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Wasting Time

By Steve Jones,

This editorial was originally published on Oct 11, 2012. It is being re-run as Steve is on vacation.

I ran across this infographic on wasting time at work. From the title I was thinking this would point out the ways in which people avoid work, and perhaps it does, but it's really geared towards showing us the framework and structure that many people have for work. I agree with the first two sections of the page that show email and meetings waste a lot of time. I certainly think they have in many jobs for me, especially when they are used as "catch-all" techniques for including everyone that is remotely relevant to an issue.

Interruptions at work are hard to quantify as a problem. They definitely can be, but stopping by someone's office to ask a question or take a quick break can be a way to recharge yourself between long periods of concentration. The issues come into play when the other person is in the middle of focusing on a task and you force a context switch on them. Recovering from the interruption can take time, time that's often wasted as a person tries to remember exactly what they were focusing on.

Meetings certainly interrupt the day, but since they are often planned in advance, you can be mentally prepared for the break. It makes me wonder if there wouldn't be some benefit to scheduling some "open time" in your day where you plan on taking a break. Others that needed a minute of your time would know to come find you at that time.

Time is very valuable, one of the most valuable resources we have at work. Management should be aware of this and working to limit interruptions, whether through email, meetings or anything else that prevents work from getting done. The fewer meetings and emails you require of your developers, the more time they have to work on the tasks they are being paid to complete.

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