Kobi Simmat deconstructs some recent studies showing how much of our time is wasted at work with ineffective time management and procrastination, as well as exploring ways in which to reverse the trend.
Time is one of the ultimate levelers; we’ve all got the same 24 hours in a day, after all. The difference is how well you utilise those hours, and whether or not you’re employing the principles of effective time management to get the most return on investment of your time.
This, in reality, however, is a more difficult feat than it might sound on the outset, and the problem of wasted time is perhaps more serious that some managers want to let on; after all, it’s acknowledging a weakness to admit their staff members are serial time-wasters.
“How tragic is it to find that an entire lifetime is wasted in pursuit of distractions, while purpose is neglected.” - Sunday Adelaja
According to numbers cited by Entrepreneur, “89 per cent of employees waste at least some time at work every day. Thirty-one per cent waste about 30 minutes, but the top 10 per cent waste three or more hours each day.” This thesis is strengthened by the work of analyst and author, David Finkel, who says that “when we evaluated the work habits of business owners and their key executives, we discovered that time-wasting, low-value and no-value activities accounted for more than 30% of their workweeks.”
“The business leaders we polled spent 6.8 hours per week on low value business activities that they could easy have paid someone else $50/hour or less to handle for them. That means that they were wasting almost a full workday each week on these activities - activities that they could have paid somebody else to do at an hourly rate far lower than their own,” Finkel said. In addition to this, the author explains that leaders often “wasted 3.9 hours each week indulging in what we might call escapist ‘mental health breaks’ streaming youtube videos and checking social media posts.”
“Depending on the length of your workweek, those wasted hours could account for as much as a third of your time.”
“They spent 1.8 hours a week handling low-value requests from coworkers and another 1.8 hours a week putting out preventable fires… Finally, they spent an average of 1 hour each week sitting in completely non-productive or wasteful meetings,” Finkel says, concluding that “we’re looking at 21.8 wasted hours each week- hours that are going up in smoke while you’re doing things that contribute little to no value to your company. Depending on the length of your workweek, those wasted hours could account for as much as a third of your time.”
Chet Holmes’ ‘The Ultimate Sales Machine’ also puts this into the spotlight in an early chapter of his book, where he elaborates on the topic of the fifteen-minutes many of us spend sifting through emails first thing in the morning when we arrive at work. Through that one simple act, Holmes says that time spent opening emails and not replying or taking any action on these emails equates to around one week per year completely wasted. Chet’s a firm believer in the “if you touch it, take action” approach- for example, rather than sifting through those emails as a rehearsed behaviour and getting little value out of this action, you do your best to take action then and there, or try not to check your emails at all until you’ve got time spare to engage fully in the process.
How To Curb Time Wasting in Your Work Life
This is a topic that no doubt warrants an article itself, which I’ll get to typing in the coming weeks, however, for now we’ll discuss some of the most popular strategies from CEOs and authors alike. The most common themes on reversing the detriment of time wasting focus on setting specific goals for yourself and for your colleagues. People without a goal or a target for the day, week or month are more prone to blow away with the winds of distraction, as they don’t have this goal anchoring them down to a real timeframe in their daily activities.
Specific allocations of time are also a great way to get yourself and those around you more focussed and driven in a similar way to the point we’ve just made. While authors, CEOs and experts often disagree on the exact frame of time you should begin allocating to tasks while breaking up a day, there is consensus that it’s a worthwhile concept. I recommend breaking your work day up into one-hour chunks, where at the end of that period of time, you’ve got one or two key tasks that are accomplished. From here, you can get into the habit of breaking these chunks up again into either half-hour or twenty-minute segments, which is often employed by the highest-level executives and professionals who run an insanely tight ship.
The third, and I believe, the most effective strategy to employ is to encourage more collaboration in the organisation, and show how one person's efforts contribute to the organisation as a whole. As humans, we’re more inclined to become lazy and unmotivated if we feel as though our efforts aren’t contributing in any major way; it also opens up the door to a negative feedback cycle in the psychology of that person if they start to believe they don’t contribute. When you’ve taken the time out to show one employee how they essentially help - or make a job possible - for one of their colleagues, they’ll feel as though they’ve got more skin in the game, and it’s likely their efforts - and subsequently, their outputs - will improve radically.
Now, before we wrap things up, I think it’s worth mentioning that while there’s an undeniable onus of responsibility for all of us to recognise our flaws when it comes to time wasting, procrastination and a lack of motivation in the workplace, there’s an undeniable responsibility on account of the management team to both recognise and address the problem in whatever office or workplace you’re in.
Managers, by definition should be looking to the lessons of empathy in the workplace to engage their employees, and because this is one of the most common symptoms of a lack of motivation in business, CEOs, managers and employees in all positions should be looking around to see how they themselves and their colleagues could benefit with more effective time management. As they say, time is money, after all- so don’t underestimate just how powerful this could be in your personal and professional life.
Thanks for your time!