You may be wasting time at work without even knowing it

We all need a break now and then. We need to call home, write the list of errands to complete on the way home, or email a professor coursework due that night. Taking ten or fifteen minutes once in a while to handle personal business is not wasting time at work.
Of more concern than a few minutes now and then is when time is wasted without awareness.
Here are a few examples:
When entering a division meeting, a colleague within David’s division asks him how a project is going. The colleague, Glenn, is not David’s supervisor but is someone he has worked with on other projects. David happily tells Glenn all about the project as they walk into the meeting and get seated next to each other. Glenn emails David an idea about the project the next day. David replies that the idea is very helpful and will be considered as the project proceeds. He includes something about keeping Glenn informed about the project going forward. Glenn responds that he looks forward to keeping in touch about it.
How could this situation lead to wasting time?
Here’s another one.
A five-person team is working on a project. One teammate, Pauline, writes an article about it for the intranet site at the team’s request. It is an internal article, not an external one or a promotional piece. Pauline sends the article to all teammates for review. One teammate sent the article to his own supervisor to get his input.
How could that lead to wasting time?
Here’s one more.
Peter and Mary were asked to create and deliver a new training course for their division. They have weekly meetings to discuss actions taken thus far and next steps. After the weekly meeting, they divide and conquer with each doing whatever task they named at the meeting. When they get the first draft, they will set a time to meet with the division head about the program and will take it from there.
How could their approach waste time?
Okay, one more.
Jill is working on a proposal due in three days. She just found out one of the most important subcontractors, with unique skills needed for the solution, backed out today. Without a key area of the solution covered, Jill needs to decide how to proceed. She can get a new subcontractor to replace the one that exited the proposal. Or, she could advise her management team that the proposal cannot go forward.
How would either of those options impact Jill’s time? Or, others’ time?
Even with good intentions and the culture of trust at the forefront of our minds, it is not always easy to spot the potential for wasting time. The following ideas can help us avoid spending time ineffectively:
Stop winging it. Nearly all projects need some kind of plan. Whether it is ten pages long with timelines and a team or it’s a list of five bullets, every project needs some thought in advance. Winging it rarely leads to efficiency, and more often causes swirl. At minimum, write a list of tasks needed to be completed and dates for each. Don’t rely on memory for work if you’re trying to be efficient or at the top of your game.
Understand your span of authority. We all have a certain span of authority with our positions. Understand yours and gain input from others as needed. The tendency to gain input for everything can slow teams down. With that said, however, be absolutely certain you have the experience to operate within the span given. If you are attempting something new or making a decision that affects more than one or two people, get support. Seek guidance from colleagues with more experience often; however, do so without relinquishing your responsibility for the decision.
Say “Yes” first. When you work somewhere for a long time, it’s tempting to bring up history along with each new project or idea. Every day people say, “We’ve already tried that here and it didn’t work.” Or, “We have always done it this way.” Keep those historical experiences in mind and share them when ideas develop, not when they are first brought up. They waste time because the conversation ends up being about history, why it did or did not work, or how now is different. Save that battle. It might be unnecessary anyway.
Avoid the weapons of mass distraction. Turn off alerts for Facebook, Snap Chat, and other social platforms. Turn off email pop-up notifications, set a time to check email throughout the day instead of one at a time upon arrival, and create rules to manage incoming email efficiently.
Stop multitasking. Multitasking got trendy for a while, but research is proving it is wasting time. MIT’s Dr. Earl Miller is one of the leading researchers on multitasking, and his studies show there is no such thing. People are not really doing two things at once, they are switching rapidly between two or three things. That is causing errors, duplication of effort, and stress. We all have more than one task on our plates at the same time. Single-tasking, instead of multi-tasking, just means focusing on whatever you are working on at the moment. Work at a quick clip—avoiding distractions and interruptions—and complete the work. Bouncing all over the place wastes time.
Contribute well to meetings. If I had a dollar for every time someone complained about inefficient meetings, I’d be wealthier than last week’s Powerball winners. There is zero excuse for meetings without objectives and agendas. Even if both must be stated at the start of the meeting, state them. Identify the topics needed to discuss, plan an appropriate amount of time for each, and proceed as planned. If deviation from the agenda is needed, advise the participants. Holding people hostage is annoying and rude. Side conversations, being unprepared, and not following the agenda are too. Pay attention so topics do not have to be repeated, especially if you participate via the phone. Whether you are the host or participant, you contribute to whether the meeting is useful or a time-suck.
Be aware of how you spend time each day. They say time is a gift. Each day, we are given the gift of 1,440 minutes. Be selective about how you spend each one and don’t take any one for granted by wasting it without awareness.
What else helps you be efficient at work? Share more tips.

5 Simple ways to get a grip

Do you ever have days that you’re so harried and need to get a grip? Usually during times like that, simplicity flies right out the window. Sometimes it feels like it flies out the window right after our sanity.

Snickers had a commercial during the Super Bowl last year that captured the sentiment. The nice guy turned in to a Joe Pesci character when he was not himself. The solution was to have a Snickers candy bar and he would be back to himself in no time.

The fact is, some days are just busier, more booked, or more stress-filled than others; however, we don’t want to eat chocolate every time. (Right?!) Here are five simple actions that can help you slow down and recover during high-pressure days:
  1. Breathe. Use the 10-5-10 technique: breathe in for a slow count of 10, hold it for a slow 5, then release it to a slow count of 10. Slowing blood flow and breathing puts you in control physically. If it doesn’t work once, do it again. It only takes 25 seconds, so do it as many times as needed.
  2. Take a break. Rushed and rattled is no way to make an important decision or engage with others. Walk outside; get fresh air for a fresh perspective.
  3. Be grateful. In the midst of a stressful time, jot down as many things you’re grateful for as possible. Set an alarm for one minute and start writing. This is a fun exercise that changes moods by changing focus and reminding of priorities.
  4. Identify the good. When you need to get a grip quickly, think about something positive about the situation you’re in. It could be a learning opportunity, or a chance to interact with someone you don’t know well yet, or a chance to show your skills in a new way. There’s usually something good even in the midst of stressful situations, so look for it when you need to get a grip.
  5. Recognize an accomplishment. When there’s uncertainty, think of something that began the same way and turned out well. Once you remember working through a similar circumstance, you can focus on working through the current one too.
Everyone feels rushed and ragged once in a while. Use these steps to get a grip so the heightened emotions don’t lead to poor decisions, hurt relationships, or damaged reputations. And, remember, everyone has days like that, so be patient when someone around is having one.

The slippery slope from confidence to arrogance

There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The topic has been on my mind, and I wasn’t sure where to draw the line, so I briefly researched and asked a dozen people for their perspectives.
According to dictionaries and different people, the difference between confidence and arrogance has to do with how one views others.

Confident people believe in themselves. They know they are competent, and their belief is not dependent on others. They may enjoy feedback and recognition, but they do not require it in order to feel good about themselves.

Arrogant people’s confidence depends on others’ weaknesses. They even point out others’ errors and faults to make themselves appear better. One colleague said, “Arrogant people only feel smart if someone else feels stupid.”

The tricky part about confidence and arrogance is that the line is so thin between them, it makes for a slippery slope. Confidence often turns in to arrogance after success.

Success requires confidence. Success requires the confidence to take risks regarding investments, innovations, and interactions. However, success can cause insecurity: when will the next risk pay off? What if the next one does not turn out well? What if that was a one-time success? The insecurity wears a mask called arrogance, hence, the slippery slope from confidence to arrogance.

Each article I read about arrogance described it as a cover for insecurity. Isn’t that interesting? The very thing arrogant people despise, weakness or insecurity, is what they are covering by putting others down to prop themselves up.

One of the most highly regarded experts on arrogance is University of Akron Dean Stanley Silverman who spent four years working with a research team to quantify arrogance.

"Here's what happens," Silverman said. "I'm worried that other people are going to realize that I'm not very competent at my job, so I'm going to put other people down, criticize others and belittle my employees because somehow I think I'm going to look better that way. If I put down everybody around me, it makes my candle shine a little brighter." (SOURCE:

The following eight behaviors are how arrogant people make their candle shine brighter:

1.     Drop names. 

2.     Look for criteria other than business performance to use when measuring success. Since business performance might not be so good, arrogant people focus on their degree, school, or job title.

3.     One-up others. Arrogant people have the best of the best and worst of the worst of whatever experience is being discussed. They have the best book published, the worst cold the doctor has ever seen, the best behaved child, the worst boss. They did the biggest project with the most difficult client for the most money ever. Confident people don’t need to brag. They let their work speak for itself.

4.     Have an answer for everything. Arrogant people will rarely say, “I don’t know but will find out.”

5.     Interrupt frequently because they are not really listening.

6.     Avoid eye contact because they don’t care about others unless they need something from the person.

7.     Arrive late to meetings because their time is more valuable than everyone else’s.

8.     Blame others for errors or low performance. It’s never their fault the team is struggling.
What other behaviors do you attribute to arrogance? The more we know, the better able we will be to ensure we are not sliding down that slope. 

1.     Recognizing our own arrogant behavior can help improve our relationships with our colleagues. The following eight suggestions also can help if you have to work with arrogant people:

2.     Point at them and declare, “I know why you’re so arrogant: because you are weak!” in your best eight-year-old nah-nah-nah voice. Just kidding—don’t confront them. They will see it as a compliment and it will just waste your time.

3.     Build your own confidence so you do not have time to give attention to negative people.

4.     Spend free time with positive people who do not diminish your accomplishments or try to impress you. Minimize the time you spend with the arrogant person.

5.     Admire and recognize the accomplishments of others. When the arrogant person sees you acknowledge someone else, he might alter his behavior in his quest for approval.

6.     Keep secrets to yourself. Anything you tell an arrogant person could end up as fodder for her own esteem-boosting if she resorts to putting you down to pull herself up.

7.     Do not badmouth the arrogant colleague. Some people actually believe any press is good press. Also, gossiping can lead to wasting too much time on a topic not worth it.

8.     Include others in your conversations with the arrogant person. “Russell, we have heard your view. Now it is time to hear from Sally.”

9.     Most importantly, realize their arrogance is not about you.

What else have you done to work successfully with arrogant people?

Since this topic has been on my mind, I asked a group of business professionals recently how many of them have ever worked with an arrogant colleague. Every hand raised high. When I asked if they were the arrogant person, all hands went down.

"If you're being arrogant, you're going to derail your own career," said Stanley Silverman, an organizational and industrial psychologist. "It's just a matter of when. Nobody is irreplaceable."  Even when an arrogant person is more skilled, the confident person will win out because they can work better with others internally and externally.

When it comes down to it, performance matters. No one will work their hardest for someone who puts them down or tries to make them feel inferior. The good news is that if you’ve begun the slippery slope from confidence to arrogance, you can get back on track and salvage your reputation.