Who stole all my time? How to foil the Time Thieves


Queen of the Time Thieves

Do you ever get to the end of the day without achieving anything you’d planned?

You arrive at your desk, bright-eyed and raring to go, nicely focused on your priorities for the day, and slowly, slowly, without really noticing, your focus goes awry, the hours slip away – and you don’t get to tick a thing off your ‘to-do’ list.

Isn’t it just soul destroying? Where on earth did all the time go?

Believe me, you are not alone

Every time I run Taming Time – my time management training for charities – people despairingly tell me what a huge problem this disappearing time issue is.

They tell me about the precious minutes wasted waiting for slow computers; interruptions from busy colleagues who urgently need their help; over-running, unfocused meetings; the distraction of endless emails and phone calls and social media. The list goes on.

Recognise what they’re talking about?

I sympathise hugely. It’s deeply frustrating, I know.

You could be a very, very slow worker (though I doubt that) but it’s more likely you’ve been got by the Time Thieves, seemingly insignificant practices which undermine your best efforts to be productive.

They’re wily creatures these Time Thieves

They sneak up unawares, stealing time left, right and centre, without you quite realising what’s going on. And before you know it, they have filched a good chunk of your day.

It’s tempting to think there’s not much you can do – it’s out of your hands, right?  There are simply too many interruptions, too much to do, not enough time.

But you know, if you’re willing to have a good look at the way you (or your team) is working right now, it may be that some Time Thieves can be sent packing – with a different way of thinking, a slight tweak in behaviour, a fresh approach.

In my Taming Time workshops we usually come up with 20 or so strategies for telling these Time Thieves where to go. Here’s three of them:

Three killer ways to foil the Time Thieves

1. The Interruption thief

It’s hard to tell a colleague hovering at your shoulder that you can’t help right now, isn’t it? (In the workshop we practice doing it). But bear in mind that if you’re always available to others you will never get through your own priorities. That’s just the truth of it.

Taming Time Tip: Instead of automatically saying yes to every interruption, practice saying “no” more often (nicely, of course). Tell them when you can help and stick to it. Colleagues would rather hear a warm, “I can’t do this right now but I can do…”  than a disgruntled “OK, then” that doesn’t get honoured and can end up ruining work relationships when people let each other down.

2. The Procrastination thief

This is one of the biggest, greediest Time Thieves of all. It saps your energy and often means that the most vital pieces of work simply don’t get done.

Taming Time Tip: Take ten minutes every morning to plan your day and put the most challenging task at the top of your list.  Do it first, before you do anything else. When you tick off your #no1 job you give yourself an energy boost which will have you flying through the rest of your work.

3. The Email thief

You might have dozens of emails flooding your in-box every day but when you check them all the time, you distract yourself from the job in hand, which breaks your concentration and means you take far longer to accomplish it.

Taming Time Tip: Turn off the flow of emails and only look at them three times a day. (See my recent post for more on getting to grips with emails.)

Over to you

So, what do you think? Are you (or your team members) letting time slip by unnoticed? Perhaps you have some other tips to share?  Please do add your thoughts by replying in the Comments Box.

What next?

If you’d like to talk to me about how Taming Time training can help your team members find an extra 90 minutes in their day, call Katie on 0208 772 7808 or click here to arrange a chat. You could have the first workshop booked in for September if you’re quick.




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6 responses to “Who stole all my time? How to foil the Time Thieves”

  1. Madeleine avatar

    Ooh, great tips, Katie. I work from home, so numbers two and three are definitely the worst. I have different email accounts for a few different clients so lots of mail to wade through! Answering emails often feels like work, but I’ve really noticed that the more I check emails, the less I seem to actually achieve. Introducing a strict schedule for checking them has worked wonders.

  2. Katie Duckworth avatar
    Katie Duckworth

    Thanks, Madeleine. It’s good to hear that limiting your email checking is working for you. I find people resist it – but it’s so liberating.

  3. Tara Zutshi avatar

    Great tips Katie, it’s email and social media that are my worst time thieves.

  4. Katie Duckworth avatar

    Absolutely, Tara. It’s so easy to let time just disappear if I’m not really conscious of what I’m doing on there.

  5. Bill B avatar
    Bill B

    Thanks Katie

    I can spend all day doing e-mails and not get anything else done! I can remember the days when you only had to check e-mail once a week!

  6. helen Duckworth avatar
    helen Duckworth

    With me it’s procrastination. I just seem to love leaving starting on a big task until 4.30 and then- oh dear- I’ll have to leave it for tonight- just as I am getting into it. My tip would be just start those big tasks. Make a list, break the task into smaller tasks and just get on with it. Once you’ve actually started it’s often easy to just keep going.