Social Distractions

How Wasted Time Costs You Money and Business
and How to Get It All Back

Earlier in the year I received an e-mail from a client containing a funny article called “Study Finds that Working at Work Improves Productivity.” I found it again on the Internet as well. Not only did I find this article to be refreshingly funny, but no matter how fake and satirical it was, it probably hit the mark on how professionals may be actually spending a lot of their day. I thought this would be a good time to talk about how important it is to actually be working while you’re at work.

The article stated: “Our findings are astounding: By simply sitting down and doing work, employees can dramatically increase their output of goods and services,’ said Deputy Undersecretary of Labor Charlotte Ponticelli, who authored the report. ‘In fact, “working” may revolutionize the way people work.

The “study” found that a professional can increase their output threefold just by… working! Imagine that!

This topic is even more important now because of the state of the economy and because in 2009 there may be many more shifts in the business world, including businesses closing, filing for Chapter 11, conducting mergers or acquisitions, and cutting jobs.

Wouldn’t it be great to strip away anything that’s getting in the way of your productivity and doing the absolute best job you can do while you’re on the job? It could allow you to reinforce your value to the company for whom you work and is likely to strengthen the business overall.

I want to challenge you to pay attention to where your time goes throughout your work day. Catch yourself every time you are chatting on the phone with family or friends, watching YouTube on the Internet or looking at jokes in e-mail during business hours. Another good one is shopping on the Internet.

I have a client who owns a small business in Anne Arundel County. Let’s call her Joyce. Joyce has been in her industry for quite some time, but has owned her business for less than a year. When she called me in for productivity consulting, she suffered from the same afflictions that most of my other clients suffer from: too much paper, a file system that isn’t complete, no task management system, time management issues, too much e-mail, etc….

However, when we got into some discussions about how she managed her time and her day I uncovered two things that were big time suckers. One is common and the other is becoming more common for many professionals these days.

The first issue is lost time due to talking on the phone for non-business reasons. Joyce would spend a couple of hours a day on the phone with friends. If you find yourself on the phone with friends, relatives, co-workers, etc. and you’re being a Chatty Chuck or Chatty Cathy, then check this at the door to your office. Be very careful about how much time in the day you spend talking about non-business topics.

For my business owner readers, you may think that because you own your own business you can do anything you want and it won’t make a bit of difference. Well, depending on what it is and how much time you have, you may be right, but for most business owners, time is money and they don’t have a lot of time. So the best thing to do is make every minute count and be sparing with the breaks and the free time. It’s not free. We all need breaks, but make sure it’s the minority of your time, not the majority. You want your business to grow and succeed, right?

The second cause of lost time for Joyce was Facebook. Well, here’s a new one. And while it’s not new, I know, it’s new in the sense that it’s just now bubbling up into my discussions with clients this year and we are discussing how it’s affecting their focus, concentration and productivity.

I can tell, of course, that Facebook and all the other social networking sites won’t be losing speed or going away anytime soon. However, Joyce was losing at least an hour every day to Facebook and it wasn’t for business purposes.

While social networking sites are great for personal and business reasons, it’s how you manage your time and your day around them that you have to watch out for. I want to share with you what I recommended to Joyce and then tell you how these changes resulted in saved time and an increase in potential new business for her.

As Joyce sees it, I gave her “permission” to tell her friends that if they called during business hours, she will let it go to voice mail and call them back when she takes a break for lunch or after hours. Her friends respected her wishes and now Joyce has gotten those two or three hours back in her day.

As for Facebook, she was using it for personal reasons, so I told her to look at it after business hours.
She’s actually turned away from it entirely and I’m not even sure she looks at it after business hours. In any case, she’s gotten that hour back every day.

It was imperative that Joyce start using these new recommendations or her business would continue to feel the effects of lost time. Now that she has instituted these tactics, her time devoted to business has increased almost 40% and she’s enjoying progress and peace of mind. Let me share with you the results of these changes.

One of Joyce’s big accomplishments was getting established as a woman-owned business and is now approved to do business with the government. Prior to our work together, she hadn’t had the time to research the steps to take, fill out the appropriate forms, etc. Now, after months of wanting to get to this, she is approved and has recently submitted a $10,000 bid for new business. In fact, Joyce now has more time to submit many other bids, which can increase her business greatly.
Another big accomplishment that Joyce has enjoyed was entering all of the business cards (about 200) that had decorated her desk for many months into “Constant Contact.” She was recently able to send out the first of many e-mail blasts to come and it resulted in a big increase in her website traffic. Hopefully that will generate more business for her as well!

So take a page from her book and watch where your time goes. Be brutally honest with yourself and see if you can’t squeeze a few more productive minutes or hours out of your day. I always think it’s important to do so, but that’s just me. I’m all about productivity. But now I want to emphasize it. Protect your valuable time. Simplify. Get everything out of your way that could be holding you back. Now’s not the time to be wasting time. Now more than ever!

The satirical article referenced above can be found on the website of “The Onion”:

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