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Out of time
Time-wasting is costing companies at least two hours per employee a day.

Charlene Smith
Media24, 22 May 2008

A survey by America Online and Salary.com shows that in the United States of America, the average worker admits to frittering away 2.09 hours per 8-hour workday, not including lunch and scheduled breaks.

Time is money
Liza van Wyk, CEO of AstroTech a major training organisation for executives and managers which runs a course called Mastering Time & Self Management says "old thinking was that you get on the employees case, punish, push, monitor tightly and get rid of. Today we know there are sciences of how to perform better."

"A good deal of poor time management is about self-deception," Van Wyk says, "if you take the way the average person deals with urgent but not important matters, the noise of urgency creates an illusion of importance, but the activities are only important to someone else. We spend a lot of time meeting other people's priorities and expectations."

Stealing your own time
Poor time management is likely to see us burn-out faster. Prolonged tense-energy, or tense-tiredness, affects emotional intelligence and raises vulnerability to anxiety and fearfulness meaning that while apparently very busy, you're persistently losing effectiveness. The state to strive for is calm-energy which is low tension, high energy where you feel serene, in control, alert, optimistic and creatively intelligent.

"Take a look at politicians during an election," Van Wyk says, "the very long US primaries are a good example of the need for candidates to sustain calm-energy, if they get into a tense-energy state, they start saying and doing things they shouldn't and accelerate their chances of losing."

Procrastination kills
Classic time-wasters include attempting too much at once; poor health; a cluttered desk or office; lack of self discipline; prolonged courtesy calls; inability to say 'no' and a lack of co-ordination. Ignoring the phone adds to time and costs – you'll have to call back anyway, rather deal with it immediately. Procrastination allows issues to develop and become more complex to resolve.

Improve your time management with these tips:
• Tidy your office, throw out what you don't need, get filing up to date and have a clean desk.
• Keep documents to one page, get off mailing lists, reject junk mail, screen phone calls, learn to use software correctly and cancel unnecessary subscriptions.
• Channel day dreaming into something that productive – give yourself a definite time and place to meditate each day and just one subject to muse on.
• At the start or end of each day plan tomorrow's activities with a to-do list and rank in order of priority.
• Good planning includes establishing objectives, determining resources, assigning accountability, action plans, deadlines and review points. Assess progress at the same time each day.
• Keep meetings to a minimum but when they are held stick to an agenda and a time frame.
• At the end of each day have 15 to 20 minutes where you sit back and reflect on the day and how you could have done it better.
• Don't put off for tomorrow what you can complete today.
• If you have to wait in someone's outer office for an appointment take a book, your computer or work you can scan while waiting.
• Delegate or outsource that which is not imperative for you to do.