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.

Is consensus over-rated?

Consensus is great, right? Building consensus leads to better ideas, work efficiencies, and higher morale. Consensus is so important, there are courses taught on the subject and consultants earn big bucks when they facilitate consensus-building sessions for companies across the globe.

When there’s consensus, everyone is happy with the solution or action. Everyone buys in when they have contributed, which leads to higher productivity. Plus, there is a sense of camaraderie as people work together on the shared goal.
But there is a downside to consensus.

The most significant downside to consensus-building is the time it takes. It takes time in meetings, whether one-on-one or with groups, to build consensus. But, even beyond that, keeping the consensus as solutions are implemented is time-consuming. I wonder if too much time is spent here on reaching consensus.
Who says we have to be 100% happy with every solution we have to implement?
Can’t we implement solutions even when they are not our idea or preference? Is the expectation of joy for every minute of our day too high?
When too much time is spent gaining agreement for too many solutions, consensus can prevent accountability.
For example, let’s say two technical staff members explore an idea for a new product your company could offer. They do the relevant market research, calculate forecasts, and build the prototype that gains approval of their director to proceed. If the product fails or succeeds, the buck stops with the two staff members. Accountability doesn’t mean they get fired if it doesn’t work. It means they need to explain where the research and forecasts erred. They don’t get to say, “Well, it failed but Bob approved it!” On the other hand, if the product is a wild success, accountability means they get rewarded for success.
Consensus is not needed for everything it is used for all the time. Don’t use it to get out of making decisions that are your responsibility. Instead, get ideas and input from others, then make the decision. Also, resist the temptation to insist on consensus when you are invited to give input and ideas. Feel free to share then let our colleague decide.
When consensus leads to lack of accountability and to procrastination, the good part of it is lost.

How to avoid the emotional roller coaster ride of the thin-skinned

Do you know someone who bruises easily? Over the weekend, I noticed a big bruise on my husband’s arm. The variations of purple would make any K State fan a fan of the bruise. Bob explained that the bruise is from having blood drawn at the doctor’s office earlier in the week, which led to a discussion about whether the blood taker was incompetent or his skin is just sensitive. We ended up talking about how skin reacts in different situations. Although we talked literally, the same is true figuratively.

Some people are thick-skinned and others are thin-skinned. As Bob deals with the arm bruise, others have to deal with emotional bruises caused by their emotional thin skin.
Thin-skinned people often experience an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs that increase stress, reduce productivity, diminish trust, and damage relationships. Someone who sees setbacks or criticism as major life events lives a painful existence much of the time.

Some people haven’t faced major life challenges, so they think minor setbacks are a big deal. Perhaps their parents removed all opportunity for adversity (don’t get me started on helicopter parenting), or perhaps they haven’t taken many risks. Either way, they have not experienced major challenges, so the minor ones are magnified to them.
Or, the opposite could be true. Perhaps the thin-skinned people faced major challenges and are still reeling from the impact.

If you want to hone your ability to bounce back after life challenges or adversarial interactions with others, consider the following strategies:
  1. Release past adversity. Harboring insecurities from the past is not helping you thrive today.
  2. Focus externally. Thin-skinned people often are internally focused, but focusing on others can help you see the adverse situation more clearly.
  3. Accept advice. Build relationships with a support network you will trust to advise you when obstacles arise. Thin-skinned people often have a defeatist mindset, but if you have a close network who will tell you the truth, they can help toughen you up.
  4. See the big picture. In the “All-In” book and sessions, I talk with people about seeing the bigger picture of their day, tasks, work, lives. When we are focused on the mundane, or negative situations, they can overtake everything else. Seeing the big picture helps people stop sweating the small stuff. It also helps people focus on their own goals instead of others’.
  5. Think positive. No, skipping up and down the halls whistling Zippity Doo Dah will not help thicken your skin. But, recollections of triumph can. When you’re down and out, recall other successes and let those inspire you to work through the current situation.
  6. Reframe the situation. Instead of dwelling on the adversity for the challenges, reframe it so you see the possibilities. Draw a vertical line down the center of a sheet of paper. On the left, list the parts of the situation that are not going well or that you do not like. On the right, list the possible outcomes and the benefits of going through this. Use that sheet to help you position the situation for solutions instead of failure.
  7. Develop scar tissue. A great way to get thick skin is to be in situations that require you to use thick skin. So, seek advice and feedback from others. It is not easy hearing criticism, and some people are not great at delivering it, but it will help you toughen up.
  8. Apply what works. Although the criticism or setback can sting, consider what would be useful in moving your forward. Take the parts you can use and let the rest go.
If you develop a more favorable cognitive emotional pattern, you can develop thick skin that enables you to thrive during setbacks from major life challenges to minor criticisms. Also, be aware of how your actions inflict pain on others and try not to bruise other people. In the immortal words of Michael Stipes, remember, “Everybody hurts, sometimes.”

Quote du jour
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt