I would venture to say that most people who waste time at work don't even realize they're doing it. Here are four things that can greatly contribute to time wasting.
Look, I love multitasking and I would hire in a minute a person who can do it well. But when multitasking is done poorly, it can really waste time and muddle up the works. Poor multitasking involves having many projects up in the air at one time and never really committing fully to any of them. It's sort of like my husband's approach to home projects: Start a bathroom remodel but leave it to go work on refurbishing one of his old cars. Not that I'm complaining. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm complaining.
Learn to prioritize tasks better. And I don't mean by the level of importance of the person requesting the task. Go first for the tasks that won't take too long. Look at your list of tasks and determine which ones you're going to need more information about. Ask for the information and then while you're waiting, look at some of the low-hanging fruit.
Depending too much on email
I have to fight the dependence on email all the time. I love email. I express myself better that way and I have a record of what was agreed upon. But I have to admit that there are times when a quick phone call is much more efficient. With email, you throw out a question and you have to wait until the person you're asking has time to respond. And I don't know about you guys, but I work in an environment where email is routinely ignored. Instead of sending subsequent email reminders, sometimes it's just faster to pick up the phone or go throw yourself in that person's office, brandishing a lighted torch if necessary.
No one wants to be an Internet Nazi. Well, I guess some managers have no problem with that. But you shouldn't take advantage of an atmosphere that is laid back in terms of web surfing. You might think you're just going to pop in and read up on an interesting topic not related to work, but we all know how those pesky hyperlinks can lure you into more pages. Before you know it, you've fallen into the rabbit hole.
I'm a big fan of communication in the corporate environment, but I have to admit that sometimes doing that communicating in a meeting can make me want to light my hair on fire just to fight the boredom. Here's the deal: You have to have an agenda and you need to have there someone with the cojones to make sure the agenda is followed. That person should feel no compunction about tabling unrelated topics and curtailing off any of those long soliloquies that intelligent people are prone to.
Also, if you're going to be using any kind of presentation in the meeting, or doing a conference call, set all that up a few minutes before the start time. Nothing is more frustrating for busy staffers than to sit around and wait for the equipment to be set up.
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.