Leaders and managers are often busy. I get it. It makes sense that the people in roles with the most responsibility need to put in the most effort.
But there is a difference between really being busy, and wasting time at work.
It’s worth being vigilant about your time. Some roles, industries and organisations are busier than others, and you’ll never achieve utopia. But if you keep a constant eye on how you manage your time, you can stop wasting time at work.
To Stop Wasting Time, Remember the Opportunity Cost
Remember the saying “Time is money”?
It’s true. The argument often used to counter this is that “Leaders are on a salary, so their time is already paid for”.
While this may be the case, the question remains “What else could you be working on that could be more valuable?”
This is called the opportunity cost.
It represents the price you pay for being already committed to something, and unable to pursue another opportunity that could be more valuable. Another way of thinking about it is to identify the next best thing that you could be doing with your time.
Now, let’s look at some of the top productivity killers in the workplace, so you can get rid of them and stop wasting time.
Stop Wasting Time By Removing Yourself From Pointless Meetings
Honestly, I think meetings are important. However, there are a lot of people who complain about meetings as big time wasters.
They aren’t wrong. Meetings can be a huge waste of time.
The next time you’re in a meeting, try estimating the cost of the meeting by counting up the salaries of the people in the room and working out their hourly rate. In big meetings, this can be an eye-watering amount of money!
I don’t think meetings are pointless. But the trick is to identify the meetings that are pointless for you.
To see whether you are just wasting time or really needed in a meeting, consider the following:
- Is there somebody else from your team already in the meeting, who could just tell you what happened afterwards?
- Are you there “just to listen” without contributing, because you want to hear what is going on?
- Do you have any ability or authority to contribute to decision-making in the meeting?
If you’re lucky, you might be able to stop wasting time and step out of that meeting.
You can read more here about having more productive meetings.
Stop Wasting Time Making Your Work Perfect
In many roles, striving for perfection is not going to help you.
You can stop wasting time and get more done if you remember the real value of the work that you’re doing.
A piece of art might be more valuable because it’s “perfect”. I would doubt that the same can be said of your monthly equipment maintenance report.
Obviously, if your work is riddled with factual errors and inconsistencies, there is going to be a problem. But if you spend hours tweaking minor details to get it “just right”, you need to stop wasting time and get it done.
To read more about how perfectionism damages leadership, go here: How Being a Perfectionist is Killing Your Leadership.
Stop Wasting Time On Work Nobody Cares About
Sometimes, we get stuck on doing work because “that’s how we’ve always done it”.
But have you taken the time recently to understand which parts of your work are the most valuable? Which parts of your work are people asking for, and which ones does nobody ever seem to mention?
From time to time, it’s worth taking an inventory of all the work you do and assessing the value it brings to others, or to your team. Doing work that nobody cares about is not productive, it’s just busywork.
I led a team once where I found out that a team member was still putting together a monthly report for somebody who had left the organisation. Not surprisingly, we just stopped producing it, and nobody cared!
If you are doing work that you think may not be valued as highly as it should be, consider:
- Stopping the work altogether. If nobody complains, then you get some time back!
- Finding out why people don’t care. If you’re doing work you know is important, but nobody else seems to care, find out what the problem is. Maybe there is a way to improve it so that people are more likely to get on board.
- Reinforce the “why” for the work. Sometimes, people are preoccupied with other things and don’t know why they should care about that report you’re giving them. It might be worth reinforcing the “What’s in it for me?” for your stakeholders.
Stop Wasting Time On Excessive Venting or Gossip
While I’m in favour of productive venting to let off some steam at work, there is such a thing as too much.
If you are consistently getting drawn into (or starting!) conversations where you vent your frustration about other teams or people in your workplace, you are probably just wasting time.
I’ve found venting your frustration now and then can be good for your mental health, rather than keeping it all bottled up inside. In some of my more toxic workplaces, I’ve struggled to stop myself from diving into long complaining sessions that just aren’t productive.
Make sure you set limits and don’t get carried away with hours of unproductive gossip.
The question you want to be asking is “OK, this sucks. But what are some things we can do to improve the situation?”
Stop Wasting Time by Delegating
One trap that many leaders fall into is micromanagement.
This may be because of a lack of trust in the team, or because a leader feels insecure. Either way, it’s a huge time-waster because if you are meddling in the work that your team are meant to be doing, essentially you have multiple people doing the same thing!
Delegate responsibility for parts of the team’s work, so that you can do your real job, which is to lead and support your team.
Delegating important work is a great way to up-skill your team members, improve motivation and spread the workload of the team.
Tip: There is some great advice here, but if you still feel overwhelmed and can never get to the end of your to-do list, Thoughtful Leader can help. Check out the Time Management Toolkit, with tools and techniques to help you free your time and be a more effective leader. You and your team deserve better, so try the toolkit today.
What do you think leaders and managers waste time on at work? And how can we stop it? Let me know your stories in the comments below!
Alternatively, if you would like to ask a question or need some help, you can send me a private message through my contact page.