7 Time Wasters That Managers Must Defeat

common time wastersTalk to any business manager long enough and two familiar phrases will inevitably come up – “Time is money,” and “I don’t have enough time!”  We chuckle at such sayings because we’ve heard them so often that we don’t really stop to consider the truths behind them anymore.  But time is money – and if a manager doesn’t have enough time, he’s wasting money.

Here are some stats to back that up…

According to a recent study published by AOL Jobs/Payscale, the amount of wasted time or time that could be used more efficiently on-the-clock equates to billions of dollars lost in the business community overall.  On average, most managers’ work days are comprised of the equivalent of about three hours of wasted time.

If that doesn’t sound like much to you, consider this – a sales account manager in the U.S. making just under $53,000/year loses the equivalent of just over $5,000/year in salary.  An HR manager making just under $50,000/year loses about $3,500.00 annually in salary due to “wasted time.”  As you can see, it’s very clear that time is money – and that’s not just a catch phrase.  Wasted time in business management truly is a money pit that affects the operations of most companies.

With these stats in mind, let’s take a few of the most costly time wasters that managers have to deal with – as well as some possible solutions to these common problems:

Lack of planning or inefficient planning methods

In today’s business world, there are managers who “go all out” and use high-tech tools and there are those who still use a pencil or a pen and a notepad for everything.  Your first reaction to that statement is likely that the high-tech manager is the one getting things done faster and better – right?  Really, this isn’t always the case (and it’s not the fault of either person).

There are all sorts of tools that business managers can and do use every day.  But isn’t the tools that represent either a problem or a solution – it’s knowing how to use them that matters!

As an example, if you manage a large business or department and you’re using antiquated methods in areas where more modern tools could free up your day, you’re losing money.  But by the same token, if you’ve gone the high-tech route and wind up spending hours a day using a software program that you don’t understand or that isn’t the right fit for your needs, you’re losing money there too.

One particular area where this conflict arises is in employee scheduling.  Plenty of business managers either still use antiquated “paper and pencil” methods of scheduling that waste time unnecessarily or have wasted past time on overly-complex digital scheduling tools.  Obviously, we believe that the When I Work program can solve a number of issues – both saving time while still being easy enough for any manager to use effectively – though it’s worth scheduling a free trial first to be sure the program suits your company’s needs.

A messy desk is NOT a sign of a productive manager

Managers who have messy desks or offices often claim that it’s a sign of being productive.  But nothing could be further from the truth!

When there is disorganization, there’s time being wasted on looking for missing items.  To avoid this, a good rule of thumb is to keep your desk clear of everything except for the things you need for the task you’re working on at any given moment.  If you’re finished with a project or if things need to be put on hold, don’t stack them up on your desk or on the floor around your chair.  Whatever you’re not working on at the moment should be stored in a filing cabinet or other storage area until it’s actually needed.

Procrastination is the thief of time

Procrastination is a huge time waster for managers – most of whom understand that, while some projects are enjoyable, others are just plain boring and/or tedious.  When these boring projects come along, it’s imperative that you set a deadline and create milestone tasks that will help you to work on the project in small parts until it’s done.  Otherwise, you risk missing deadlines by continually putting off projects that don’t immediately appeal to you.

When everyone wants “face time”

Managers are often swamped by employees visiting their work areas or hanging around their offices wanting answers, information and advice on just about every subject imaginable.

And while building rapport through employee chit chat is important, when this gets out of hand, it forces the manager into the time-wasting “babysitter mode.”  This is an area where managers absolutely must set boundaries with their employees, as a lack of boundaries and enforcement causes managers to get behind on their own work.

One way to set boundaries with employees is to stand up when they stop by to talk.  It’s a very simple technique, but it works well by sending a non-verbal message to the employee that you don’t have time to talk.  If this technique doesn’t work, be honest and don’t be afraid to tell employees that you don’t have time to talk.  If necessary, schedule a one-on-one meeting for a later time instead.

You don’t have to answer the phone just because it’s ringing

When you’re busy, screen your calls.  Let your voicemail assistant take your calls during your busy times and set aside specific blocks of time later in the day to return calls you’ve received while working.

If you’re a manager who deals directly with clients (as in the case of sales positions), let your clients know ahead of time when you’ll be returning calls by mentioning on your voicemail greeting that you generally return calls between 2 and 3pm, for example.  And, of course, continue to be mindful of your time by doing your best to eliminate unnecessary chit-chat and idle talk when returning calls.  Your over-stuffed “to do” list will thank you!

Don’t let yourself get flooded with mail

Postal mail and packages delivered by shipping companies can crowd you out of your office space if you’re not careful.  As a result, it’s important to schedule a block of time every day to go through your mail and deal with any necessary follow-up.  Don’t let your mail time be interrupted by phone calls or visitors – even though the people who want to talk to you will think that you’re not all that busy if they see you opening your mail.

Just as it is with visitors in general, set boundaries and enforce them.  If things get, look into hiring an assistant to help you go through your mail each day.  A properly trained assistant can screen your mail and deliver only the mail that’s really important to you, saving you time that can be better spent on productive work.

Keep your inbox clean by dealing with email messages once

As with postal mail, don’t let your email inbox become so cluttered that you end up missing important emails regarding meetings and important engagements.  Any manager who’s been in business long enough can tell you how embarrassing it is to miss a meeting and then be told that an email was sent out advising participants of the meeting time a week in advance…

To avoid this and other frustrating situations, read your email as soon as you can and then process it.  Delegate it to someone else if a task is involved, respond to it right away, archive it or delete it.  Whatever you do, don’t just let your messages sit there in your inbox, as failing to follow up right away wastes time by forcing you to revisit emails you’ve already opened.

Clearly, these are just a few of the different techniques you can use to help avoid time wasters and become a more productive manager.  If you have any other tips and tricks that have proved useful throughout your career, feel free to share your recommendations so that everybody in the When I Work community can benefit!

7 Time Wasters That Managers Must Defeat