Wasting Time at Work

I will waste a good deal of time today. That’s because my workplace culture practically requires wasting time at work. My job as a non-profit executive carries an expectation that I will be present and available for my people. Whether they be employees, clients, donors or volunteers doesn’t matter.

When someone phones, emails or drops by and wants to visit with me, I’m expected to be available. If I’m not available, somebody may think I’m not doing my job. This availability necessitates the wasting of time. You see, when I’m available for the people on the job, whoever they may be, I’m not able to focus intensely on productivity. It’s practically impossible to get in the productivity zone when my door is open and someone may walk in at any time.

Presence takes Precedent over Productivity

Unless you work for yourself, you are at the mercy of your workplace once you walk through the office door. Presence often takes precedent over productivity. I can accomplish more working from my computer at home than I can in the office. I can write better, create more content and think more strategically. Yet, the cultural expectation that I be present wins out over productivity most days.

Once in the office, productivity matters, but not often as much as presence. Office chats, interruptions to discuss seemingly pressing issues, and of course, emails that simply absolutely must be returned right this minute rule the day.

I’m wrestling with how to move important, but non-urgent issues to the front of the line and urgent, but not-so-important things to the back of the line. The tyranny of the urgent leads to wasted time and lost productivity.

Maybe one day we will arrive. Some companies are allowing more offsite work. Others are still stuck in older models. So we continue to waste time and torpedo productivity in the name of sitting in the office.

One Big Thing

One big thing in each day is identifying your “big thing.” Identify one thing that you absolutely, positively want to accomplish that day. Then do it before you do anything else. You can’t stop the time wasting at the office. You can’t always put up a do-not-disturb sign on your door. However, if you get your “one thing” done first thing, the interruptions and time-wasters won’t derail the most important thing on your agenda.

One final thing. You decide what your most important thing is for the day. Piece together enough successful one-thing days and you’ll be opening the door for success. Don’t wait on your workplace to be perfect. That will never happen. As long as I choose to be the director of a non-profit that exists to help people, I’ll be expected to be present at work with the people.

But when I get my “one thing” accomplished before coming into the office, the day is already successful before the time-wasting begins.

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