Water Cooler

Time wasters are often things that we enjoy. They often are the seed of great frustration as well. The frustration manifests at the end of the day when we think, “What did I do today?” or “Why didn’t those things get done?” or “I guess I’ll be here until 8pm so that I’m not late with that project.”
Recognizing some of our time wasters as we get into them is a great thing to do because maybe we’ll limit that habit of wasting time. And, limiting our wasting time hopefully means that we’ll be getting our things done and getting on to things and people we enjoy.

  1. Procrastination in making decision is one of the unrecognized time wasters. It is under the radar because we are sitting at the desk immersed in data, thinking, and collecting more background. We have conversations with people more expert or closer to the situation than we. We appear busy because we are BUT it’s time to make a decision already. There is a time when we have to pound a stake in the ground by making the best decision we can given the information that we have. Be done with it. And, move on. It is likely that whatever the decision is, you can refine it later as things are tested, more information is gathered, and time passes.
  2. Surfing the net, also known as ‘research’, is a time waster that is noted for being the #1 time waster – even at work. This was recognized at polls done this year, 2007, by Microsoft and Salary.com. (see a summary article at Reuters). It is easy to follow a series of interesting articles on and on and on until you are completely off the topic that you started reading about. Yeesh that can take a lot of time.
  3. Meetings that are disorganized and unplanned are commonly pointed at with remarks like, “That was the biggest waste of time.” Meetings without agendas are offenders. Meetings that are political over productive can be demoralizing and demotivating. Even big meetings with attendees flown in from across the nation are considered a waste of time when the information isn’t relevant and meaningful to the attendees.
  4. People not meeting their commitments is a time waster. When a group of people is working on a project often completion of one set of tasks precludes the start of the next set of tasks. If the first set isn’t complete the work cannot move forward and those waiting for results to be handed off are wasting their time in the waiting game.
  5. Chit chat at the water cooler and instant messaging are often time wasters. Sure, recounting the great soccer game from the past weekend can be entertaining and enjoyable. Instant messaging with a few people is definitely distracting and can interrupt your flow of getting work completed. Chatting can be motivating and promote inclusion. Chatting can take you so far off track that an hour passes without productive results.
  6. Playing solitaire or other games on your computer. I am a testament to losing track of time while playing games on a computer. I could not tally the hours I spent playing backgammon online one year – but it was a lot of hours. So, I quit. Haven’t played it for a few years.
  7. Perusing catalogs can be an immense time sink especially at this pre-Christmas time of year. In my classes I assign ‘record the time you spend viewing a new catalog’. The results average to approximately 12 minutes per catalog. 5 catalogs totals an hour of lost time.

What’s your favorite time waster? Tell us in your comments to this post.

Susan Sabo is the writer at Productivity Cafe – a favorite place to stop and spend some time.

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