Time Management Series
“Overcoming Time-Wasters – Part II”
(SL#32)

by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 12.1
Time Management

This article is Part II of the strategy “overcoming time-wasters”; it includes 8 of the 15 most common habits and practices that rob us of productive and satisfying use of our time. See Part I by this title (SL#31), including an introduction, procrastination, and the first seven time-wasters. In each one of the following paragraphs, the time-waster is briefly described and then some responding solutions and strategies are presented. Now, let’s continue:

8. E-Mail: Are you besieged by unwanted e-mail? Do you check for new e-mail every 60 seconds? Wasn’t this technology supposed to save time, not waste it?
Strategies/Actions:

  • Don’t subscribe to lists you’re only peripherally interested in, especially not from your office e-mail address. Subscriber lists are for sale and will multiply!
  • Set a time for checking new mail–more than once a day, but less than 40! Constant availability may keep you in touch but it will distract your focus from other important activities.
  • “Spam to others” as you would have them “spam to you.”

9. Fear of Failure: A common reason for procrastination, fear of failure will force you to push aside starting a project, and will keep you from finishing.

Strategies/Actions:

  • Remember your priorities–jump right in!
  • Trust yourself: your abilities, your self-awareness, and the support structure that trusted you enough to give you this responsibility to begin with.
  • Make yourself get started and build your confidence.
  • Remember: The Lord is your Shepherd. You shall not want . . . He restoreth your soul . . . You will fear no evil, for He is with you. (Psalm 23)

10. Overwhelmed: Too much to do, too little time. Sometimes the sheer magnitude of work left to do can leave you paralyzed from doing any of it. And the more time you’re distracted by all the other things that must be done, the less you’re focused on the task at hand.
Strategies/Actions:

  • Discuss the conflict of priorities with the one who makes assignments to you.
  • Reassess your priorities and daily activities at regular intervals during the day. As events unfold, make realistic determinations of what can and can’t be done.
  • Delegate, delegate, delegate.
  • Remember the mission! Evaluate your functions and activities as opportunities to further it, not obstacles!

11. Pleasure comes first: Do you look at your do-it list and jump right to the most pleasurable things first? Just because your diet affords a piece of chocolate cake, doesn’t mean it’s smart to eat it first! The same is true of your schedule!
Strategies/Actions:

  • Use pleasurable items as reward and incentive, or as a break during more stressful work.
  • Make those tough phone calls and address those complex interpersonal issues early in the day. Everyone involved will be fresher, and that confrontational dread will be behind you for the rest of the day.

12. Nibbling at the edges: Procrastination by getting the easy, peripheral elements of a project out of the way first. Do you find yourself dwelling on the simple elements of a task? The easy things sure can waste a lot of time if you’re using them to put off the meat of the work.

Strategies/Actions:

  • Trust yourself: jump right in!
  • Make your prioritized to-do lists detailed. Consciously decide to tackle the heart of an issue from the beginning. Intersperse the tough things with the simpler things throughout the day to give your stress level a break, but focus on, and prioritize the meaty things first.

13. Designed Distractions: Let’s face the truth, we’re talking about TV here! Along with some Internet surfing, and two-hour lunch breaks. The consensus of most surveys indicate that the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV a day . . . that’s 2 months a year, and 12 years of TV watching in a 72-year life.
Strategies/Actions:

  • Remember your truest priorities. Do you spend as much time on relationships with friends and family as you do with television and other designed distractions?
  • No television in the workroom!
  • Arrive at work early to handle Internet reading needs.
  • Make use of the commute: listen to news on the way.

14. Indecision: By its very nature, indecision is a primary time-waster and a contributor to the procrastination habit. The causes include:  failure to focus, lack of courage, fear of risking, too little information, too much information, lack of systemic thinking in a complex decision, or too much concern for small decisions.
Strategies/Actions:

  • Develop your decision-making process/style.
  • Get focused on your priorities.
  • If you are responsible for the decision, then you must consider the risk and act accordingly.
  • Gather pertinent information, but only essential to a sound decision; do not collect “miscellaneous stuff.”
  • Develop decision options and evaluate each one of them.
  • Decide on the best available option–and act. Do something.
  • If it is a small decision, give yourself a short time limit.

15. Laziness: Now we’ve finally come to the bad “L” word: lazy–indolent, sluggish, slothful, easygoing. By whatever descriptive term, laziness wastes time, and leads to many of the previously stated behavior patterns. Also, it requires many of the other over-coming strategies.
Strategies/Actions:

  • Make a tough-minded inventory of your mental vigor and behavior patterns.
  • Establish clear ministry/life/work priorities.
  • Develop reasonable work habits.
  • Focus, decide, act, log, assess–until the direction is an upward cycle.

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