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Time Robbers

It’s all about time. You can’t buy it, borrow it or trade for it. It is the ultimate finite resource.  You must protect it from being misappropriated as diligently as any other resource.  Don’t be counting the paper clips while forgetting the time it takes to do so.


“Some people are so busy mopping the floor, they forget to turn off the faucet.”


If you eliminate a time robber and save 10 minutes a day, that is 70 minutes a week, or over 60 hours a year. For those of you putting in 60 hour work weeks…here is your chance to find another week to get things done…10 minutes a day is all it takes. Imagine what you could accomplish if you eliminated enough robbers to find an hour a day…365 hours or nearly 45 of those hypothetical 8 hour days. Over a month! I think you get the picture…here are some of the more common time robbers to be on the look out for…


1. Clutter


Keep your desk clean. The only thing that should be on the top of your desk is what you are currently working on, all the materials you will need to complete the project, and a picture of your family.  Everything else should be in your files or placed away from your line of vision.  This helps you concentrate. It encourages you to take on a task and move through it from beginning to end.  It is very counterproductive to juggle two or three tasks at one time.  Moving from one to the other, reorienting yourself, perhaps even having to change tools and materials can all eat up valuable minutes.


2. Paper


It's everywhere.  Do something with paper as soon as you touch it. Whether it is an important letter, a memo, a request for information, an order, a check or a bill, only handle it only once.  Route it; file it in your daily files for later action; take care of it; keep a computer file or a journal to record any essential data from the paper or throw it away.


3. Waiting


Because you are not in total control of your time, you are often caught in a circling pattern waiting for someone else.  This is part of organizational life. My advice is: "never wait".  Not that you hang up if put on hold or leave an important meeting because someone is running late, simply make it a rule to always have something to do.  Keep small tasks handy.  Fill in the time with productive activity.


4. Commuting


Most people spend a great deal of their time traveling to destinations, not only to and from work, but going from building to building, room to room, floor to floor. Reduce the number of times you take even short excursions. Bunch activities together and make only one trip. Think before you move...can the trip be delayed until later when you can piggyback the task onto another job in the same direction?


5. Forgetting


Always write things down as you think of them.  Do not rely on your memory.  If there are three things you wish to do while you are in another building; four items you want to discuss with the person whose number you are dialing, or five chores that you wish to accomplish in the afternoon, don't try to access your memory banks while you are engaged in work or other activities.  If you attempt to secure your list from your jam packed  mind, this can be very time consuming.


6. Being consistently late


Be punctual. Show up for appointments, meetings and engagements on time...just on time.  Being too early will cause you to have to wait, being late means others will have to wait.  Time yourself for a leisurely commute to wherever you have to be,  then arrive at the scheduled time.


7. Being distracted by mind static


Take care of heavy problems, tasks, and obligations that weigh on your mind.   In order to operate at peak efficiency, you need a clear mind and high energy.  Carrying around the dread of a tedious, unpleasant, or frightening event is exhausting.  Playing all the possible scenes and outcomes in your mind is distracting. Anticipating outcomes which are possible but implausible absorbs energy. Just take care of the responsibility. It reduces the burden and can actually increase energy as the feeling of relief hits your system. If something has just come to your mind, take the first step towards completing the undertaking and just do it..


8.  TV and sleeping

These pursuits represent a huge investment of time. (the average person watches 21 hours of TV a week and the average person sleeps 56 hours)  Add these hours up over a lifetime and you will understand why keeping a handle on them is important.


Turn TV off unless there is a specific preplanned program you wish to watch.  Keep it dark except for special programs you particularly enjoy. Don't just surf until you find something acceptable. Waste, waste, waste.


Sleeping, more than any other human endeavor, absorbs time like a sponge.  A few modifications in your diet and exercise patterns, practice in relaxation techniques and some changes in your preparation for sleep and you may be able to cut an hour's sleep from your schedule.


9. Being uncertain of your destination


It is important to map your direction so the journey can be made with the fewest complications possible.  Getting confused and lost is extremely time consuming. The same is true for organizational direction.  When an entire department, association or corporation is lost, the collective waste of time is astronomical. Effective planning leads to efficiency. The consequences of ineffective planning are cost overruns, confusion, carelessness and wasted effort.  Organizations cannot afford these repercussions.  The price as measured in dollars and human frustration is too high.  The value of effective planning is that it leads to productive, businesslike activity. 


10. Introducing new technology without purpose


Introducing time saving technology is an excellent idea.  There is no doubt that machines, scientific decision making formulas, calculators, and computers have made it possible to do more in a lot less time. An important thing to remember, however, is that new technology must have a substantive purpose. Do not adopt it because it is fascinating and attractive. It should not just add glitz. After all, the learning curve for any new technology can be, in itself, very time consuming.


11. Digressors


There are two forms of digression, group and individual. Individual digressors are people who try to turn their colleagues into an audience with stories, personal anecdotes and professional experiences.  They are triggered by statements, comments, and opinions from others and go off into a dissertation with vignettes from their life.  While these stories may be interesting, they may not be relevant.


Group digression is a surge into personal and organizational topics unrelated to the central question. While these are all fairly acceptable departures when the major goal is building relationships, it is an unacceptable use of time and effort when building lists, making decisions, uncovering problems and writing plans, policies or procedures. 


12. Habit


A habit, that unconscious behavior that has evolved into an automatic response, may no longer have any purpose. Translated into organizational terms, there are policies, procedures, functions, sometimes entire positions or departments that are obsolete or in desperate need of overhaul.


Habits are formed by repeated behavior. Unfortunately, a habit can become an unconscious time robber. Just because you have always done something doesn't mean you have to continue to do it. Sincerely and firmly ask yourself again . . . "do I have to do it?"

13. Poor Listening Habits:

Have you ever been in the situation where someone has given you information or instructions and a few minutes later you cannot remember what they said?  Most of people decry their deficient memories when they cannot remember what someone just said however, their memories cannot retain what their ears did not effectively capture in the first place. Careful listening saves time because the data is received  the first time it is sent.  Having to repeat communications wastes the collective time of everyone involved in the discussion.

14. A wandering mind.


To operate at peak efficiency, consciousness, discipline and energy must be focused on the here and now. Your mind needs to stay in the present in order for you to pay complete attention to the task at hand.  Humans are cognitive animals which means they possess the ability to think.  With this process comes the possibility of going anywhere the mind can imagine, at any time.  Unfortunately, while they are taking a mental journey, their attention is not in the present.  Errors occur when they are distracted.  Focus your mind and apply tremendous amounts of discipline to remain firmly planted in the present.


15.  Meetings


Be sure all meetings are necessary and when conducting a meeting, be sure there is an agenda; that everyone is aware of the agenda and that you stick to the agenda.  The time problem with meetings is compounded by the fact that if it is ineffective or unnecessary it wastes the collective time of all those who attend.


16. The Officus Interruptus


In offices, stores, and buildings around the globe, there lives a common creature called the "officus interruptus".  This beast is a common species and its habitat is every work environment that harbors more than one person. Unfortunately, even though this breed is prolific and about as welcome as the common cold, there are environmental and behavioral elements that put out the welcome mat. Take inventory of your surroundings.  Does your physical environment invite interruptions?  Is your desk or work space situated in such a way that you face the doorway? Is your friendly face the first thing people see when entering your space?  If possible, rearrange your environment. The officus interruptus will be less likely to strike up a conversation if your back is the first thing they see.


17.  The Search


Make sure everything has a place and that it goes back there immediately. Keep track for a week of how often you scout for misplaced files, reports, books, tools, agendas, etc. Searching through rooms, piles on your desk, drawers, and buildings is extremely time consuming.


18. Indecisiveness


Being decisive means taking responsibility for the outcome. Some people are not risk takers and prefer the analysis to making a choice.  Nearly all decisions must be made with imperfect information. So save time; make a decision; take the risk.


19. Procrastination


Newton's Law states that a body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion.  Do not look at a project as an endless series of steps.  Just look at the first thing you have to do.  Then take the first step.  Once you are up and running, the momentum should help you take the next step, then the next and the next.  Before you know it, you have completed your task.  To prevent procrastination, determine the first step, and just get started!


"Time goes by, you say?  Ah no!  Alas, time stays, we go." Austin Dobson