Time Wasters and Productivity Inhibitors: What to do about it

We have been providing advice to organizations on operational excellence, for a number of years. Central to our approach is the concept of Productivity Ecosystem. We advocate that Sustainable Productivity is achieved when individuals, their equipment, and their tools are in balance, and in sync with environmental realities, over time. Fundamentally, productivity is about being effective with your time, energy, resources and talent.

Notwithstanding, after years of practice and collecting data, it is obvious to us that there are infamous Time Wasters, the villains of the story, those that create distraction, confusion and derail the value-creation processes. They suck your energy, erode your time, eat up valuable resources, and end up ruining your ability
to focus on the things that really matter. There are productivity inhibitors.

Following is a list of the most relevant culprits, according to our own non-scientific research. Some are systemic (organizational) deficiencies other are individual related (the self component).


In general, formal meetings serve a variety of purposes or combinations of them. A meeting is a way of getting together to share information, make decisions, analyze business results or market scenarios, give or receive feedback, plan for action, etc., you choose. Meetings, among other benefits, are supposed to be great for saving time.

Nonetheless, in contemporary times, we are overutilizing meetings to address all sort of business-related matters. Most meetings are pointless, with the wrong people invited, too much off subject talking, and no decisions made! Studies have shown that 35% of people believe their weekly team meetings to be a waste of their precious time. Moreover, participants not always can arrive at a decision, the “too many cooks spoil the soup” syndrome. Many meetings suffer from the drawback that members come unprepared and feel that the others will do the thinking and talking. Poor preparation is also so common that meetings fail their main purpose, requiring more meetings to get to the desired point.

Properly structure and streamline your meeting and save time. Every formal meeting needs to be structured: an agenda, deciding who needs to be on it, determining the time allocated per participant, defining the purpose of each item of the agenda, naming a facilitator and a timekeeper, and—the most important stuff—end every
meeting with actionable items!

Communicating in an unstructured manner

It is a phone call, a person knocking on your office door for a ‘one-minute chat’, or stopping you while you are moving from one meeting to another (yes, this is the most common one) or outside your office, or any kind of unsolicited interaction. Or the tsunami of emails, IMs, or WhatsApp messages of modern life.

Interruptions kill our productivity, take away our focus, and can wreak havoc on our motivation. Yet we treat them as a given in today’s work culture. According to author Jory MacKay, 51.5% of people are interrupted frequently throughout the day, with an additional 46.5% saying they get interrupted at least a few times a day.

Need to say NO to interruptions and to all non-value adding activities. Need to protect your time and your energy to focus on the things that really matter: value-creation activities.

Poor delegation

There is a school of thought that your usual options facing a task are to delegate, to drop, or to re-define, for better time-efficient results.

Oftentimes we do a poor job in delegating tasks or projects to individuals and group not properly fit for that. What we really do is to dump on them: this is a recipe for failure. The rework becomes part of the norm, stress and frustration elevate; burnout is the logical consequence.

Delegation must be a thoughtful process. The 5Ws method needs to be considered. At the end of the day we all need the right talent doing the right job, the right way.
Delegate to save your energy. Energy is not just physical but also mental, and emotional. Having goals that are unambiguous, a process to ensure follow through, and well negotiated expectations will definitely help in the process.

To-Do lists

Was it Stephen Covey that said that when it comes to managing time, we moved from a generation (the first) that were carrying notes and checklists to the fourth generation, the one that is about quality-of-life results.

The To-Do list goes all the way back to the First Generation. According to most pundits in the area of productivity, to-do list is simply an ever-growing list of tasks not yet done, overwhelming your mind and causing stress and negativity, the Zeigarnik Effect.

Instead, say Gary Keller, the author of The One Thing, why not focus on scheduling these tasks into your calendar, and actually planning time to get them done? What is really recommended is a systematic and organized approach for capturing and prioritizing everything that needs to be done—the things that really matter, creating a plan, calendarizing it, and then flawlessly executing the tasks.

Rafael Jaén Williamson
Senior Advisor de Komunika Latam
Linkedin: Rafael Jaén Williamson

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