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Office time-wasting habits

By Vision Reporter

Added 17th October 2009 03:00 AM

YOU have got life outside work and you want to live it to the full. Isn’t that one big, albeit personal reason, why nowadays no one can afford to waste time at work?

By Jacobs Odongo

YOU have got life outside work and you want to live it to the full. Isn’t that one big, albeit personal reason, why nowadays no one can afford to waste time at work?

Workloads pile up more often than we are ready to deal with them. We cannot also get extra hours in a day. Like Denis, an IT consultant says, maximising your time at work can mean the difference between leaving at a reasonable hour and staying late unnecessarily.

“There are countless ways you waste time on the job,” he says. “Sometimes, it’s unavoidable. Other times, it can be overcome with a minor shift in your approach.”
However, either way, the first step to addressing time-wasting habits is to identify them.

Over-reliance on e-mail

We have all become addicted to the e-mail as a form of communication. Okay, the e-mail is convenient and also a great way to keep an electronic trail of your correspondence.

This is helpful if you are ever challenged on a decision or occurrence. But a lot of time is wasted on back and forth e-mails that would be more easily resolved as a verbal conversation.

“You put it rightly when you said that a lot of time in wasted indulging in back and forth e-mail correspondence. But you have to realise that the written word is very useful when it comes to accountability,” says Mark Kaheru, the utl public relations manager.

“You can always utilise e-mailing tools like BlackBerry or purchase a PDA or Smartphone so you can get and respond to e-mails in time and on the move.”

Kaheru adds that it is always better to have a face to face interaction unless when the person you wish to speak with is in a distant place and not readily availble.

On the surface it seems tiresome, but it can mean the difference between an hour of work and a two-day back and forth e-mail discussion

Personal communication

In the olden days, it was a little harder to get in the way with personal correspondence at work. Today, you can be constantly connected to friends and family without anyone really noticing. If you are checking religiously, or responding to personal e-mails the same way you do professional ones, then time wasted is too much for your after-office life.

These days, employers understand that workers may spend some time at work doing personal things (after all, they spend so much time there).
“Leave your personal correspondence for your lunch break,” says Dr. George Luggalambi, the head of Mass Communication department at Makerere University.

“You can check your various accounts all at once. Be firm with your friends and family about contacting you during work hours.”

Cigarette and coffee breaks

Everyone needs to step away from their desk once in a while. In fact, it has been said that taking breaks can often make you more productive. But if you are going out for a smoke or a coffee run every half hour, you are reducing your productivity to the bare minimum by never really getting into the groove of your work.

“Coffe or cigarette breaks can be used productively,” argues Kaheru.
“If you walk out for a puff with a colleague and use that time to discuss pertinent issues, you are utilising your time well.”

Kaheru says the point of such breaks is to clear one’s mind and to calm down, especially when one has been having a hectic time. But remember to keep the break light.

Disorganised workspace

Your primary workspace might be the top of your desk, your desktop computer or most likely, a combination of the two. But if it is messy, you will end up wasting a lot of time looking for things. A cluttered workspace makes for a cluttered mind, experts say.

De-clutter, and you will manage your work more efficiently. Before you leave the office, clear your desk of cans, cups, food and paperwork.

Ineffective multi-tasking

Everyone likes to think they are great at multi-tasking. And maybe you are. But there is a limit to how many things you can do at once without affecting the quality of your work and, ultimately, slowing down the process.

This problem is apparently, exacerbated by those who delay doing things they are supposed to. Such people often find themselves with piles of paperwork at the deadline that they begin to rush through thinking they can handle multi-tasking.

Actually, the scenario we create is like that of a student who postpones doing assignments until the deadline approaches only to realise he has other courseworks to do.

Fred, who works with the media, says when caught in such a scenario, it is better to prioritise and then break up your day accordingly. “It’s the key to successfully completing any project.”

“Write down everything you hope to achieve and assign time to do so based on importance,” he says.

“Don’t move on to the next task until you have completed the previous one.”
Prioritising not only helps you do a better job when you are focused, you will also force yourself to finish something within the time allotted.

Unfocused meetings

You know the kind, those that have no agenda. You sit in a meeting for an hour and all you end up with is a list of what should be discussed in yet another meeting.

Sure, meetings are an essential part of the workplace, but if run poorly, they can be a waste of time. Meetings should have a purpose. Have a set of tangible goals you want to accomplish. This should be realised by tackling a set agenda, which should be distributed to attendees before the meeting starts. Stay focused on the task at hand.
If there are visual aides, have them set up and ready before the group enters the room.

Finally, make sure you really need a meeting. “If what you have to say can be just as easily shared in an e-mail to the group, why get people up and away from their work?”

Short gaps between meetings should also be avoided. Those 15-30 minute gaps between meetings are a waste of company time that can be used profitably.

What do you ever really accomplish in such short time? Sure, it gives you a bit of time to decompress, but it also takes you in and out of meeting mood for no apparent reason. If you have several meetings a day, that limbo time can amount to a couple hours of waste.

According to HRguru.com, scheduling your meetings back-to-back (if you can) can knock them out more efficiently.

The time in between is better clumped together at some point in the day so it can be used for productive endeavors.

Office time-wasting habits

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