8 Office Time Wasters
and How To Reduce Them
By Camille Bacsa
Many of us love our jobs but there are just days when we wish it will all be over already – especially when most of our day is filled with supposedly avoidable tasks that toll away at our energy and (remaining, but rapidly being depleted) brain cells. While you probably can’t choose to disappear when the boss calls for a meeting at 4:45 pm, here are some smart ways to conquer your time better, so that you can be one step closer to that elusive promise of work-life balance:
1. Long-winded meetings
Who hasn’t been in one of these? While everyone in that room knows the meeting has gone beyond its reasonable share of hours, none can really seem to respectfully point blank say that it’s time to head back to our individual cubes, what with all the last minute updates, personal catch-up, and final questions that seem to arise as collective decisions are reached. No matter what we do though, wasted time is wasted time and it often leads to unwanted hours of OT (or worse, OTY).
Solution: Be strict with the start and end time of your meetings and ensure that you abide by the agenda to avoid unnecessary distractions.
2. Waiting for late attendees in said long-winded meetings
Metro Manila’s crazy traffic must be really ashamed of itself by now for the millions of times it was cited as the reason for lateness (whether or not it’s honest, that is – shout out to the “paalis na ako” pero maliligo pa lang folks).
Solution: If the delay is only a few minutes, maximize the spare time by polishing up your presentation or typing out quick answers to a couple of emails. It’s also wise to recheck your planner to see if the delay will overlap with your other commitments that day so you can adjust accordingly. Alternatively, if the delay will take more time than you can tolerate and there are other individuals pressed for time, it is reasonable to discuss your agenda with the moderator or other present individuals so the ball can start rolling, then check in later for the late attendees’ viewpoint on the matter. Double whammy for being a proactive attendee and getting out of that room sooner than expected!
3. Endless Emails
In case you’re feeling unimportant or unappreciated, try leaving your email unattended for a couple of hours. The sad, modern reality of a highly connected world is that people just have no excuse anymore for slow responses, so we feel compelled to answer every message as it comes in. Newsflash though, being a slave to your email is one of the biggest time drainers around.
Solution: End every workday planning your priorities for the next day. If you don’t do this, the tendency is to start your workday by opening your email and immediately getting bogged down. Instead, work on priority #1 at least for the first 1-2 hours, then make your first email check. Furthermore, choose hours during the day when you will actively check your email, instead of watching all the pop ups and opening them as they come, because no matter what it is you’re doing, you’ll lose your momentum. Lastly, keep emails short, and if they can be discussed more quickly in person, do so.
Some people find this therapeutic, but some people find it the biggest waste of time. If you’re part of the latter group, the tip is you don’t have to work harder, you just have to file smarter.
Solution: E-copies are king, and you’ll really be kinder to Mother Earth when you print hard copies only when necessary. For the unavoidable pieces of paper though, plan your filing ahead by pre-labelling folders and chronologically stuffing them there. Pretty painless from there!
5. Hunting for lost documents
For the eternally forgetful, this is the nightmarish image of losing your important document 10 mins before your meeting with the big boss across the building. While many will remind you to back-up, back-up, and back-up your files, it’s also important to pinpoint your little flaw here – lack of presence of mind.
Solution: Similar to filing, set aside specific folders for every project you’re working on, and be diligent in placing important documents here. Saves a lot more time than going on a goose chase, and you know it.
6. Unnecessary chit-chat at the pantry
We all love to socialize during our breaks, and sometimes these spare minutes prove to be the most valuable in building team rapport and sparking out-of-the-box random ideas. However, it’s fair to admit that most of the time it’s also just an excuse for office gossip and useless information fodder that you’d be better off not knowing.
Solution: It’s always good manners to respectfully excuse yourself out of conversations, and no matter how chatty your pal is, all you need to be is firm in your statement. Oh, and say it with a sincere smile, so no egos will be bruised.
7. Online distractions
Don’t lie, this one’s not on your officemate or your boss, this one’s all on you, especially if you cannot resist the temptation of opening your social media accounts every time you hear that tempting *ding* and that voice in your head that says “it’s time for a break.”
Solution: When you hear the devil’s whisper, say NO! It’s time for a little discipline. Think about it, would you rather be updated with your high school classmate’s kuya’s wedding, or actually go home before rush hour begins tonight?
8. Sleepiness and the mid afternoon slump
Ahh, momentum at work – so hard to gain, so easy to lose. A little coffee is supposed to perk you up, but sometimes, even cuppa joe just cannot do it anymore for your worn down brain cells.
Solution: perhaps it’s a good time for a little physical activity? Check out these 8 low key ways to squeeze in exercise during your workday and wake up your mind the healthy way.
Got any other avoidable office nuisances and tips you’d like to share? Sound off in the comments below.