Avoiding External Time Wasters

The external time wasters can be: (1) Telephone (2) Visitors (3) Meeting (4) Paperwork and corresponding (5) Procedures and systems.

Telephone: Telephone perhaps one of the greatest time savers. It reduces physical visits, correspondence, and helps in quick information for decision making. Yet, it can also prove to be major time waster, if used in an inappropriate manner.


1) Plan outgoing calls, it is better to place all the outgoing calls together at a particular time.
2) Groom assistant / secretary to handle calls.
3) Before calling, have all the relevant information before you.
4) While on phone, get to the point quickly. Avoid unnecessary pleasantries.
5) Delegate the routine work of providing information on enquiry to the subordinates.

Visitors: An example of typical external time wasters is the visitors, who are difficult to control. Many a time we see that visitors drop in at the office place for no or little reason. They are a waste of time, causing unnecessary delays in the operations of the organization.


1) Discourage the trend of meeting outsiders without their getting a prior permission from your assistant.
2) Have your assistant / secretary screen all visitors. Here too, as in the case of telephone, draw up a priority list of visitors.
3) Start your meeting briefly and state clearly the amount of time you can spare for the visitors.
4) Signal the meeting as over by standing up. Most people understand this signal.

Meetings: It is common to find executives spending considerable time on meetings. The time spent on the meting is not limited to the duration of the meeting itself. The time spent on meeting should be seen from three angles.

1) Before the meeting: This is the time which goes in for the preparation of the meeting. All the necessary papers, or the information required during the meeting is collected. The period before a crucial meeting is also spent on speculating about the outcome. On the whole it is a tense period.
2) The meeting: Normally it is the time taken to cover all the items present on the agenda.
3) After the meeting: The discussions depend upon the importance of the meeting. The important ones, with far reaching effects, are discussed for days by the concerned executives and other affected parties.

With so much collective time at stake, it becomes all the more important to devise the ways and means to make meeting time more effective. The aim is that the meeting should prove to be a constructive step for the organization and not just another item waster.


1) Identify the kind of meeting to be called as this would decide the agenda
2) Call a meeting if it is an absolute necessity. If yes, plan the meeting in detail
3) Collect all the relevant information before the beginning of the meeting. Also, anticipate and provide for supplementary data wherever necessary.
4) Limit attendance to those directly concerned.
5) Ensure an environment conducive for effective communication.
6) Ensure that the agenda papers have been dispatched to the members well in time. This would enable them to come prepared.
7) Follow up on the decision taken in the meeting.

Paperwork and Correspondence:

Paperwork and correspondence, as a part of written communication form major proportion of the executive’s day. Paperwork may include activities like reading reports, issuing memos, corresponding with the clients etc. The systems and procedures which the organization follows regarding the paper work and correspondence is unique to its culture. So are the problems of time which can arise from it.

Paperwork and correspondence can be further divided into three basic activities, viz reading, writing and correspondence

1) Reading: Reading in the organizational set up involves reading of correspondence, publications reports etc Reading bulky reports can be quite time consuming, and can be delegated to subordinates. After a pre-determined interval, a meeting with the subordinates would bring you up-to-date with the facts. Busy people should master the art of scanning and speed reading.


1) Read with specific goal in your mind. Know precisely what you are looking for and skip non-essential.
2) Avoid word by word reading. Train your eyes and mind to take whole phrases at a glance. With practice you will be able to read them as clearly as individual words.
3) Respond to your reading Analyses criticize admire and evaluate while you read. This process helps to keep you involved in the reading and makes it easier to recollect facts and figures later on.