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How not to destroy your business through time-wasting

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Every good leader knows they are only as good as the team around them. When you finally make it to the dizzy heights of senior management with a big hefty salary, the responsibility to make that team work is yours. The difference between a good manager and a bad manager is in how they organize their people and utilise time. However, many managers get this wrong. In this guide we are going to highlight some of the common mistakes made in businesses that lead to major losses in efficiency. 
So, sit back, read on, and learn how not to destroy your business through time-wasting.

Meetings, meetings, and more meetings

Breakfast meetings, morning meetings, lunch meetings, afternoon meetings, dinner meetings: do you ever have one of those days where you literally do not get 5 minutes at your desk?
A widespread problem in many organizations is the abundance of and overreliance on meetings. 

Meetings are expensive. Whenever two or more people get together for a pre-planned meeting, you will undoubtedly waste time. The more people who join, the bigger the problem. Just think, a 1-hour meeting with seven attendees is the equivalent of a full workday. Bring the whole company together for a town hall meeting and you may lose weeks of productivity.

The most common mistakes made when planning a meeting include:

  • Not defining the agenda or objective of the meeting – whenever you set up a meeting, make sure the objective and agenda are clear. List the questions and decisions that need answering and place them upfront on the agenda. Without any objectives, you will find yourself at the end of the meeting planning a follow-up meeting, again without purpose.
  • Setting a meeting that is not required – ask yourself before clicking the send button on a meeting invite, ‘Do I really need a meeting?’. If the same outcome can be achieved with an ad-hoc phone call or a wander to the other person’s desk for a 5-minute chat, then do not set up a meeting.
  • Inviting unnecessary participants – the biggest waste of productivity is meeting attendees who make no input to the proceedings. If you find someone has not contributed after one-third of the planned meeting duration, kick them out!
  • Not inviting the decision-maker – almost as bad as inviting the wrong participants is not inviting the decision-maker. If the meeting’s objectives cannot be met with the participants present, cancel or delay the meeting.
  • Allowing meetings to overrun – never allow a meeting to overrun. If the office culture allows it, all meetings will overrun. Instead, always end the meeting with as many objectives met as possible. After the meeting, go through the entire meeting planning process again – define the agenda/objectives, decide if a meeting is required, determine who the decision-makers are and who does not need to be in the meeting, then set the duration (hopefully shorter this time).
  • Not chairing meetings properly – the choice of chairperson can make or break a meeting. Find who in the team is best at this role. You will find a good chairperson can conclude a meeting in less than one-third of the time a poor chairperson conducts a meeting. Identify the person with this skillset and use them.

To really discover how much you are losing through meetings, set up a money clock. These are easily found online and allow you to enter the number of participants and the average cost per hour. Everyone can then see in $ how much money is being thrown down the drain.


We have all experienced the heart-dropping moment when you come back from a few days out of the office to hundreds or thousands of emails. Even the quickest reader will take several hours drudging through the stack, trying to properly triage the mountain of emails.

On the other end of the mail chain are the writers of such emails. Even a quick typist will lose a minimum of 10 minutes preparing even the simplest of emails. A good rule of thumb is ‘if it’s more than 7 lines, make a phone call’. The potential trail of mails lasting days can be cracked in 30 seconds. Always remember, humans were made to communicate with their mouths and ears, not their hands.

If the discussion requires several people’s involvement, hold a quick conference call. Have the back and forth discussion in a quick 10–15 minute call, then send one email to record the outcomes of the call. This will save days of unnecessary back and forth and misunderstandings.


Senior managers always get excited when new software packages such as CRMs and ERPs come with hundreds of wonderful reports and metrics. The salespeople selling the reports convince you that you need to know all the infinite detail. Quite simply – you do not. Unnecessarily detailed reports waste time and money on many fronts:

· It costs a fortune to set up the reports. The senior management team may also lose days of productivity sat going through the new reports with the analysts. Remember, external analysts typically charge by the day so the more reports you require, the more you will pay.

· Managers spend hours reviewing the hundreds of reports available – trying to read and interpret some meaning from what may often be random arbitrary numbers.

· Discussing the results of the reports with all and sundry.
At the end of the day, a business is like a car. You do not stop every 10 kilometres to record how far you went, how long it took, how much fuel was used, etc. The car dashboard simply presents the figures you need to know: your current speed, the accumulated distance travelled, and your average fuel efficiency. This same approach should be taken in business. Simply set up a large screen with a dashboard showing the key metrics: for example, total sales today, number of calls made, etc. If you focus on reaching a target for these simple aggregated KPIs, the business will succeed.


There will always be some negativity in every workplace. This should be expected as you have brought together a group of people who may have little in common. A good manager will build this team up and grow them into a family. A poor manager with little control or personality will often inadvertently allow the one or two negative characters to start to influence the whole team. This can quickly descend into a toxic environment.

Usually the subjects that cause such toxicity have been born of untrue gossip and rumours. Salary differentials, perks, and perceived favouritism often lead to such an environment.
As a good manager, you should always strive to stamp gossip, negativity and rumours out quickly. 


Even the most enthusiastic and energetic people can slowly be worn down. Some people naturally have a strong work ethic. They will do whatever is required to get the job done quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, they often clash with the slow ‘plodders’ who prefer to work 9–5 at their own pace and make no effort to improve things.

As a good manager, you should make sure these cultures do not clash. Find ways to empower the marathon runner to help drive your business ahead (and reward them appropriately) without becoming demotivated by the people around them. Losing your superstar or right-hand person is always heartbreaking.

An easy life

A business should always aim to make life as easy as possible for employees. Work should not be an 18th-century workhouse. The easier you can make the job for employees, the more productive and happier they will be. Make access to information simple and easy; keep internal procedures clean and simple.

For example, making your international sales manager earning $200,000 a year waste the equivalent of one day a month filling in expenses claim forms is doing nobody any good. Leave the accounting and matchup of receipts to spreadsheets to accountants. 
Always remember a happy employee is a productive employee. Measure their performance based on outcomes, not the number of hours they were chained to their desk.

Crash and burn

Despite the old adage ‘a bad workman always blames his tools’, there is some truth to the saying. Give a carpenter a blunt set of tools and you should expect a poor-quality product.

The same applies in the office world. Providing 1,000 employees with old PCs that take 15 minutes to boot up loses 250 hours of productivity per day. That is the equivalent of employing an extra 30 people. Not to mention the lost time throughout the day as files are lost, computers crash, etc. 
Even the most expensive computers on the market are cheap. A $1,000 computer in relation to the worker’s annual salary is minuscule. Proper investment in the right tool to perform the job is critical if you wish to run an efficient, profitable workplace.

Task definition

Clear task definition and requirement capture are key to any task being performed successfully. Without this, the person performing the task will have to make assumptions. As the saying goes, ‘assumptions make an “ass” out of “u” and “me” ’.

If you say to a builder, ‘here’s $100,000 to build me a house, please get on with it, you are likely to end up with a very small house with poor quality finishing, meeting the most basic requirements of a ‘house’.
If, however, you say to the builder, ‘here’s $100,000 to build a house, please follow this architectural drawing, this interior design, and this bill of materials for fixtures and fittings, and build it in the position shown on this map’, then you will end up with a comfortable house that lasts many years.

The same applies to day-to-day business tasks. Always make it clear as to what the outcome should look like. But do not confuse this with telling the person ‘how’ to complete the task. A competent expert should know the ‘how’ better than you probably do.

Process for process sake

Many businesses aim to implement formal quality control processes, often aiming for one of the internationally recognized quality standards such as ISO9001. This is great, and any business implementing quality procedures should be admired. They genuinely help give customers the best experience.

However, many businesses make the mistake of over-complicating the processes and procedures. This is often due to the people who write the processes. Always remember, when writing a process definition, you should describe how you perform such a task. If a process is simple and takes just one to two steps, write down the two steps. Never feel you must complicate the process simply to fill the page. A two-step process that is always followed is infinitely more useful than a 10-step process that only gets followed when time permits.
Remember, simplicity is the name of the game.

Chitter-chatter and constant connectivity

The invention of the mobile phone resulted in the permanent reachability of everyone. WhatsApp groups, social media accounts, and up-to-the-second news all provide unnecessary distractions. In the past you talked to your friends in the evenings and on weekends, you read the newspaper before you went to work, and watched the TV news in the evening. In the fast-paced modern world, the lines between social lives and work lives have blurred. 

Many employees now believe they almost have a right to connectivity. Reading and replying to messages from friends or family is inevitable. So, how to police the amount of time people spend on their phones at work? Simple – give them a work phone. During working hours, they should use the work phone – this should be what they use to communicate with customers, have access to email, and act as their primary communication device. It should not have games, social media apps or news apps available on it. Employees can access their own phones during tea breaks, and lunch breaks.

Smart resource management

Business is often full of red tape and slow decision-making. Strong leaders need to improve this position so that ideas can come to market quickly. In the modern 24/7 connected world, those who can bring products and services to market quickly will always win.

In many organizations, a culture change is needed. A good manager will identify the resources available, determine the most efficient way to use them, then empower the business to make decisions quickly and use the resources effectively. This does not mean cutting corners but minimizing the waiting time between project stages and using resources to their full potential. 

Final thoughts

The world is changing – many successful companies are now improving efficiencies so significantly that those who do not move with the times risk being left behind. In the 24/7 connected world, these inefficiencies become increasingly noticeable. If you want to be a good leader and grow your business, consider some of the tips above. You will be amazed at how much time and money you can save.

Shivendra Kumar is the founder and director of Shivendra & Co, a business improvement consultancy that helps businesses in the construction and infrastructure sector resolve problems, remove inefficiencies, reduce complexity and uplift customer satisfaction – quickly. His blogs cover topics related to business improvement, strategy implementation and innovation.