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4 Time-Stealing Habits that Cost You Money

26 October 2011

Have you ever had anything go missing? Thought, it was there the last time I looked? What about your time? Some days it's as if there's a thief in your office, stealing away chunks of time whenever you're not looking. But while other people can take our time (if we let them) it's often our own habits that are most to blame.

Do you have any habits that are using up your valuable time? Here are four classics that can cost you money.

I know where everything is…

Paper is bulky and ponderous. When all our records were written down or printed, we stored everything by date or alphabet, or elaborate numbering systems which made no sense to anyone who hadn't been initiated into their mysteries. We even used dual filing systems (a 'first' system with the most used and current files and a 'second' system with everything else.)

Electronic information is a totally different beast, there is no need to recreate your paper filing system for your electronic information. 

The secret is not to over-complicate. Keep it simple and obvious. 

My ‘door’ is always open…

You're experienced, you have knowledge, you're a resource. And maybe you like that. It's nice to help people. They come to you with a question that's got them stuck and you can get them moving again. You know everything!

But what happens is that people stop valuing your time and so you have less of it for your own work. They also stop thinking for themselves because it's too easy to just ask you. They become dependent on you and before you know it, nothing really happens in the office, nothing gets signed off unless you're there to 'rubber stamp' it. Your ego might be feeling good but business isn't.

What you need to do is protect your time. Don't cut everybody off, after all, your knowledge makes you an asset and people should be allowed to ask for help when they really need it. But look at your calendar and start building in some 'inaccessible time'. You'll have more time for your work. You're rarity value will go up and so will the respect that your colleagues have for you – you'll no longer be taken for granted.

Becoming a little bit inaccessible enables you to help yourself and others.

I’m waiting for your call/email…

What do you do when the phone rings or an email appears in your inbox? Do you leap to answer it or read it? Or do you have the discipline to leave it until later? I'm betting 8 times out of 10, you just can't resist.

After all, you tell yourself that it might be important – a big contract, a desperate client, an emergency... But is it? Usually it's something routine and ordinary and you don't need to deal with it for hours… if ever.

The trouble is, by leaping to attention like that every time, you break your focus on the job in hand. You constantly stop and start. You end up reading and re-reading the same email. What's happening is that you're putting the small stuff first.

Sure, people getting in touch with you want a timely answer, but when you're working on a job for them, they also want you to get that job done in a timely fashion.

Bottom line? Become inaccessible… see 2! Calls and emails can be ‘batched’ and checked at regular intervals rather than all day long. 

Since when did spending long hours at work = being good at what we do?

Sometimes you need to pull a late one. Put in those few extra hours to meet that important deadline but this should be the exception not the norm. At times people who go home at “home time” are seen as :

•not willing to do what needs to be done;

•not having enough to do;

•not a team player.

Anyone who doesn't work into the evening is made to feel bad for going home to their family. They have to defend their actions. They get teased and called a 'part-timer'.

This sort of atmosphere is going to cost you time and money. At the end of the working day, you're tired and not at your most efficient. You're not getting value for money from those extra hours anyway. Far better that people go home, relax, have a nice evening and return in the morning refreshed and raring to go.

Regular long hours are a danger sign rather than a sign of commitment.

Ultimately, the way you manage your time has a direct impact on your business and the money you earn. It's all about using the time you've got efficiently and to your best advantage. As Charles Dow Richards said,

“Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year

as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.”

These 4 time-stealing habits – over complicating filing, being too accessible and long hours – are just some of the ways in which people don't make good use of their time. They're also just some of the issues I'll be covering on the next Generating Time workshop on 24th May. Come along and find out how to ditch your bad habits!