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The Rodney Brim Blog

You and Time Leaks

April 25, 2012

Imagine for a moment, that everytime you filled up your car’s gas tank, you
knew that it would leak out 20% of the gas you put in.  That’s right, 20% of what you put in, would  be wasted.  Would you accept that?  No, of course not.  But guess what, you probably operate with a much higher leakage when it comes to investing your time.  There are gas leaks, oil leaks and then there are time leaks; keep reading and I’ll explain.

What do I mean by time leaks?  Think of it as the process of putting in time
on something you get little or nothing back in return for, or at least don’t feel like
it’s an equitable return.  Whoops, that’s too conceptual.

Try thinking of it in the following two ways:
1. It’s anything you do, that you have to do over, or do extra follow-up
because the first time you did it or requested it, wasn’t sufficient.

2. Time leaks are also the time it takes to re-orient.  You know, you’re focused
on a task and then someone walks in, or calls you, and after dealing with that
issue, you find yourself thinking,”Now where was I?” because you’ve lost the
flow and you now need to refocus and gear up again.

Actually, if you stop and think about it, you could probably come up with a whole
list of time leaks that frequent your work day.  Here’s a couple that have already
hit my schedule today.

– Meetings that started late and ended later.
– Having to repeat a request for the upteenth time to a direct report.
– Following up on a request because I didn’t hear or see what the status
was after handing it off.
– Having to rework an issue because someone else didn’t finish what they promised.

I bet you could easily add to the list.  In fact take a moment to do a quick review
of the most frequent time leaks that impact your day… and then let me ask you
this question:  “Do you notice any themes from your time leaks?”

I do, I bet you do as well.  Here’s the top 5 that pop to mind.

1.  Time leaks cost money.  But it’s not immediately visible money.  You
don’t actually see either time or money leaking away, but they are.

2. Time leaks are often laced with frustration. They are mini-aggravations
through the day, not joyful moments.

3. Time leaks, especially recurring ones, exist because I’m avoiding
taking some next step, often a confrontation, which will then need to
be followed by a consequence.  Time leaks essentially represent a more
comfortable choice of non-confrontation, or changing the process; instead of
addressing the leak and getting it plugged.

4. Time leaks just seem to be a regular part of getting work done
through people.  Maybe God assigned time leaks to Adam and Eve, as part of
the reconstruction of life as having pain and frustration post garden.

5. Time leaks accompany the “easy” choice when it comes to coordinating
with others.  It’s easy to:
– pick up the phone,
– make a request in a meeting,
– send an IM,
– send an email…

None of those easy forms of requests and hand-offs generate equally
easy follow-up, hence you get back into wasting time or leaking time
following up, repeating, re-inquiring, stepping in, etc…  E.g. it’s easy
and takes relatively little time to make a request, but harder or more
time intensive to do the follow-up, and the gap in-between
is where most of the time leaks occur.

Or to put it another way, time leaks often occur when we initiate
request without having a readily available way to check
or follow-up
on the follow-through.

Additionally time leaks occur or perhaps more accurately are
perpetuated, when we avoid confronting some behavior or process
that needs to change… because its either discomforting to make the
confrontation or at the moment just seems easier to “do it myself.”

I don’t know about you, but the two biggest tools I have for reducing
time leaks are:
a) document my requests in a central management tool (I use ManagePro)
and insist other’s update their follow-through there, to make follow-up
much easier, and
b) don’t put off for tomorrow what needs to be addressed today.

Each day, I have multiple opportunities to make my time count or
spend it in addressing what essentially are time leaks.  Yesterday issues
and tasks on my calendar ranged from the US to India, from Alaska to
Florida, from staff, to customers all around the world.  And if you
worked here, you would know I’m easily frustrated by time leaks.

So I’m a much happier camper when they aren’t occurring, and when they
do I fix them instead of perpetuate them.  How about you?

Bottom Line:
Time leaks in the form of do-overs, repeat follow-ups and more occur
for all of us.  We easily slip into accepting them as part of our regular
work life, in a way that we would never accepts leaks in other areas,
because on several levels it’s easier… and doesn’t require us to change.
You can rapidly reduce the number of time leaks in your work life by
living a bit outside of your comfort zone and addressing the root cause
in a timely manner when things go amiss, and by tracking your assignments
to your team, the coordination of follow-though in an easy to access highly
visible management tool like ManagePro that helps create high visibility
and accountability for everyone.


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