27 September 2023

Time: The precious gift we waste each day

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We are all guilty of snatching a few minutes of work time for our own purposes, but Michelle Gibbings* says the amount of wasted time at work is quite startling.

We all know that time is finite, and once it passes by you can’t get it back.

During the COVID-19 enforced lockdowns we discovered the benefits of a slower pace. Yet a typical lament is that there is never enough time in the day.

As the pace of life picks up again time seems to fly by even faster, but have you ever wondered how much time you waste each day?

Various studies suggest we waste up to three hours a day and almost 70 per cent of people waste time at work.

A further study found that business owners waste about 30 per cent of their working days on low value or no value activities.

Wasting time is subjective. Surfing the net may seem a waste of time to one person and an excellent way to relax for another.

What you see as low value work may be necessary for someone else.

There are also many commonalities in what people view as the biggest time wasters: Poorly run meetings, overly bureaucratic processes, and unnecessary rework.

It doesn’t stop there. Hidden beneath the surface is a raft of time-wasting activities typically dressed up as collaboration and necessary processes.

For example: Running a consultation process when you already know what you want the outcome to be.

Or seeking feedback from people because you feel you should (or because you’ve been told to), but once you have their input, you pay no attention to it.

Or undertaking a recruitment process when you already have a preferred candidate in mind.

Perhaps you run team-building activities while not being prepared to follow through on holding people to account for the culture the team had agreed to create.

Or you might be always running late for events and meetings, and constantly behind on deliverables.

I am sure you can add to the list.

Interestingly, in all those cases, you aren’t just wasting the time of the people involved; you are also wasting your time.

In many situations, that time can extend over days, weeks, or even months.

So, you have a choice: Waste time or flip your approach, get deliberate about how you spend your time and make it purposeful and productive.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

Look at your diary for the week ahead. I mean really look at it. Critically examine how much time you spend on value-adding tasks and which activities or meetings you don’t need to do.

For each item, ask yourself: Does this activity advance the goals that the team and I have set? Will it lead to positive and progressive outcomes?

Challenge your mindset to find ways to make the activity worthwhile.

If you adhere to a process that you need to follow for governance and diligence purposes, rather than do it because you ‘have to’, do it because you ‘want to’.

Flipping the activity in this way can give the task more purpose and relevance.

Be open to a different outcome. If you start the process with a preconceived result in mind, you will shut yourself off to new ideas and possibilities.

Instead, approach the process with curiosity and wonder about what could be.

Be open to shifting the status quo. If something has always been done in a certain way, ask ‘why’. Do you need to do that task or process?

Make respect an essential leadership quality that you embrace.

Respect matters in all its forms, and one of those is respecting each other’s time.

When you respect your teammates, direct reports and colleagues, you show them they matter.

Respect elevates the culture and creates an environment where good progress happens.

When a process adds no value, be willing to challenge and be ready to say ‘no’ if you need to.

Be open to the fact that a process or activity you don’t see as adding value may be critical for someone else and their work.

So, have an open mind, always be curious and consider the interconnections and dependencies in your work.

In a world where there never feels like there is enough time, let’s give each other the gift of time when we can and when we should.

*Michelle Gibbings is a Melbourne-based change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. She can be contacted at [email protected].

This article first appeared atwww.changemeridian.com.au.

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