Eliminate These 7 Time Wasters to Free Up More “Me” Time

September 22, 2014


Here are seven of the worst time wasters at work, with ways to gain control over them so you have more time for yourself—and improve your work/life balance.

  1. Deal with drop-ins. First, try standing up when someone comes by. That way, you control the length of the visit. When you sit back down, your chat is over. Or, you can ditch your guest chair, or pile paraphernalia on top of it. People will feel uncomfortable standing and won’t linger. 
  2. Control phone calls and email. Need some uninterrupted work time? Forward calls to a colleague or let them go to voicemail for a certain period of time. And don’t even glance at your email. You’ll be able to concentrate better, work faster, and get more accomplished. You can even create a voicemail or email message explaining when you’ll be free.
  3. Manage meetings. Keep meetings short and focused by creating an agenda, with time limits for each action item. Make sure that every attendee receives your agenda, then watch the clock during the meeting to keep it on track. End on time, even if you need to carry over some action items.
  4. Create a to-do list. Prioritize your list based on importance. Ask yourself if this project or task is the best use of your time. If the answer is no, don't do it. Do the most important thing you can for yourself, your department, and your organization at any given moment.
  5. Pad deadlines. If you think a project will take two hours, ask for three. That way, you’re bound to under-promise and over-deliver. If your supervisor hasn’t set a deadline, give yourself one, and make sure to add in enough time to have a comfortable margin for success.
  6. Plan ahead. If you know a certain report is due December 1, don’t start it on November 28. Decide which tasks are important, and begin them whenever you have free time. You’ll enjoy a head start on all vital projects.
  7. Keep a notebook. Don’t jot down important phone numbers and addresses on small scraps of paper. Keep absolutely everything in a notebook until you can transfer it to a rolodex or e-address book. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much time you save when you’re under pressure to find a small but vital piece of information.

Remember that when you successfully manage your time at work, you’ll automatically find more time for yourself—both at work and at home.

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