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9 hacks for managers who hate wasting time

(MoneyWatch) Time is money, the saying goes. If you're trying to make the most of both, here are some of my favorite strategies for getting a team working effectively.

1. Give people doors. Collaboration is great, but so is the ability to focus. If architecture is remotely within your purview, make sure people have space for quiet concentration when they need it for writing or thinking through longer projects. Nothing kills productivity like distractions.

2. Schedule shorter calls. I've never understood why phone calls (and meetings) are always scheduled for 30 or 60 minutes. Is it because all phone calls naturally take this long? Or is it because that's how much time people budget in their calendars for them? In most cases, shortening the scheduled length of a phone call (to 15 or 20 minutes) will not only make it shorter, but also more effective.

3. Kill the standing meeting. Oh, I know -- sometimes you do need meetings scheduled at a regular time and place. But these tend to creep up on you and multiply until calendars are filled. Get rid of them all. Then slowly see which ones you need to add back.

4. Give all meetings an agenda, with a time frame attached to each item. Invite fewer people rather than more -- something you'll be able to do if you check in occasionally with all team members, so they don't need to crash meetings to get face time.

5. If you need an immediate answer, call. Don't risk creating a culture where people feel compelled to check email constantly, just in case you sent them something.

6. Turn out the lights at a reasonable hour. Pushing past people's work limits not only wastes time, in some industries it can be completely counterproductive (Not convinced? Read this post about a project manager's experience with software bugs and work limits). Since some people won't leave until you do, leave conspicuously.

7. Re-using and recycling aren't just for household trash. See if you can re-use anything your team spent time on in a different context. Extra research can morph into articles in industry publications, white papers can turn into speeches; and you should give any workshop you design multiple times. Use all parts of the buffalo in your work life.

8. Keep in touch with everyone who left your organization on good terms. Next time you have an opening, give these people a call first. Someone might say yes, which could save weeks of searching and interviewing candidates and then training them in your company's culture.

9. Give people the attention they deserve. In the short run, cutting short a one-on-one discussion with someone who clearly wants to be heard can save time. But in the long run, burnt out or unhappy employees will cost you big.

How do you save time (or money) on the job?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Pen Waggener