

Does it bother you when someone else waits for a late person before they will start the meeting? How much do you value being on time? Are you someone who is always on time or are you always late? Can you notice patterns in your ability to arrive within acceptable limits? How do you determine the “acceptable” limits for arrival? What motivates your “on-time” or lateness? Are you satisfied with yourself in this area? What could you do different?

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