Management Articles


So Your Day is a Waste of Time?

By: Gary Lockwood

Gary Lockwood is an experienced business coach, facilitator, speaker and an author with dozens of informative articles and reports published. He specializes in helping business professionals achieve breakthroughs in their business. Gary has over thirty years of experience in the business world, including technology, sales and marketing, management consulting, business planning and corporate training. He has held senior executive positions in several companies and has started a few successful companies of his own. You can learn more about him at his Web site,

Looking at that headline, you might say, "My day is not a waste of time! I'm very organized. I know exactly where I'm going and what I'm going to do." If you truly operate that way, then you're in the minority. Most people become frustrated with days that aren't as productive as originally intended. Put simply, we would prefer to get more done.

The purpose of this report is to identify America's Top 10 Time-Wasters. They may not match your list exactly, but I trust many items on the list are also common with you.

Crisis Management - Ever feel that you're leaving a trail of unfinished projects, unreturned phone calls, unread mail, partially completed reports? Sometimes crises are imposed by others; boss, clients, etc.. More often, crises arise from a job we left unfinished to work on another unfinished task. Another term for crisis management is "fire fighting." Even more insidious is the crisis caused by failing to make a decision or take an action that would have prevented the crisis in the first place! In a court of law, you might be found guilty of arson, setting fires that must be extinguished later. Most of this is really caused by losing focus of true priorities. Learn to tell the difference between "urgent" and "important".

The Telephone - We spend about 2.5 hours each day on the phone, averaging 12-14 calls a day. About 20% of that time on the phone is wasted. The most common culprits are wandering phone calls, long distance weather reports, forgetting some of the important issues, or calling every time we think of the next topic. On average, an unplanned phone call takes 5 minutes longer than one that has been planned. Planning a phone call can be as easy as a 30 second outline of what you want to say or ask. Without those few seconds of planning, you're costing your company an hour a day. As for incoming calls, 68% of phone interruptions are less important than what they interrupted. We have been trained since childhood to answer the phone when it rings. Instead, block some quiet time to concentrate.

Lack of Priorities - We accomplish the most when we know exactly what we want to accomplish. Unfortunately, too many think goals and objectives are yearly items and not daily considerations. The result are days spent majoring in the minors. Plan your day.

Trying To Do Too Much - Many of today's high performers seem to have a common thread: the "Superman/Superwoman" ideal; i.e., Taking on everything and trying to get it done by tomorrow. Success or failure seems to be measured by the state of busyness. We know that we can't do justice to everything at once and we often don't have perspective of all we have going on. It's like tossing another ball to the juggler...33 at once for the average busy executive. Focus on what counts.

Drop-In Visitors - The five deadliest words in today's office are "Do you have a minute?" Everyone's the culprit, colleagues, clients, family, friends, superiors, subordinates... they all want a piece of you! Close your door, work at home, hide, or just say "No".

Ineffective Delegation - Good delegation is a key skill for managers, yet the average manager spends 45% of their time on tasks that could be done by a staffer. "I can do it better and faster", you say. Sure you can, but ultimately, you are judged on what you can cause to happen, not just what you can do on your own. As a general rule of thumb, in non-critical cases, if another person can accomplish a task 80% as well as you, delegate.

The Messy Desk - Do you have "desk stress?" Is your desk or credenza piled with pending and unfinished work? The average businessperson spends 3 hours each week looking for things plus 2 hours being distracted by the stuff laying around. Do you still use the 'archaeological-dig' method of filing? Does your peripheral vision keep everything in mind, causing constant distractions? Are you always saying "I know it's here somewhere!" Put it away, file it, delegate it or trash it. The most effective people work from a clean desk.

Procrastination - The big "P", the "thief of time", is not decision making but decision avoidance. "I'll take care of it when I get a round TUIT". The average employee spends 45 days a year procrastinating; stalling, holding on to projects, redoing reports, putting it off till a better time. There's even a Procrastinators club. Their newsletter is called "last month's newsletter". By reducing procrastination, you can substantially increase the available time in your day. Do it now.

Inability to Say NO! - What a unique idea! Those around you will give you all the work you are willing to take. This is true in both our business and personal lives. Some of the most stressed people around can't say no to the next fund-raiser, the next committee, the Little League, the church, etc., etc., etc. Politely, but firmly say "No".

Meetings - The typical manager spends 17 hours each week in meetings plus 6.3 hours getting ready for those meetings. Nearly a third of that time in meetings is wasted. That works out to be about six full weeks of your year of useless meeting time. You've seen the symptoms: hastily called meetings, no ending time stated, no agenda, no official record of what was done or said, no followup. If even one hour per week is saved, it could mean two additional effective work days per year!

The paradox of time is that if we slow down to think and plan, we'll have more time. By paying attention to your time wasters, you just may "find" an extra four to five hours per week to enjoy the things most important to you.

It's your life. Don't wast

© 1997 - 2000 BizSuccess All rights reserved. No duplication.

Other Articles by Gary Lockwood

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


Place "+" (without the quotes) in front of words that must appear; "-" to exclude articles with certain words; and put double quotes around phrases. For example, fantastic search will find all case studies with either the word "fantastic" or "search" (or both). On the other hand, +fantastic +search will find only case studies with the words "fantastic" and "search". "fantastic search" will find only case studies that with the phrase "fantastic search". Note: Searches will not find words, such as 'management', that appear in more than half of the articles or words less than five letters long.


Would you like us to consider your own articles for publication? Please review our submission and editorial guidelines by clicking here.