West End Training

Arrest the Time Thieves Effective Time Management

How often have you heard business people complaining about their lack of time to get their work done? Of all complaints we make, this is probably by far the most common. How often do we wish that we could add extra hours to the working day in order to get more work done and not cut into our leisure time?

Whilst it is not possible to add these extra hours to the day, there are certainly effective ways to maximise the existing time we have by making our use of it as efficient as possible. Without being aware of it, we often waste a great deal of valuable time on needless tasks when we could be using that time to do essential work.

Common ‘Time Thieves’:

• Paperwork
• Telephone calls
• Drop in visitors to the office
• Meetings
• Non-essential or less essential trivial tasks

To identify your own ‘Time Thieves’ try keeping a diary for a week of what you do during your working day; projects worked on, tasks carried out, conversations held with colleagues, telephone calls etc. Identify the ones which were needless, or that took longer than they should have. Then calculate how much time you could have gained if they were eliminated or reduced.


You should be – it is a common fact that we do spend much of our working days engaged in tasks that we could shorten or eliminate. If we shortened or eliminated them, we could maximise the working day, meaning essential regained leisure time to enjoy ourselves and spend time with our friends and family.

So how do we do it?

Paperwork is one the greatest time consumers of all. Whilst it is not a needless task, as it must be done, often it does not need to be done by us ourselves. Try to delegate paperwork as much as possible – even if you feel you could do it yourself far quicker. If it is a task that can be done by colleagues, then delegate it. Delegation is hard for some business people to do, but the more you do it, the more used to it you will get. Also, the better those you are delegating tasks to will get at doing them, and they will appreciate the added responsibility.

Telephone calls can clearly not be completely eliminated, but the volume of calls you are taking certainly can be. With a good receptionist, many calls can be dealt with at this level without needing to be passed onto you. They should be able to deal with the most basic enquiries, and take messages for more complicated ones. You can then designate a specific time in the day to return calls, allowing you to prepare an answer to the query beforehand and substantially reduce the call length. Unneeded interruptions from calls will allow you to work uninterrupted on more essential work. If you find yourself being kept by a caller on the phone, be firm and clear that you do not have the time for chatter.

Whilst drop-in callers are a pleasant break from work, they are most certainly a huge time thief. It is a difficult one to overcome for some people, as they feel they are being anti-social by refusing visits from their colleagues. However, reducing such social calls does not necessarily mean removing them altogether; instead, allocate a time in the day when you are happy to receive visitors. Make this clear to your work colleagues: they are sure to be understanding if you explain why. For those times when you are not available, keep your office door closed.

Meetings also cannot be removed for obvious reasons, but they can be made far more efficient. Too many company meetings drag on unnecessarily because of a lack of structure, discipline and by having needless people there. To avoid this, make sure that meetings start and end on time – if someone is late, then they will have to cope with this themselves when they arrive. They were late; it should not have to affect you too. Make sure that the agenda is followed, and that those in attendance are essential. Try to avoid unscheduled meetings falling in the middle of you doing other work, but schedule them for a more convenient time. If they really cannot wait, keep them short.

The biggest time thief of all is without a doubt the trivial tasks that we do in order to put off more essential work. It is a natural inclination to put off the hardest and most complicated work for as long as possible, by often doing other, less essential tasks first. In order to overcome this, make a list of the tasks that you need to get done, and determine whether they are essential, desirable or non-essential. Determine when your most productive period of the day is, and assign the essential tasks to then. Do not try and put them off – they need to be done, and rapidly. Intersperse those essential tasks with the desirable tasks to break down the slog of doing the essential tasks. Consider delegating the non-essential tasks, or perhaps even removing them altogether.

By making these changes, you will find yourself gaining time where you previously did not have it. Maximise this gained time by having a weekly schedule of work that needs to be done, and when you will do it. Whilst it does not need to be totally inflexible, it will at least give your working week a structure. Copy it down into your diary, so if something else comes up you know that that time is already committed to something else.

One of the best and easiest things you can do to save time may seem the simplest – tidy your desk. A tidy desk can save an endless amount of time, allowing you to gain access to files and equipment much more rapidly than from under piles of paperwork in a chaotic mess!

By making these alterations, and carefully planning your time, you can create yourself extra time, by not even adding hours to the day! By effectively using your time you can reserve your leisure time for yourself, and hopefully banish those nights of having to take unfinished work home.

Tops Tips for Effective Time Management:

• Get a good secretary
• Delegate non-essential tasks and paperwork to colleagues
• Designate a time in the day to phone people
• Designate a time in the day or week to see colleagues
• Keep your door closed
• Keep meetings short, focused and follow the agenda
• Do not put off essential but boring tasks
• Identify when you work best, and do your most complicated work then
• Have a weekly schedule
• Tidy your desk!

West End Training runs a one day ‘Time Management’ course that tackles these issues, and trains you to maximise your working time to gain maximum benefit.