Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Funny How Time Slips Away

ClockIn today’s rushed and hurried world, we are all pressed for time.

We crave more of it. We are always running out of it. We dreams of ways to increase our supply of it.

How to make that happen?

The answer is not a faster computer or new time-saving app. Both of those will require … wait for it … time to learn. And both are quick fixes that will last only until the new upgrade arrives.

Lasting relief will require a change in behavior. This starts by recognizing and avoiding some common time-sinks that suck minutes – and hours – from our days.

The Tyranny of Email

One of the biggest time-wasters is email. Leaving your program open all day long is a mistake. The temptation is to click on every new in-box arrival. You will be constantly distracted and never get anything done.

In fact, one study showed that 30 percent of professionals spend up to two hours per day checking their email.

Take control by turning off email notifications. Carve out a block of time to review your mail. Once in the morning and once in the evening should suffice. Stick to this schedule – and keep your program closed all other times.

Other email tips: handle messages only once if possible. Delete them or reply immediately. Use canned replies (“Out of office” “Will review and get back with you”). Enter future dates on your calendar. Never, ever open messages from suspicious sources.

Five Time Sinks – And Ways to Escape Them

Here are some other time thieves:

  • Hallway Chat Trap. It starts out as a quick conversation with an officemate. Hey, did you see “True Detective” last night? Next thing you know, you’re getting a line-by-line retelling of the entire episode.

The solution: look both ways before leaving your office. Make sure you have the right-of-way. If you happen to get stuck in traffic, use the tried-and-true, “Sorry, but I’ve got a conference call in two minutes.”

  • Project Paralysis. Some projects are so big and consequential we don’t know how to begin. We fritter away time on false starts. We stress over the magnitude of the task.

The solution: Break the job up into bite-sized action items. “You don’t actually do a project, you can only do action steps related to it,” says David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.”

  • Game Changers. Never mind actually playing Candy Crush Saga, you can blow half a day just declining Facebook friends’ requests to join the fun. Just. Stay. Away.

The solution: Get your thrills vicariously by reading this article on the most popular online games.

  • The Multi-tasking Mistake. Study after study has shown that multi-tasking is counterproductive. This article says it can sap between 20 and 40 percent of your efficiency. That cost increases with complexity – meaning if you’re juggling several difficult tasks, you’ll waste time on all of them.

The solution: Bring your best energy and attention to the matter at hand. Then move on to the next item on your list.

  • The Endless Meeting. We’ve all been in meetings that were pointless to start with and get worse as they proceed. According to one survey, 67 percent of meetings are considered “failures” by the executives who suffer through them. Millions of dollars are wasted on fruitless gatherings.

The solution. Prepare a written agenda. Schedule the meeting for no more than 30 minutes. Designate a time-keeper. Stay on topic. Invite further discussion in one-on-one meetings.

  • Waiting for Your Computer to Boot Up. Using outdated tools – computers, fax machines, copiers, software – saps time and money.

The solution. Upgrade. If you aren’t tech-savvy, hire a consultant. The initial outlay will be made up by greater efficiency and peace of mind.

What are some things that steal time in your office? How do you cope?


Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney who has practiced North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact him at

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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