Time thieves: What are they and what effects do they have?

Published on 13/03/2024

Time thieves: What are they and what effects do they have?

Published on 13/03/2024
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Time thieves: What are they and what effects do they have?

Start identifying time thieves that prevent you from being productive and meeting your work goals. We explain the most common types of internal and external time thieves so you can avoid them and increase your performance.

The day has “only” twenty-four hours, so knowing how to manage our workday properly will result in optimal levels of productivity and professional efficiency. But on our journey, we must recognize the dreaded time thieves that appear both in the office and during telecommuting to confront them, because only by keeping them at bay will we be able to achieve the success we desire.

It can be argued that time isn’t the problem, but rather that self-management dictates the course of our day. We could divide our time self-management into two categories:

  • Negative, when at the end of the day, the set goals haven’t been achieved, even though there’s a feeling of not having wasted a single minute.
  • Positive, if every moment has been used to carry out a task or to rest.

Facts about time thieves

Time thieves are the main enemy of productivity for many reasons:

  • They reduce our actual working hours by 50 to 70%.
  • They affect our concentration and attention levels.
  • They cause delays of between 6 and 9 minutes every time we succumb to their temptation, as this is the period of time that psychologists say the brain takes to return to maximum performance after an interruption.
  • They interfere with the goals we set, delaying goal attainment.              

Types of time thieves

Time thieves don’t only come from external sources. Each individual is solely responsible for organizing their time and deciding what to dedicate it to. Knowing how to manage our time will help us optimize it for our benefit, which is why it’s important to focus on this aspect.

The first step to fighting against this discreet enemy is to know it well. There are two types of time thieves: external and internal.

External time thieves

These are defined as a set of circumstances that exceed the individual’s control. Among them would be:

  • The phone.
  • Instant messaging services.
  • Email.
  • Work meetings.
  • Interruptions, etc. 

Internal time thieves

These are circumstances inherent to the individual and manifest in their behavior and way of managing their time and tasks. The most significant ones are:

  • Multitasking habits.
  • Poor planning.
  • Lack of goals.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Procrastination.
  • Difficulty saying no.

Although in practice, one could also speak of the existence of a third mixed type, which combines the previous two and is quite common in the work environment.

An example of this hybrid that interrelates internal and external time thieves would be when we face a day were too many meetings have been scheduled for us. It’s external because they come from the organization, but it’s also internal because it’s in our hands to prioritize the most necessary ones and postpone or not attend those that aren’t.

Strategies to combat them

To combat these time thieves, it’s essential to adopt specific strategies:

Prioritization and time blocking

Effective prioritization is vital for time management. This strategy involves evaluating and classifying tasks based on their importance and urgency, allowing you to focus first on the most critical ones. The Eisenhower Technique, also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix, is an effective tool for prioritizing tasks, helping to distinguish between what is urgent and what is important.

Pomodoro Technique and SMART goals

The Pomodoro Technique is a method that alternates focused work with short breaks, which can significantly increase productivity. On the other hand, setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and time-bound) provides a clear framework for achieving your goals.

Creation of a daily task list

A well-organized daily to-do list helps you stay focused and manage your time efficiently. Prioritizing tasks, being realistic, and reviewing the list periodically are key aspects of its effectiveness.

Managing emails and avoiding multitasking

Minimizing distractions, such as frequent emails, is crucial for maintaining productivity. Creating a distraction-free environment and limiting time spent on emails can significantly improve focus and efficiency. Additionally, focusing on one task at a time, rather than falling into the multitasking trap, helps maintain the quality and efficiency of work.

Training and recognition of a job well done

Offering continuous training and recognizing a job well done are essential aspects of motivating the team and improving productivity. This includes acknowledging achievements and encouraging continuous improvement.

Gamification and bonuses

Introducing playful elements in the work environment through gamification can increase employee motivation and commitment. Combining this with a system of rewards and bonuses can significantly boost productivity.

Healthy and efficient workspace

A comfortable and well-equipped workspace is essential for productivity. This includes good lighting, ergonomic furniture, high-quality equipment, and a space that encourages interaction and comfort.

Using Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law suggests that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Using defined time blocks for specific tasks can improve efficiency and productivity.

These strategies, when implemented effectively, can help combat time thieves and increase productivity at work. Remember that time management isn’t just about maximizing output but also about working smarter, happier, and healthier. 

The importance of technology in fighting time thieves

Technology has transformed the traditional workplace in several ways. With the rise of remote work, cloud computing, and digital collaboration tools, we can now work from anywhere, collaborate with anyone, and access information and resources from anywhere in the world, leading to greater flexibility, efficiency, and productivity in the workplace.

Have you ever wondered how technology can be your best ally in the fight against time thieves? The smart use of technological tools, such as productivity measurement software, can be a game-changer, especially in telecommuting environments where time thieves can be harder to detect.

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