Tuesday, June 05, 2007

You are Wasting Time! Or Are You?

Lisa Belkin tells that one of her favourite books as a child was “Cheaper by the Dozen,” the story of Frank B. Gilbreth Jr., who introduced the idea of efficiency to 20th-century America. His time-shaving techniques ran the gamut from a new way of laying bricks to a quicker method of buttoning his vest (bottom to top, saving four seconds).

“Inspired,” Lisa said, “I slept in my clothes for a few nights back then to save time dressing for school, though I don’t think that’s exactly what the man had in mind.”

Lisa goes on to state these terrifying facts:

* American workers, on average, spend 45 hours a week at work, but describe 16 of those hours as “unproductive,” according to a study by Microsoft.

* America Online and Salary.Com, in turn, determined that workers actually work a total of three days a week, wasting the other two.

* And “personal development expert”, Steve Pavlina, finds that we actually work only about 1.5 hours a day.

Now that you’re feeling guilty or upright because you’re not one of those time-wasting Yanks, here is a summary of the best time wasters that Lisa Belkin has gathered:

* The AOL survey says time is lost to surfing the Internet (so turn off your computer now, flagellate yourself and repent!)

* The Microsoft survey pointed to worthless meetings. Respondents said they spent 5.6 hours each week in meetings and 71 percent of them thought that those meetings “aren’t productive.” (Amen!)

* Searching through clutter is another diversion, says Peggy Duncan, a “personal productivity coach” in Atlanta, who maintains that rifling though messy desks wastes 1.5 hours a day. (Clean up that messy desk of yours!)

But wait, you say, you spend all your time working. Your boss is a slave driver. You’re the only one left in the office after the downsizing, meaning you are doing the work of three people. Well, there are numbers that also support this situation.

If you think it’s all about focus and not frittering the seconds, if you’re wondering whether you are working harder because you are wasting more time or wasting time because you are working harder, read the full article by Lisa Belkin. It won’t be a waste of time in the long run.

Lisa Belkin, ‘Time Wasted? Perhaps It’s Well Spent’, New York Times, 31 May 2007.

Geoff Pound

Image: This picture comes from the web site, ‘The Human Clock’. They are obviously a couple of Italians who have nothing better to do with their time than express a little bit of amore.

Check out the time right now on The Human Clock’. Watching this site is one of the great time wasters.