Time Management Series
“Overcoming Time-Wasters - Part I” (SL#31)
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 12.1 - Time Management

Taking Charge
We have to consider time management strategies to deal with “time-wasters.” None other than the renowned Benjamin Franklin left us his thoughts on this topic: “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for it is the stuff life is made of.” For all of those powerful planning ideas--scheduling, note-taking, and to-do lists, one of the critical enemies of good time management is “time-wasters.” Like everyone, you have your own danger spots that can eat up chunks of valuable time before you know it. The purpose of this article is to identify 15 common time-wasters that are most threatening in your life and work. You will also be presented with some helpful strategies for overcoming your time-wasters and taking charge of your time!

Believe it or not, you are not alone! Leaders from all professions are burdened with time-wasters. The purpose intended here is to enable you to think about your own work and life situation, to create your own list of common pitfalls. Our practical suggestions are offered, hopefully, in keeping with the passionate encouragement of Jesus to His followers: “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.”--John 9:4.

Reflection/Action Planning
Included here from research and experiences (some good and quite a few pitiful) is a list of common time-wasting practices. For each one that applies to you, read carefully the description, along with some strategies for overcoming it. After you’ve done that and pondered your specific interest, write down or underline your own thoughts and plans for action.

Procrastination, the Master Time-Thief
“Procrastination is the thief of time. Collar him!”--asserts none other than Charles Dickens. Contemporary surveys and authorities have found that “procrastination” is often at the head of the lists of all time-wasters. Procrastination takes several forms, such as: 1) Mental, “I’m still thinking about that.” 2) Feeling: “I’m afraid I won’t do it right.” 3) Planning: “I know I said I would do it today, but I am still developing my way to go about it.” 4) Physical: frantic action after it’s too late.

Procrastination finds its way into the practice of almost every other common time-waster. You can find its place at the table when you sit down to serve up your dish to be tasted. Consider these artful ways of procrastination as it has been described:

Strategies/Actions for Procrastination

Now, let’s begin to treat fifteen time-wasters, describing the problem and proposing solutions.
[Note: SkillTrack® SL#32 completes this list of 15 most common “time-wasters.”]

  1. Trivial Pursuits: Inessential activities that promote none of the life purpose and need for balance you have set out for yourself. Trivial pursuits become procrastination by meaningless activity such as daydreaming, television, surfing the computer, curiosity born of sensationalism, etc.
    Strategies/Actions:
  2. Lack of Focus: “We always have time enough, if we but use it aright.” (from Goethe, 1749-1832) Examples: straying from the planned path; detours and distractions. If you’ve ever let a stray piece of mail or unscheduled conversation lead you on an investigation that lasts all day, then you may be suffering from lack of focus!
    Strategies/Actions:
  3. Mistakes: Hey, everyone makes mistakes, right? But mistakes can become time-wasters if they become a pattern, if they’re needless or if you don’t learn from them. Wrong turns aren’t always avoidable, but they may take up just as much time as detours.
    Strategies/Actions:
  4. Aimless Associates: You know the guy/gal . . . always seems to have time to stop in your office for lengthy chats, while you can’t find the time to turn around with all you’ve got to do.
    Strategies/Actions:
  5. Failure to Delegate: When you find yourself doing everything; projects developing only one step at a time because you’re needed at every level.
    Strategies/Actions:
  6. Pointless Meetings: Do you maintain regularly scheduled meetings? But even when there’s nothing to accomplish? Do you attend meetings, even if your presence was not required? Pointless meetings can be huge time-wasters!
    Strategies/Actions:
  7. Random Phone Calls: The random phone caller expects you to be ready to talk--for business or for leisure--any time of the day, for as long as the caller would like. Needless to say, this isn’t possible and can waste a lot of time!
    Strategies/Actions:

Reflection/Action Planning
Are you relatively free from time-wasting practices? If your answer is “Yes,” then enjoy the affirmation and keep it up. If you answer “No,” then pick a specific starting place and start the battle for wiser, more satisfactory time and life management You are the one to decide what matters most to you; plan what to do and gain a victory over time-wasters.

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 © 2006 servantleaderstoday.com; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership