Time Wasters

Time Wasters
We are all given the same amount of time in any given day. What you do with that time makes you more productive or less productive. We all have our natural behavioral style which both helps and hinders us. And, we all have potential Time Wasters that may make us less productive. TTI Success Insights has identified 30 potential time wasters listed below. After the initial list, each time waster is broken down in detail with a definition, possible causes, and possible solutions. Which of these are holding you back from being more productive?

Check out your time wasters in more detail and feel free to reach out to Lisk Associates to help you identify and improve upon your time wasters.

Cluttered deskCrisis managementDaydreaming
Desire to be involved with too many peopleExcessive socializingFailure to anticipate
Failure to clarify precise responsibilities with managerFailure to share informationFear of mistakes
FirefightingHabitsInability to say no
Lack of a written planLong lunchesLooking for hidden meaning
Not exercising authorityOpen door policyOverreacting to constructive criticism
Poor filing systemPoor delegationPostpone the unpleasant
ProcrastinationProlong events in order to gain improved results  Resisting change
Seeking all of the factsSeeking the best, but not necessarily workable solutions  Snap decisions
Tendency to be overly neat and orderly  VacillationWaiting for events to happen

Cluttered Desk
A cluttered desk is one that is overloaded by papers, supplies and equipment to the point of impacting the ability to be productive.

Possible Causes
• See organizing and filing activities as a waste of time
• Want everything at fingertips
• Do not conceptualize a system for grouping information and materials
• Have not established a timeline for tasks or projects

Possible Solutions
• Handle each piece of mail only once, i.e. pitch it, file it or delegate it
• Set up (or have someone else set up) an information storage and retrieval system
• Get off mailing lists that are of no interest to you
• Remind yourself that the time it takes to open “junk” mail robs you of time for more important tasks
• Establish a time limit for certain projects and only have current project material on your desk

Crisis Management
Crisis Management is defined as a management style that is consistently driven by uncontrolled external issues as the preferred method of managing. This style allows crises to precipitate rather than anticipating them and being pro-active.

Possible Causes
• Lack planning
• Place unrealistic time requirements on people and tasks
• Always looking for problems to solve

Possible Solutions
• Have a well defined operational plan
• Target key individuals to handle specific problems
• Ask for recommendations from key people
• Delegate authority and responsibility when possible

Daydreaming is being preoccupied with non-task or non-work related thoughts. It is being easily distracted from at-hand tasks and focusing on past or future events for prolonged periods of time.

Possible Causes
• Being a creative thinker and always thinking of new ideas
• Being more excited about the future than the here and now
• Bring personal problems to work
• See work as routine and unexciting
• Experience stress from working on something too long
• Focus on past pleasant experiences as a way of coping with routine and stress

Possible Solutions
• Learn to read body signals for fatigue
• Change routine
• Remind yourself that worrying about personal problems interferes with your productivity
• Set tasks/objectives

Desire To Be Involved With Too Many People
The desire to be involved with too many people is involvement that
extends beyond business interactions to the point of interfering with
work. Beyond being friendly, it is excessive socializing.

Possible Causes
• Have many interests
• Want to be seen as one of the gang
• Need praise and approval from others

Possible Solutions
• Recognize your time constraints
• Be selective in getting involved in activities
• Monitor energy level
• Keep personal and job related priorities in view

Excessive Socializing
Excessive socializing is defined as those interactions that go beyond the usual required time for discussing an issue or task. It can also be interacting too frequently with those who do not support or contribute to the accomplishment of daily priorities.

Possible Causes
• Enjoy people
• Want to be liked
• Are creatively motivated when with others
• Allow and even encourage visitors and telephone calls
• Haven’t prioritized daily requirements
• Confuse deadlines

Possible Solutions
• Keep daily priorities in view to keep you on task
• Set time guidelines for informal conversations, lunches and meetings
• Monitor your open door policy
• Screen and put a time limit on telephone calls
• Be willing to tell visitors and callers that you cannot be interrupted at this time

Failure to Anticipate
Failure to anticipate is the lock of focusing on possible outcomes or requirements.

Possible Causes
• Expect only the best to happen
• Expect everyone else to do their best
• Trust the system to run well
• Focus on the here and now rather than the future
• Resist change

Possible Solutions
• Set aside a specific amount of time each day to consider outcome possibilities
• Talk with others who may have prior experience with a specific task or person

Failure to Clarify Precise Responsibilities with Manager
The failure to clarify precise responsibilities with your manager assumes that you have a full understanding of his/her expectations. It infers that your manager understands your job and concurs with your assessment of requirements.

Possible Causes
• Unsure of how you will be perceived
• Don’t want to overstep authority
• Want to be a team player
• Want to help everyone so you don’t object to the manager when requests are being made that are not your responsibility

Possible Solutions
• Have informal conversations with the manager about his/her expectations
• Share with manager your expectations
• Clarify with peers and other managers your duties and responsibilities
• Read and discuss articles on “management by objectives”

Failure to Share Information
The failure to share information is the inability or unwillingness to discuss with others.

Possible Causes
• Don’t think others want to know the information
• Unclear of the way the information will be used/received
• Wait until asked before sharing information

Possible Solutions
• Let others know that they need to ask for information
• Share with those whose opinions you trust

Fear of Mistakes
Fearing mistakes is the mental process of focusing on negative outcomes and is often a preoccupation with past mistakes.

Possible Causes
• Want to avoid criticism
• Take criticism personally
• Want to be seen as efficient and competent

Possible Solutions
• Practice focusing on past successes
• For every mistake that you think might happen, write down two positive possible outcomes for a completed task
• Focus on several possible future outcomes

Firefighting is often defined as being pulled away from priority tasks to answer questions, offer solutions, delegate or solve problem-related minor issues. These issues usually “flare up” quickly and are “put out” quickly.

Possible Causes
• Desire to solve problems quickly and sometimes without adequate information
• Lack of delegation
• Lack of standard operating procedures
• Poor/wrong priorities
• Failure to fit intensity to the situation

Possible Solutions
• Establish a plan
• Create operational procedures for tasks and known problems
• Establish a “management by objectives” approach

A habit is a specific thought, behavior or way of doing something that was acquired by repetition or by reinforcement from self and/or others.

Possible Causes
• Have established routines that are comfortable
• Routine creates a feeling of security
• Resist change for change’s sake
• Have been praised repeatedly for a specific behavior

Possible Solutions
• Evaluate habits and decide which contribute to your accomplishments and which deter you from success
• Try new ways of performing a certain task
• Ask others for recommendations on different approaches
• Consciously practice changing your routine

Inability To Say No
The inability to say no is when you are unable to or feel powerless to refuse any request.

Possible Causes
• Have many interests and want to be involved
• Confuse priorities
• Fail to set priorities
• Do not want to hurt others’ feelings
• Do not want to refuse a superior’s request
• Do not feel comfortable giving “real” reason and doesn’t want to lie

Possible Solutions
• Realistically evaluate how much time is available
• Understand limitations and what can be done well
• Set daily and long-term priorities
• Learn to say no to those people and tasks that do not support daily and long-term priorities

Lack of a Written Plan
A plan in this context may be an overall business plan including mission,
goals, objectives, task requirements and utilization of resources. It may
also simply mean written priorities and a written daily plan of action.

Possible Causes
• Action oriented, want to get things done now
• Priorities keep changing (self- or other-imposed)
• Have been successful without a plan in the past
• Want to “go with the flow” and not be stifled by a written daily agenda

Possible Solutions
• Write down personal and job-related values and prioritize them
• Write out a long-term plan that will support those values
• Recognize that by having priorities clearly in mind, constant change will be replaced with change-by-design

Long Lunches
Long lunches are those that extend beyond the normal time for eating.
They could be kept within a specific time frame but are not.

Possible Causes
• Get involved in the excitement of conversation and forget about time
• See long lunches as a networking opportunity
• Like doing business in a social, non-threatening environment
• Use long lunches as a way to avoid unpleasant tasks, people or the work environment

Possible Solutions
• Set a specific time for lunch and STICK TO IT
• Have meetings in the office
• Set meetings right after lunch
• Have working lunches

Looking for “Hidden Meaning”
The habitual practice of looking for hidden meanings demonstrates the inability to take messages, information and people-signals at face value. It may indicate that issues and people are suspect or have potential negative impact on you and your work.

Possible Causes
• Critical listening ability may cause you to read more into a situation
• Want to look beyond the obvious
• Have a need for additional information
• Do not have a high level of trust in others

Possible Solutions
• Ask questions
• Share initial evaluation/opinion with others

Not Exercising Authority
Not exercising authority is the inability to make decisions that might adversely impact some people and compromises the success of task accomplishment. It is also the resistance to making the tough calls.

Possible Causes
• Want to be seen as supportive
• Believe people will do what is right
• Fear offending others
• Fear creating conflict between team members

Possible Solutions
• Have clearly defined and written performance objectives
• Have clearly written rationale for specific decisions
• Assign decision reporting to the deputy/assistant
• Appoint a strong deputy or assistant
• Have a “good guy/bad guy” image agreement with deputy/assistant

Open Door Policy
An open door policy in this context refers to giving unlimited and unmonitored access to anyone who wishes to see you.

Possible Causes
• Want to be seen as supportive and available
• Want the social interaction of people dropping by
• Have a difficult time saying “no”
• Use people interruptions as a way of procrastinating or justifying missed deadlines

Possible Solutions
• Set aside time to “close your door” and work on projects
• Set aside time to interact with co-workers
• Learn to prioritize activities and say “no” to low priorities
• Place your desk so that it is not always in “view” of those who pass by
• Avoid eye contact with people who walk by your desk or office

Overreacting To Constructive Criticism
Overreacting to constructive criticism is the inappropriate overt or covert response to feedback and recommendations.

Possible Causes
• Have a high comfort level with past methods
• Have high standards for work performance
• Think that your way is the correct way
• Don’t see the benefit of doing things differently

Possible Solutions
• Practice listening without evaluating comments from others
• Begin responding mentally with “that’s interesting” or “that’s a possibility” as a way of controlling immediate negative response
• Communicate feelings with peers and supervisors

Poor Filing System
A poor filing system is one that has no predetermined method for subject matter grouping. It is one that you may understand but is not usable by others who may need to retrieve information from your files.

Possible Causes
• Have not determined or prioritized subject matter groupings
• Categorize by emotions

Possible Solutions
• Set up a cataloging system that you AND others can use easily
• Have someone assist you in setting up a system
• Use cross-referencing indexes
• Computerize information

Poor Delegation
Poor delegation usually means the inability to discriminate between tasks needing your time and attention, and those others are capable of accomplishing.

Possible Causes
• Do not want to give up control
• Do not trust the abilities of others
• Do not understand the abilities of others
• Fear the talents of others
• Do not want to overload others

Possible Solutions
• Train and mentor others
• Develop a support team
• Give people the opportunity to help
• Recognize the time spent training others on routine tasks will result in gained cumulative time for higher priority tasks

Postpone the Unpleasant
Postponing the unpleasant is similar to procrastinating but is usually a continual reprioritizing of daily tasks. It is often a way to delay something that is not enjoyable.

Possible Causes
• Like low-conflict environments and relationships
• Want to feel the success of accomplishment so the simple tasks are done first

Possible Solutions
• Change your routine and, for one week, do the unpleasant tasks first
• See the accomplishment of unpleasant tasks as an equal or even greater achievement of success
• Reward yourself for every unpleasant task that you complete without postponing
• Confront those people who are causing you discomfort and discuss the problems

Procrastination is the process of delaying action. It is also the inability to begin action.

Possible Causes
• Priorities have not been set
• Do not see projects or tasks clearly
• Overwhelmed with commitments
• Hope that time will solve or eliminate the problem
• Fear of failure

Possible Solutions
• Set goals and establish priorities
• Break large projects into small steps and do one at a time
• Agree to follow established priorities
• Consider consequences if it doesn’t get done
• Remind yourself that you will avoid the stress of putting something off until the last minute

Prolong Events In Order To Gain Improved Results
Prolonging events in order to gain improved results is the process of doing and redoing, evaluating and re-evaluating and changing to and changing back as a way of “testing” the best possible outcome.

Possible Causes
• Want to ensure that success is always achieved
• Feel that if rushed, the results will not be satisfactory
• Hope situations will work out themselves

Possible Solutions
• Set realistic schedule and timeline
• Follow the schedule
• Seek advice or assistance from others

Resisting Change
Resisting change is the process of consciously or subconsciously not participating in the change process. Measures of resistance may be active or passive, not doing things the new way, or making excuses for not having tasks accomplished.

Possible Causes
• Need a high degree of security
• Like to maintain the status quo
• Routine/procedures have worked in the past
• One specific aspect of a proposed change violates sense of values
• A specific change is not seen as contributing to successful accomplishments

Possible Solutions
• Acknowledge that change is a natural part of any job
• Develop the habit of writing down all of the pros and cons of a specific change
• Evaluate each objection to a change
• If there is one specific objection that is overriding the ability to change, share the specific concern with those involved and seek advice or input from others

Seeking “All” of The Facts
Seeking “all” of the facts is thought and action of continually gathering new information and re-evaluating current information.

Possible Causes
• Want to be certain/prepared
• Want to avoid mistakes
• Want extended time for getting tasks done

Possible Solutions
• Set a timeline for gathering new information or evaluating old information and then take action
• Evaluate importance or risk factors to how much information is actually needed

Seeking The Best, But Not Necessarily Workable Solutions
Always seeking the best solution may prohibit getting the task accomplished. Something better is always on the horizon.

Possible Causes
• Want to do things right the first time
• Want personal approval for preciseness of work
• Fear criticism if solution doesn’t work

Possible Solutions
• Establish required standards
• Determine the solution that meets or exceeds those standards
• Set a timeline for making a decision or completing a task

Snap Decisions
Snap decisions in this context are those decisions that are made too quickly without having all the necessary information.

Possible Causes
• Impatience overrides need to wait for more information
• Try to do too much
• Failure to plan in advance
• Lack specific goals

Possible Solutions
• Ask for recommendations
• Establish process for decisions prior to situation occurring
• Establish standard operating procedures and alternative procedures for possible problems

Tendency To Be Overly Neat and Orderly
The tendency to be overly neat and orderly is usually a compulsive behavior that overrides the need to accomplish a task. More importance may be placed on cleaning off your desk than completing the actions required (out of sight, out of mind).

Possible Causes
• Easily distracted by non-related materials in view
• Need a systematic method of working
• Catalog information for later retrieval

Possible Solutions
• Recognize that this is a strength as long as it is not over extended

Vacillation is the process of regarding an issue or a requirement in one way at one time and a different or the opposite at another time. It is the inability to make an immediate decision and stick with it.

Possible Causes
• Lack confidence in information
• Fear making the wrong decision
• Lack a systematic decision making process
• Hope that time will eliminate the problem or issue

Possible Solutions
• Acknowledge that the decision will be the best based on experience and available information
• Establish a time frame for making decisions
• Develop a method for analyzing a problem and choosing a solution
• Seek the advice or input from key people involved in the issue

Waiting For Events To Happen
Although patience may be a virtue, being pro-active allows the decision-maker to be in better control of events within their scope of influence.

Possible Causes
• Want to affect the here and now
• Fear rushing into something will show unpreparedness
• Need for high standards inhibits getting started

Possible Solutions
• Plan alternative solutions
• Determine most likely scenarios
• Implement a plan that best meets those needs without jeopardizing other scenarios