Time Wasters

The most obvious time wasters are

. Meetings

. Lengthy phone calls

. Lengthy visitor stays

. Procrastination

. Rework

. Interruptions

Strategies for reducing meeting time

. When you are in charge

- double preparation time and cut meeting time in half

- always use a written agenda

- commit to starting and ending "on-time"

- see that only the people who need to be there are there

- assign someone to record recommendations, decisions and actions

- question the value of regularly scheduled meetings

- hold the meetings standing up

- meet in someone else's office

- convey information to others in writing rather than in a meeting

- limit verbosity

- convene meetings in late afternoons

- schedule meetings for late in the week

When you are not in charge

- prior to the meeting

i. ask for an agenda to better prepare for meeting

ii. ask for starting and ending times

iii. predetermine the need for your presence in all or part of the meeting

iv. prepare well for meetings

v. recommend a recorder (minutes secretary) be assigned

- if the meeting is becoming unnecessarily long

i. ask "is there any further contribution I can make to this meeting?"

ii. ask to be excused

iii. open your planner and do some planning or diary writings

iv. sit at the back of room and slip out when the meeting is no longer productive for you

Some other comments on ways to make meetings more time effective and productive

. Agenda linked

- Have an agenda with time limits on each item

- Schedule another time for items raised that are not on the current agenda

- Send out agenda/reports/briefing papers, etc days before meeting to all attendees

- Only discuss issues relevant to all attendees

- Reduce "group think" & members dominating (first impression) by asking everyone to write down a brief summary of their views on each agenda item before the meeting

- Meeting starts on time

- Use a process like "6 thinking hats" (see below and later)

- Someone allocated role to keep process under review during the meeting

- Develop an agreed-to action plan

- Have scheduled breaks (food, air, water, etc) to re-charge brain

- If nothing to discuss at scheduled meeting ‐ don't have it

- Any controversial issues are last agenda items


- Vary between methods of presenting like visual, auditory & kinetic, etc

- Hold meetings in late afternoon &/or late in week (never early morning)

- Set specific days/times for meetings

- Appropriate people attending, ie delegate

- Adequate sleep before meeting

- Turn off mobile phones

- Cultural differences

- Use video-conferencing, etc techniques to reduce/eliminate travel time

- Don't dwell on the past (other than to learn from it), as more chance to impact on present and future

- One person talking, ie talking stick

- Make people stand

Process use the 6 thinking, "coloured" hats that help structure a meeting so that it is more productive

i) White (factual information gathering)

ii) Red (emotion, feelings, intuition, gut feeling)

iii) Green (creative thinking, other possibilities, ideas, imagination)

iv) Black (risks, caution, dangers, critical appraisal, what can go wrong)

v) Yellow (benefits, advantages, good points, optimism, potential)

vi) Blue (defining goals & thinking process plus overview, summary)


Interruptions consume around 2.1 hours or 28 percent of a workday. Furthermore, once interrupted it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the task; in 15 percent of cases staff do not return to the interrupted task. One way to handle this is to give the person interrupting you a couple of minutes to speak, and then you decide whether to deal with the problem now or later on. Furthermore, make a rule that you will not discuss any problem unless the person has some possible solutions.

You should schedule some "uninterruptible" time when you close your office door, send your phone calls to voice mail and ignore your e-mails, etc.

Remember to leave your work at the office!!!!!!


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