What’s your most precious possession? Most people put “health” and “family” at the top of the list. Most professionals would include “time” up there as well. Let’s do a little linear thinking. Overwork is the number one cause of stress in our lives. Too much work packed into too little time is the number one cause of overwork. Stress is a function of the scarcity of time.
If you’re like most other professionals, you have tried many times to get better at time management. You’ve read about it, gone to workshops about it, tried making to-do lists, tried closing your door. But all of those articles, advice, and workshops on time management invariably focus on “How can I manage my time better?” when they also ought to focus on “How can I avoid wasting your time?” Put another way, if we consider poor time management a disease, you might be immune, but you also might be a carrier!
We probably have no idea how much we waste the time of our colleagues and team members. Are you a stress carrier? You might be, if you…
…make a habit of being late to meetings. Rushing breathlessly fifteen minutes late into a meeting doesn’t make you look important, only inept.
…leave incomplete or fuzzy voicemail messages. Voicemail can actually be a very effective tool if you leave clear and complete messages (hint: always assume you’ll need to leave a message before you make the call).
…give incomplete or fuzzy instructions. Google “delegating” and you’ll find a host of solid tips for explaining work assignments.
…forward useless emails. Or if you cc others unnecessarily. Or send a response when none is required, or use “reply all” when it is not necessary, or send incomplete or incoherent messages that start a long chain of clarifications and explanations. Do you use email when a simple conversation would be quicker? Don’t do that!
…fail to meet your commitments to your co-workers. If they depend on your inputs for their outputs, you create a bottleneck when you’re late.
…ignore visitors. Yeah, visitors are the number one time waster, so if you don’t have the time to talk, say so! Otherwise, pay attention. If you answer the phone, read a text, or continue working, you’re wasting your colleague’s time and allowing a distraction. Oh—and you’re being rude.
…drop in on colleagues when they’re working. Socializing is good; work would be pretty miserable without friendly relationships. Just don’t interrupt their work to socialize.
…expect instant replies to your e-mail, text, or phone message. Don’t be the pest who sends a text and five minutes later barges into someone’s office to get an answer.
Time is a precious commodity for professionals. Managing your time makes you productive and profitable. Respecting others’ time makes your firm productive and profitable.