How much time are you wasting? - Mark MacLeod

July 21, 2020 - Mark MacLeod

How much time are you wasting?

What does it mean to ‘waste’ time? What I consider to be a waste, you may consider valuable, and vice versa. How do we know if we are wasting time? We can likely figure it for ourselves. But how do we measure this across our companies?

The most objective definition for wasting time that I can think of is spending time in a way other than how you intended. For example, if I intended to work on a key project, but instead cleared emails and did other ‘busy work’, then I may have wasted time. Even though I was busy, I wasn’t focused on what I had already set as a priority.

This definition of wasting time applies equally to our personal lives. If I had a major clean up to do at home before guests come but instead binge-watched Netflix, I clearly wasted time. However, if I crushed all my priorities today and now want to relax with a glass of wine and binge-watch Netflix, I am good, because I am being intentional.

Whatever you are doing in this moment is not wasting time if you are intentionally doing it.

Setting intentions

There is no one way to do this, but here’s how I go about working and living with intention: Every Monday morning, I set goals for the coming week across three dimensions:

Work: Client and other priorities

Personal: Personal priorities, tasks

Growth: Learning and development for myself

I capture tasks, ideas, etc as they come up in a GTD system so they are out of my head but available for future consideration.

Each morning, I look at my priorities for the week and select the ones I will tackle that day. At the end of each day, I look back to assess how well I did on the day’s list and referring to that and the weekly list, I set my priorities fo the following day.

Now, there is a difference between intentions and goals. My tactical system above is really about goals: specific outcomes that I want to achieve. Intentions are different. They speak more to how I want to be. How I want to relate to myself and others.

I always want to accomplish specific goals. In addition, I want to do so while living a life where I have meaningful, positive interactions with everyone. A life that happens on purpose. By me, not to me.

Intentional Meetings

Goals are not just about individual tasks, but apply to every interaction, call or meeting we have. How many times have you joined a meeting with no clear goal or outcome? I would argue that is wasting time. In fact, I won’t accept meeting requests unless they have a clear goal.

How much of this is happening in your company? Think about the cost in salary and lost productivity of your average internal meeting.

I believe that our calls and meetings would be far shorter, crisper, more rewarding and/ or not happen at all if we took the time to set a goal and intention upfront. A specific goal or objective and an intention for how the meeting should proceed.

For example: The goal for this meeting is to review and sign off on our presentation for the upcoming board meeting. Our intention is to bring our full presence and attention to this meeting so we can harness our collective thoughts and deliver the best possible presentation.

Setting an explicit intention like this would lay waste to an all too common meeting practice: People doing email and surfing the web during meetings. They are wasting their own and everyone else’s time by not being present and contributing. The fact that this is commonplace just reinforces the fact that most meetings lack intention and may or may not even be needed.

Questions to consider:

Am I directing my life? Or is life happening to me?

Am I spending each day on the things that I have chosen upfront to focus on?

Am I able to achieve my goals each day and week? Personally and professionally?

What are the meetings like at my company? Do we have clear goals for them?

Are staff engaged and present?

Are our meetings energizing and productive? Or draining?

What meetings/ recurring activities are not adding value and should be eliminated?

What changes can we make to how we work/ our culture to promote more focus on clear goals and intentions for our work?

Photo by Mollie Sivaram on Unsplash

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