10 Times at Work You're Just Wasting Effort


Americans work hard. Very hard. About 1,800 hours a year, no guarantee of vacation time hard. And some of that, unfortunately, is just spinning the wheels. Here are 10 times when we're simply wasting effort at work.

1. Working Very Late or Coming in Super Early

When I first started working in the advertising industry, several of the old guards told me "Be the first one in, and the last one to leave." There's something to be said for that, especially in the days when you are young and hungry and looking for that first promotion. But those guys also added an addendum later on, and I never forgot it — "Just make sure people notice the effort." If you're getting in at 6:00 a.m., and the next person doesn't arrive until 8:30 a.m., how much of that two and a half hours was necessary? If you stay two hours past the last person, who will know? If you have to do it to get some work done, fair enough. If you do it all the time to show your loyalty and work ethic, it's wasted effort.

2. Having Drawn Out E-mail/Text Conversations

It's astonishing that so many people in workplaces across America can go a whole day without actually physically talking to someone. It's all about e-mail, instant messaging, texting, and social media. The problem with all of those is that tone and mannerisms are lost. It can take many e-mail conversations to get across something that a simple five-minute phone call or face-to-face meeting could have cleared up. If the first few e-mails are not getting things done, pick up the phone or walk a few minutes to that person's office.

3. Setting Specific Meeting Durations

We have 15, 30, 45, and 60-minute meetings. Usually, it's the latter. There's some chitchat, a little passing of time until everyone gathers, and then there is that "Hey, we still have 10 minutes, how's your dog doing?" time. This is wasting time and effort for all involved. Get the meeting started, quickly, and get to the point. Rule out jokes and nonsense, and if the 30-minute meeting is over in 11 minutes and 32 seconds, end it and get on with your day. Remember, there are no one-hour meetings. There are at least two people in attendance, and every person in the company loses an hour. Make that time count.

4. Having Meetings Without Key People

Everyone in your company, be it a massive multinational corporation or a local business, knows who the right people are. They're the decision makers, the knowledgeable workers, or the people with the latest intelligence. If you are organizing a meeting without including these people, you are going to have to have another meeting. Yes, it's not always possible to include them, but if that means you're going to spend 45 minutes talking in circles, you should reconsider. Make these meetings smaller, or bring other action items to them. There is little point in spending an hour in a meeting only to have a puppet tell you they'll get back to you.

5. Working With Unclear Directives

When you begin a project, know exactly what it is that you are being asked to do. If you are in any doubt at all, you are about to begin hours, or days, of wasted effort. Unclear directives and fuzzy strategies lead to meetings that have people scratching their heads and asking for additional work. If the person asking for the work does not specifically know what they want, try and send them back to the drawing board to get more information. It isn't always easy, especially if that person is the boss, but if you point out that you will be wasting time and money without those facts, you should be fine.

6. Overwriting

There is a quote that many of you know. "I have already made this paper too long, for which I must crave pardon, not having now time to make it shorter." That came from Benjamin Franklin in 1750, to the Royal Society of London. Basically, he apologized for the length of the letter, and if he had time, he'd have made it shorter. This is lost on many today. Some feel that quantity is better than quality. After all, who looks like they have spent more time on a report: someone who hands in a 10-page document, or a three-page document? But people have little time to read those 10 pages. It's wasted effort to keep bloviating about a subject for page after page. People won't read it. Cut it down.

7. Hiding the Truth From the Masses

Whether you are a small automotive chain in Colorado, or a massive company spanning the world, people will gossip. You do not want to add fuel to that fire by taking a lot of time and effort hiding things. The truth will eventually come out, and that wasted effort will result in a lot of gossiping and ill feeling. Be honest — it will save you in the long run.

8. Networking With the Powerless

We all know that a certain amount of our job revolves around dealing with other people. Whether they're in the same company or a different one, we have to find time to grease the wheels and make connections. However, be careful how much time you spend with people who really cannot do anything for you or your company. It may seem ruthless, but wining and dining the wrong people can be a complete waste of time and lead to some awkward silences. These people may tell you they have power, but it's easy to probe and find this out. Look at a company org chart, find out who has the bosses ear. You'll soon know the truth.

9. Working When You're Sick or Tired

It seems as though Americans don't like taking sick days when they're actually sick. Coming in to the office when you are a physical wreck may make you look like a glowing employee, but it's a waste of time and effort. You are not at your best. You are not thinking clearly. You are probably infecting other people. And, most likely, you'll be off the next day. The extra effort of driving in, trying to do your job, and driving home will take it out of you. And the work you did will most likely have to be redone. Don't waste that effort on being a golden employee.

10. Taking the Initiative Without Doing Your Research

Eager beavers are great employees… unless they dive into projects without first learning about a few basic facts. Recently, I heard of someone who spent five months developing a new app in his spare time, only to discover the company was scrapping the entire project. That guy would have saved a lot of time and heartache if he had simply done a little digging to see if the project had legs. So, do yourself a favor. By all means, take the initiative. But do not spend all that time without first knowing if that will be effort that could be rewarded, or wasted.

What causes you to waste time and effort at work? Share your frustration in comments!

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Guest's picture
Jay North

Nice Facts!!!! We waste time in these non productive activities and later try to find where we lack. An urgent need of elimination of these facts is required. Thanks for sharing.