12 Time Thieves

By Francisco Sáez • May 30, 2011

There are many people—and things—that make us waste our time, but most times they have our consent to do it. Well, at least we don’t put too much effort to avoid them. And that’s because we don’t value our time properly. Time is gold.

If we let the time thieves camp on our lives, we’ll fall into very negative dynamics. We’ll need more time for our obligations and we’ll have to take it from somewhere. We’ll have no choice but to spend less time on what we love, our families, friends and hobbies. Not cool at all.

Some of these thieves come from the exterior and others are generated by ourselves. Some are obvious and others go unnoticed, they steal a few minutes each time, which turn into hours at the end of the week. In any case, here’s a list of the most important ones. You have to know in order to detect and eradicate:

  1. Personal disorganization. If you don’t get organized, you will waste plenty of time deciding what’s the next thing you have to do and how are you going to do that. You should use a method for personal organization (I recommend GTD, but any system that allows you to manage yourself is perfectly valid). Every day, spend a little time organizing your stuff and you’ll save much more time later. Group similar tasks within the same context and prepare a daily action plan.
  2. Unclear goals. If you’re not clear about your objectives, you cannot define the work to be done and plan properly. This leads to constant changes on priorities and conflicts among them. Clearly define your objectives in the short, medium and long term, and do it regularly. Separate the important from the urgent.
  3. No decisions. Putting off a decision until you have all the necessary information can provoke a crisis or a missed opportunity. Sometimes, making decisions soon is more efficient than making decisions with enough information. Uncertainties only generate more confusion.
  4. Not knowing how to say NO. Accepting requests that don’t contribute anything will make you waste lots of time. Here’s some help in this regard: Reasons and Tips to Say NO.
  5. Inability to delegate. If you don’t delegate your tasks properly, you’ll end up doing things that others can do better, faster and at lower cost. And that is a serious error.
  6. Lack of concentration. Overwork, fatigue, stress and other factors can be very painful. Here you have 15 Tips to Stay Motivated and focused.
  7. Bad communication. A clear communication is essential when you’re accepting a job or delegating a task. Convey the needs clearly and make sure that the message arrived correctly. Listen carefully. If the job is done badly, you’ll have to redo it, and your current planning will be broken. A state of emergency will be declared.
  8. Procrastinating. If you usually put off your least favorite tasks, they will come back provoking a destructive effect on your personal organization (causing the aforementioned state of emergency). Make these tasks as soon as possible and you’ll avoid the stress and guilt generated by delaying.
  9. Interruptions. In addition to the time the interruption takes by itself, it takes an average of 15 minutes to recover the lost concentration. If you have unexpected visitors, apologize and postpone the meeting to a more convenient moment. Don’t let the bore steal your time. Stop them politely but firmly. Similarly, with courtesy, cut unnecessary phone conversations. Turn off the mobile phone in the moments you need total concentration.
  10. Email, social networks and instant messaging. They can be another kind of interruption. If you keep these systems open all the time, you’ll receive notifications and you’ll be tempted to answer. Shut down these applications and block some time every day to enter, empty your inbox and keep everything current. Remove all the unnecessary emails.
  11. Meetings. A lot of time can be wasted in meetings, with the aggravating factor that many people are affected. 8 people wasting 30 minutes in a meeting means 4 hours lost. First, you must assess the need for meeting and only summon the necessary people. The meeting must be prepared properly in advance, defining the topics to deal with and setting a maximum time. Here are a number of good practices for conducting effective meetings.
  12. Crisis or states of emergency. They’re a mess. It all goes to hell. Most of them are caused by something that was done badly or just wasn’t done. Crisis have to be prevented wherever possible. How? Defining objectives and tasks clearly, organizing, planning, making decisions, communicating neatly, saying no to some things, delegating properly, avoiding interruptions… not letting the thieves steal your time.

About the author

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Francisco Sáez (@franciscojsaez) is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a web developer specializing in Ruby on Rails who is passionate about personal productivity and GTD as a means to a better life.

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