7 Classic Time-Wasters and How to Make Them Stop

Last Updated Aug 12, 2010 10:57 PM EDT

Time WasterI had a colleague who would answer his cell phone, "Hey Steve, I'm in the middle of something, can I call you back in five minutes?" and then call back like four hours later. After two iterations like that, I decided it wasn't worth the trouble. Ironically, I was trying to help him, not the other way around.

These days, we all have too much to do and not enough time to do it. We're all stretched. Why that is, I have no idea, but it is a fact of modern life. So, this is not the time to be wasting people's time. And yet, lots of folks do it. It's not even just the time, it's the interruption, the distraction, the lost productivity, and of course, the frustration.

There are loads of ways that people waste your time at work or in ways that affect your work. Some can't manage their own time, but mostly, they do it to make themselves feel important. No, they don't do it consciously, but at some level, they are aware of it. It doesn't help to know that, but I think it's interesting, nevertheless. I'm pretty sure Sigmund Freud would have thought so, too.

Anyway, here are 7 Classic Time-Waster Types. They're annoying and yet, at the same time, amusing in a twisted, masochistic sort of way. Afterward I'll give you some tips for dealing with this sort of nonsense, but some of the examples have links to posts with more detail, as well:
  1. Self-Important, perpetually late to meetings executive. I've seen companies where this is almost an epidemic and others where they started making offenders pay everyone else a buck for being late. How egotistical can you get? Really.
  2. The stonewalling executive recruiter. You do all the interviews, jump through all the hoops, then nothing. Or just enough info to keep you waiting -- and waiting -- and waiting.
  3. The verbose boss. I had a CEO who must have been a magician in a former life because he could magically transform a 30 minute meeting into 2 hours of listening to him relive his one and only claim to fame, over and over.
  4. The constantly whiny employee. There's one in every group but, sometimes, it's contagious and can spread to others. They're always stressing and complaining about some drama of their own making.
  5. The "while I've got you here" - "one more thing" - "something I've been meaning to ask you" guy. An endless string of ideas, theories, and questions with one thing in common: they're all dumb, obvious, useless, and take forever to explain.
  6. The "never cut to the chase" person. She strings you along by leaving endless messages for you to call, along with some BS about the weather or something, but never really cuts to the chase.
  7. And ... the absolute worst, classic time-waster: construction contractors. They're either slammed and can't get back to you; or they call in the evening and, instead of telling you when they can come, just keep leaving their phone number; or you make an appointment and they no-show.
And, as promised, here are my three indispensable tips for dealing with this sort of lunacy:
  • Don't try to change them; you can't. Don't even bother telling them what they're doing; they won't get it. But they will waste even more of your time with endless excuses for why their chronic nonsense somehow makes sense.
  • You know, we all do dumb things from time to time, but ... The problem is when it becomes chronic. You know the expression, "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me?" That's become my rules with time-wasters.
  • Learn to let it go. Frankly, your neediness may trump their self-importance. If people keep doing this stuff to you and you can never seem to find a way to make it stop, then you may actually be the one with the problem. There are professionals who can help with that sort of thing, you know? Find a good one.
Everybody's got time-wasters they love to hate. What's yours?

Note: Some of my best friends are construction contractors. Really.

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