Do you want to get more from your time? Complete more? Achieve more? Avoid procrastination and move the needle?

We’re starting a new series about working well. Looking at what to start, what to stop and how to reclaim some time – let’s go!

The following is a list of things that may ‘waste’ our time, with some possible causes and suggested solutions.

Not all of these will be relevant to you. If you can recognise yourself in some of them – try the solutions and then reassess.


Time wasters

You’ve incorrectly identified the importance of the activities you’re spending time on


  • Take a three-day time log to see where you’re spending your time
  • Analyze the tendency to take on things others could be doing and Delegate more of these tasks
  • Say “no” when appropriate
  • Develop the habit of asking yourself, “What was the result of the activity I just completed?”

This time waster is often coupled with –

A lack of priorities and planning


  • Set objectives, priorities, and deadlines in four critical time frames
    (daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly)
  • Focus on your top priorities and ignore/stop doing the bulk of activities that contribute nothing to your objectives

And may be related to –

Not responding to the (truly) urgent


  • Distinguish the truly urgent from the important
  • Balance your short-term objectives (planning is great for this)
  • Ask yourself “What’s the worst that can happen?” before responding to an urgent situation

Setting unrealistic time estimates


  • Recognize that everything takes longer than you think!!
    (“Murphy’s Second Law”)
  • Identify characteristic underestimates, then add an appropriate cushion to all critical estimates (20 to 50 per cent)

An over-the-top response


  • Limit your response to the real demands of the situation
  • Stay uninvolved if others can handle it

Being overly ambitious with an inordinate need to achieve


  • Control your ambition to fit your abilities and situation. Ask yourself what you are trying to prove (and to whom).
  • Be realistic and keep perspective. Stop overworking and stressing yourself out
  • Recognize that if you unrealistically attempt too much, you may not achieve anything
  • Determine what you want to achieve and focus on that
  • Learn to live with the fact that you may have regrets, no matter what

This may stem from –

Desire to impress your boss or client

Don’t get me wrong – this is important! Just keep it realistic.


  • Discuss what your boss / the client really wants
  • Recognize that long-term success is more important for you than short-term impressions

Being “the yes man” = overly cooperative


  • Stop saying “yes” just because you want to be appreciated
  • Recognize the difference between being cooperative and doing others’ work
  • Learn to say no without offending
  • Use your priorities as reasons and offer alternatives when appropriate

Being stretched too thin / Understaffed


  • Do a feasibility study with a time log to demonstrate that additional help would be cost-effective



  • Lower standards to what is reasonable.
  • Allocate time frames more closely.

Communication confusion

Communication confusion happens in this age of written digital communication as the standard over face-to-face contact or even conversation.

Here are our top tips to avoid these:-

  • Clarify and agree on the importance and priority of your activities, call out time estimates; and agree on deadlines
  • If things aren’t going to plan, communicate in a timely manner, don’t leave it to the last minute
  • Recognize that experience, training, and environment create different backgrounds for interpreting communication. Adjust your communication style if needed.
  • Get feedback to ensure mutual understanding and take corrective action as needed.
  • In oral communication, develop and practice your listening skills
  • Use the correct channel of communication

Ineffective delegation 

So you’ve decided to delegate—well done! Here are some common pitfalls and how to avoid them:-

  1. Insecurity/fear of failure
    Recognise that this is possible and accept inherent risk.
    Accept mistakes and learn from them.
  2. Lack of confidence in others
    Train your delegate and develop trust in them. Check-in and use progress points and reports for control.
  3. Giving unclear, incomplete, or confusing instructions
    Ensure that you give clear, complete, unambiguous instructions. Ask your delegate to repeat back to check their understanding.
  4. Belief that you can do the job better and faster yourself
    Lower your standards to what is acceptable, not your own level of performance.
    Avoid perfectionism.
    Train your delegate and give them the opportunity to improve.
  5. More comfortable “doing” than managing
    Recognize that practice leads to success, which leads to comfort.
    Remember, the job of the leader is to lead, not do.
  6. Expecting everyone to know all the details
    Recognize that this should not be expected of someone who has delegated responsibility for handling tasks and is not overseeing the whole process or system.
  7. Failure to establish appropriate controls & follow-up
    Establish plans, schedules with details, progress reports, and monitoring of deadlines.
    Manage expectations and delegated responsibilities.
  8. Micromanaging
    Step back.
    Emphasize goal accomplishment, not methods and procedures.
    Measure results, rather than activity.
  9. Under-resourced
    Check progress promptly to take corrective action.
  10. No one to delegate to
    Hire a VA! 😉

Setting boundaries

There can be an expectation to be constantly available – after all, we all have multiple channels through which people can contact us 24/7. How we respond to this, is up to us. Avoid creating disappointment by setting firm boundaries:-

  1. Have a plan
    Determine your availability and make this information available – e.g. email signature, website hours, voicemail message etc
    Arrange appointments to suit your hours.

    To terminate face-to-face visits or Zoom calls 
    Go to the home or office of others. Meet them outside your home. Stand up upon entry and keep standing.
    Preset a time limit.
    Foreshadow the end (“Is there anything else before I leave?”)
    Stand up and walk to the door.
  2. Check your ego!
    Don’t overestimate the importance of your availability to others.
    Distinguish between being available for business and socializing.
    Plan social visits.
  3. Be less visible
    In the office – Modified open door; quiet hour; screening; hideaway.
    Home office – “Do not disturb” mode to achieve flow and deep work
    Limit face-to-face interactions – Explain that you will both have more time to devote to the project if the client “drops off ” material in a predetermined physical location such as a slot or a box to receive documents.

Saying “no”

Source – Tiny Buddha

Many people struggle to say no, however, to take control of your time, this is a must!
Here are some pointers on why we struggle, and saying no with grace.

  1. Your desire to win approval, acceptance
    Recognize this possible trap! If the desired results are not achieved, you may lose instead of gaining respect and ultimately feel resentful.
  2. Fear of causing offence
    Develop techniques of saying no without offense.
    Examples: “Thanks for the compliment, but I’ll have to decline.”
    “Sorry I can’t, but let me offer a suggestion…
  3. Recognise that you have capabilities in demand
    Recognising your assets makes your ability to say no even more imperative.
    Refuse to spread yourself too thin. Concentrate your efforts.
  4. False sense of obligation
    Recognize the prevalence of this cause and examine your reasons for this feeling. Discuss it with family, friends, and associates.
  5. Not knowing how to refuse
    Listen to the request.
    Say no at once if appropriate or ask for time to respond.
    Give reasons. Suggest alternatives.
  6. Excuses
    Don’t be too sensitive.
    Sometimes no excuse is better than a poor one.
    Think of acceptable excuses ahead of time.
    The best excuse is your own priorities. Keep these visible on your daily plan.
  7. No time to think of an answer or excuse
    Count to ten before saying yes / Give yourself time / Delay response
  8. Lack of objectives and priorities
    Others will determine your priorities for you if you don’t have your own.
    Then, whatever you achieve will be determined by your environment, not by you.
  9. The thoughtless assumption by others that you will say yes
    Recognize that you have likely encouraged this assumption by never saying no.
    Learn to say no, especially to inappropriate or thoughtless requests or those that will make you feel bad if you assent.
  10. Inability to say no to a client
    Say no by showing the list of agreed-upon priorities.
    If the client insists, you may choose to acquiesce, but renegotiate deadlines as needed.

Whew! That’s a lot to think about.
Look for our next instalment soon! In the meantime – I’d love to hear what resonated with you and what changes you’ll make.

Want to work with us?

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