Are you Frittering Away Your Time?

My 2 BEST EVER Productivity Tips (that really do work)

Did you have few things on your ‘to do’ list to get done over the holidays?

I sure did!  For me it was the HUGE pile of papers in the office that I’ve been stockpiling for ‘one day’ that I’d ‘get a round tuit’.  And yes – I do have a round tuit.  If you’d like one, click here to request your very own. 

Back to the story of the ‘one day’ pile … it was one of those piles of papers where you know what’s in there, yet you’re not quite sure how to handle them all.  Do I file it?  Make a call?  Sit down and read it now?  Heck – I don’t have the time for this!  What do I do? 

After starting the pile a couple of times and then deciding that a movie or book would be a more pleasant use of my time, I faced the ‘one day’ pile again.  This time I thought, would be the last time I faced ‘that’ pile. 

As I picked my way through the first few items I found myself thinking “I’ll deal with that when I come back to work.  Oh that document – that needs scanning – I’ll put it over there”.  And suddenly the one HUGE pile turned into multiple small piles.  Hmmm - this is not working!  I need a new strategy.  And I remembered something I was taught when working for ACC some years ago. 

Daily we had to deal with wobbling, tilting, precarious piles of manilla files that needed compensation payments to be manually entered and processed.  It was very easy to grow multiple piles of work and sit files in the ‘later’ space however the consequence was that people didn’t get paid, which took up more time on the phone dealing with their unhappy responses.  My incredibly well-organised and highly structured supervisor taught me that I should handle every file and piece of paper once and once only.  I remember her saying to me “if you pick it up, you complete the tasks and only put it down when the file work is finished.  This way you will achieve results”.  She was right.

So this is how I handled my HUGE ‘one day’ pile of papers.  As I picked up the book I’d finished reading, I packaged it to post to my sister-in-law.  I scanned the articles that I’d saved and filed them electronically.  I scheduled phone calls into Outlook, I skim read articles and made decisions to read in more detail, shred or scan.  Important hand-written notes to self were transferred into an outlook task to action and I shredded the remains as I went.  After a morning of diligent application of ‘handle it once and once only’ I was done.  Time for the happy dance?  Not quite …

I realised however I had one MONSTER task on the desk – it was a piece of paper that said ‘clean out the filing cabinet’.  I looked at all the papers in there and thought to myself that it would involve more time than I had available in my last few holiday days.  However, I’d touched the paper it was written on so I needed a solution.  Another lightbulb moment arrived … I entered the task into MS Outlook with the instruction to clear out one letter of the alphabet every week.  The task wasn’t urgent, it needed doing and was easier to complete by breaking it down.  I’m now up to ‘E’ in the cabinet.  Go me!

Surprisingly, these two approaches, handling once and once only and chunk the task into baby bites, with one short half-day of application, has seeped into my work practices this year and I’m finding it incredibly rewarding so far.  Especially when I realise I’ve completed all my tasks for the day/week and I’m able to use my evening time for other productive activities.  I really had no idea how much time I was frittering away. 

What would you achieve if you stopped ‘frittering’?  How much time would you have available for the things you really want to do?  How would your ‘business’ start to change?  Go on - give it a go ...!

by Barbara Jaques 

25 January 2017