How to Stop People From Wasting Your Time: 3 Effective Techniques

April 22, 2019

Here's how to deal with people who waste your time at work.

Your time is your most valuable resource – you know this.

And yet, some of your colleagues don’t. Instead, they seem to be passionate about wasting it.

They are often very nice, well intentioned people. But, every conversation you have with them seems to last forever. Or, you spend long meetings with them and, while many good ideas are discussed, nothing ever comes out of it. Or, they hit you with email after email, to seemingly no end.

Bottom line, they use up chunks of your day unproductively. So how do you deal with them, without being a jerk about it?

Dorie Clark has the answer. In her LinkedIn Learning course Personal Effectiveness Tips, she listed these three strategies for dealing with habitual time wasters at work:

1. Avoid ambiguous meetings and requests.

These are underrated time wasters – people who love to brainstorm, but never take action. They talk and talk and talk, but nothing ever goes anywhere.

The best way to combat this is to demand clarity and next steps.

For example, these people tend to call meetings with vague topics. Email them ahead of time and ask what the desired outcome is. And, in the meeting, hold them to that outcome, by demanding clear next steps.

Same goes for ambiguous requests. Demand clarity before committing – otherwise, you could get yourself into a time-wasting project-to-nowhere.

2. Email and texting are the best ways to engage with “talkers.”

A second common time waster at work is someone who loves to talk. Regardless of the topic, they want to talk about their dog, their dinner plans, their thoughts on the latest Netflix documentary, their latest dental appointment, etc.

In these cases, email and text is your friend. If they call you, it’s okay to not pick up, and inform them via text that you can't talk on the phone right now but ask them what's up. If they want to call a meeting, email them ahead of time and ask what it’s about, and see if you can solve it on email instead.

In other words, use text and email with these people whenever practical. This is a great way to avoid spending precious hours of your time shooting the breeze with them.

3. Strategically delay your responses.

“If someone is a little too eager, and every time you send them an email, they reply in 30 seconds with more questions, or seeking more feedback, perhaps you might consider delaying your responses,” Clark said in her course. “You may be better served to make them wait a couple of days, and slow down the pace of communication.”

This works on texting too, via a smartphone or collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams. If someone is messaging you on your phone or Teams to the point it’s interfering with your work, take longer to respond and it’ll usually solve that problem.

“It is annoying in the extreme when a colleague wastes your time,” Clark said. “But, with these strategies, you can begin to reclaim your schedule, and stand up for your productivity.”

Want to learn more tips like this? Watch Dorie Clark’s LinkedIn Learning series, Professional Effectiveness Tips.

Videos within the series cover how to: