Time is the one commodity you have little control over in your project. As Jennifer Bridges explains in this video, however, you can learn to use your time more productively.
In Review: 9 Project Management Time Wasters
Wasting time, Jennifer said, can derail your project. She noted that teams are often working at capacity to complete a project, but complain that there’s not enough time in the day to do all the tasks assigned to them.
She outlined nine of the more obvious time wasters that can get in the way of your project’s productivity, which are listed here:
- Internet, email and social media
- Phone calls
- Unplanned meetings
- Propensity to please
- Extraneous on-and-on
- Shiny objects
Taken one at a time, these may not seem like big wastes of time. And they’re not. But when you add a few of them together a snow ball of annoyance becomes an avalanche.
Pro Tip: Wasting time is a problem, but what’s the solution? First, you must be disciplined, schedule yourself and hold firm to your boundaries. Then set priorities and, finally, have the tools in place to establish efficient work processes.
Take it further: Productivity is also a product of focus. Learn how to keep your team focused using Daniel Goleman’s theories.
Thanks for watching!
Hello. I’m Jennifer Whitt, Director of ProjectManager.com.
Well, welcome to our Whiteboard Session today on “Nine Time Wasters That Can Kill Your Time Management and Derail Your Project.” There’s been a lot of talk recently about time management, with project managers saying there’s not enough time, they’re not getting things done, they’re working 24-7, and projects are derailing.
Sound familiar? I know I struggle with this, too. What I want to do is share with you some of the things that we’ve found to be time wasters, and some solutions that might be helpful to you in managing your time and having more successful projects.
Of all the time wasters we found, we’ve learned that the culprit is really spending too much time on non-productive work. Let’s take a look at some of these things and see if any of these resonate with you. I know for myself this is the top one for me: spending too much time on the Internet using e-mail and social media. For those of you who may have seen, I am very active on many of the social networking sites and many of the project management groups. But, when I’m doing research, I use the Internet. I may Google something and one thing leads to another.
Maybe I’ll look up a word or a topic, and then I just follow the stream. I think, “Wow, that’s interesting!” And then, I can find myself researching that, and then going on to the next thing. So, if I’m not careful, I can spend too many hours each day on the Internet, just researching.
The other side of this is e-mail. We all have multiple projects. I get hundreds of e-mails a day. So, sometimes, if I start responding to those immediately, without it being in a planned period of time, then I can find myself using a lot of my time. Then again, responding in the social media networks. Again, what our recommendation is, is find a specific time in your schedule when you can plan those activities and stay within that specific time frame. Because with the Internet there are times it’s a great resource for us to find information, tips, tools, and techniques again for research or for other information. Just be cognizant that and keeping within a time frame.
And then on your e-mails, we condition ourselves to think we have to respond immediately to someone who is sending e-mail. I know, a lot of times, I may be working on something, planning something, or even being on maybe a conference call. Then, I hear that ding, that little indicator that I have new mail so I feel like I have to go respond to that. What I’ve found is that what I have to do is minimize my mail screen and the little thing at the bottom of my computer where I can see the counter of new e-mails. I have to hide that from myself because I tend to get distracted and think, “I have to go respond to that.”
Also, for your team members is letting people know, set standards, or best practices to communicate to your team that if they send you an e-mail sent that you’ll respond within a specific time frame or at a certain period of time in the day.
Also, for social media, again, I find social media to be very helpful in finding tips, tools or techniques, and oftentimes finding information but also for sharing information and being involved. I think it’s very important, especially for our profession. So again, finding the time, setting out a time, a designated time for those activities and trying to stay within that specific time frame.
The other is distractions. Distractions meaning whether it’s an office environment or if you work from home. So the office environment can be, many times people work in open cubicle areas so people tend to drop by your desk and think they can just chitchat, or they may just drop by and maybe delegate more work to you by stopping at your desk. So having a policy on when people come through to your desk and want to camp out.
And also having a best practice of letting them know and being able to set boundaries and let them know that you’re working on something important and you would like to schedule a time. What I do is I ask people to go and schedule a time on my calendar. Then, that way if they need to meet with you, or just chitchat, that sets a precedent and you now own your schedule at that point.
It could be distractions at home. I travel a lot. So, sometimes, when I’m back in town, I may catch up on work from home and work from home. So my home distractions may be. Here in Atlanta it’s springtime so I may decide my roses need to be watered. Or, they may need to be trimmed which could lead to other work in the yard. Or, it could be that I find some project to work on around the house, which then I later find myself, “Wow, I spent my day with project around the house.” Then, I find myself working until midnight to catching up with my real work projects. So those are things again that we have to be cognizant of and just being disciplined not to get too derailed by these things.
Then calls. It could be work calls, unplanned calls, or people calling you at your office for personal calls. Again, redirecting people, like owning your schedule and your time. Letting people know when you’re available to talk. If it’s a personal call, you may redirect someone to, “Hey, let me call you back when I’m available.” Or, maybe call them at lunch or maybe after work hours. Same thing with work calls. Have people go on your calendar and schedule a time to call because it’s very important and these things can run away with your time.
The other is unplanned meetings. It’s probably one of the biggest things project managers struggle with because there’s always an impromptu meeting, or a crisis going on, or someone wants some of your time, and they drag you in as the project manager into unplanned meetings. Again, this is where the project manager has to own their calendar and let people know that you are working on something and have them go and schedule an available time. If it’s something critical, then you’ve got to do your own project management to shuffle things, but it’s important for you to own your schedule, so you’re not multitasking, overlapping, and over-committing yourself to things and not getting things done.
The other is the propensity to please others. Whether it’s a deliverable, maybe you try to have that perfect document so the perfectionism kicks in, so you’re afraid to send something out because maybe you don’t think it’s going to be pleasing or enough information. So, you keep working on it. Or if someone calls to ask you to do a favor, you want to please them, so you say yes and then you over-commit yourself.
The other is extraneous on-and-on. When you’re communicating with people, whether it’s talking on the phone, whether it’s writing a document or communicating in one other way, by extraneous on and on. The more you can condense things, the less you can say, less is actually more in most cases. The less you can say, it can be more powerful. Being pithy in your responses and being short, clear and concise. The more you go on and on, the more time it takes.
The bright, shiny objects. I don’t know about you, but I have to keep my working space clear because if I have little stacks of things or other projects. If I look up, I maybe working on something and then there’s another stack that I decide, “Oh, I need to be working on that stack,” and then I work on that one for a while and then I’m off to another project. Maybe someone comes in or calls with what we call the “bright, shiny object.” You lose focus, you lose track and you lose time on those “bright, shiny objects.” So it’s being cognizant of that and if you have to clear your work space, or put yourself in a work environment so you can focus, then you have to own that and see what works best for you.
Then, administration. Whether you’re a full-time employee, a contractor or a consultant, there are still things we’re required to do on a client site, or a project. Planning for that. Knowing what administrative work you have to do and when and get that on your calendar, so you can plan for it, and stay within those time frames.
Travel. Again, for me I’m a traveler so I spend a lot of time trying to get from point A to point B so that again is a lot of nonproductive time. So I try to make accommodations in travel so that I can be more efficient. Number one, if I travel in business class, then I’ve got a bigger work space where I can take work, my laptop, or writing or anything I have to do, and can take advantage of that time. For those of you who are travelers, there are Sky Clubs, where you can go while waiting between flights. For those of you who may be traveling on a If you travel by a MARTA system or a train system, again, using that time to work. For me, I like all of my electronic devices. I have my iPhone with my calendar. I have my iPad for certain applications. Then, I have a laptop. So being able to be as efficient as you can while you are traveling.
These are some of the time wasters. These are some of the tips that have been helpful for me and our team. Just a reminder: these small inefficiencies of these time wasters really add up. They can add up and that kills your time and your time management, and can derail your project. It’s the biggest complaint when we go and look at teams and specifically project management activities, we find that these are some of the killers.
So, what are the solutions?
Number one, being disciplined, and scheduling yourself, having your own boundaries, knowing the best way that you work and operate more efficiently.
Number two is setting priorities according to your project and things that you have to get done, sticking to those priorities and focusing on and getting them done.
Number three, having the tools available for you to establish efficient work processes.
I hope those were helpful. Those are certainly some of the things that have killed my time and derailed my projects, but these tips and tools are things that have helped. I hope they help you, too. Thank you.
If you’re looking for a tool that can help you manage your time more effectively and have more successful projects, then sign up for our software at ProjectManager.com.