HR & Management

How to address a time waster in your team

4 min read

20 November 2017

Every employee, regardless of their position, is guilty of being a time waster at some point or other, but when does this behaviour stop being a harmless quirk and start getting in the way of productivity and positive results?

You don’t just become a time waster. It’s habitual, behaviour that crops up when people are so stuck in their way of doing things – and usually they believe it has got them to where they are – so there is no reason to change. But imagine if each employee were to consider honestly how they could do their job at a faster rate and higher standard.

The following are some common behaviours of a time waster, and ways in which you can improve on these habits and get the most out of your team.

Having too many open loops at one time

Open loops are activities, ideas and decisions that people have started but not finished. They are like open tabs on a web browser that just sit there idle.

The second you think about something or conceive a new idea, you open a new loop, and having too many of these will have the same effect on a person as it will on a computer: the battery is drained, processing of other information is slowed down, and the whole system may well crash and need rebooting.

Not only does this waste time in the workplace, but takes a toll on the people who have too many open loops, who soon become exhausted by having so much going on.

Don’t let these open loops get you anxious or frustrated, but instead, take basic steps with your team to close them collaboratively. Get together and discuss the loop, how you will go about closing it and whether or not you should put any other tasks on the backburner to make this loop a priority.

Believing “perfect” exists

In business, perfectionism is public enemy number one, because it is a completely false ideal, yet endlessly chased. No job, relationship, lifestyle or piece of work is perfect, so in order to be able to work towards high quality jobs, it is important to let go of the idea of perfection.

High standards are a different matter: it is natural to desire high standards in your life when they bring enjoyment to your life and work. Hardship and time wasting occur when one becomes obsessed with perfection, the ultimate unattainable goal.

Trying to bring obsessive perfectionists around to the idea of “good enough” is a difficult thing, but do your best not to get frustrated – their fixation on perfection is very serious to them, and making light of this, or getting angry about it, will not help things at all. Start off by focusing on small, trivial things like organising a team meal or redrafting an informal internal document that doesn’t need to be seen.

They will need time to adjust their expectations and how they perceive the expectations of others. Perfectionists pride themselves on their integrity and work ethic, so you will need to approach them with patience if you hope to support them.

There is often more to time wasting than people think, and many times, it can be dealt with effectively with minimal effort and disruption to the way of things around the workplace. But give it a little time and thought, and make sure to discuss with the time waster any concerns you may have and any action you plan to take.

Karen Meager and John McLachlan are the co-founders of Monkey Puzzle Training and co-authors of Time Mastery: Banish Time Management Forever (£12.99, Panoma Press).