Sat | Aug 8, 2020

Trevor E. S. Smith | Where did the time go?

Published:Sunday | September 15, 2019 | 12:00 AMTrevor E.S. Smith - Contributor

Time is arguably our most valuable resource. Given time, other resources can be acquired or replaced.

Traditional approaches to time management training fail to pay sufficient attention to team time management.

Even a quick reflection will highlight the fact that our use of time is heavily influenced by those with whom we spend most of our time. Since we spend most of our waking hours in a working environment, work-team dynamics play a major role in how we manage our time.


Meetings are the most notorious time thieves, most notably the weekly meeting.

Quick tips to stop the drain on the organisation’s resources through the hours wasted around meetings include:

1. Meet only when there is a need to meet. Exchange information through alternative channels.

2. Have a clear agenda and follow it rigidly. Use an effective meeting manager. This need not be the team leader.

3. Institute a no-tolerance policy with respect to start and end times.

4. Document the action points during the meeting and share them immediately after.

5. Hold people accountable for completing assigned tasks.


Some managers are enemies of productivity. Many of the worst offenders are ignorant of this and actually consider themselves to be super-efficient.

They pride themselves on clearing what comes across their desks swiftly and efficiently. However, they actually end up interrupting their colleagues consistently throughout the day.

Many hours are lost as the victims of their ‘efficiency’ stop what they are doing and then have to refocus to return to where they left off.

These managers are guilty of ‘blurting’ which, as the name suggests, reflects uncontrolled outward communication.


A powerful antidote to blurting is to maintain a detailed time log – ideally for a month. Document how you use your time. Include who and what makes a call on your time.

One amazing benefit of the time log is that it lays out your life before you – especially if you relate it to the recommended 24-hour cycle.

However, the present plan is to use extracts from the time log to have a polite conversation with your blurting manager.

The conversation could reference the challenge thrown out to you in this article. You then share some surprising information that you gleaned from the exercise.

“During the week under review, we met an average of X times per day for a total of Y minutes. Even at my low salary, this is costly.

Since we clearly need to communicate, could we create a schedule under which we meet once in the morning and once in the afternoon and handle the issues that arise in those slots?”


I come to work with a plan to complete a set of tasks. I ace it and now it is time to stretch.

If my eyes meet Janice’s, I take it as a clear invitation to have a chat. I am not an idler. I am just taking a break after the high-powered work that I just did.

Poor Janice! She just started to figure out the problem that she has been grappling with and now ... . After I leave, Janice struggles to recall where she was in the process.


Be fully aware of the dangers of making eye contact with anyone on the way to the bathroom, coffee machine or water cooler. Reposition your chair if necessary.

Another strategy is to agree on symbols with the team that will be honoured. For example, a ball on your desk means that you can only be disturbed in the event of a fire.


Many organisations have people who come to network – not work.

They are the in-house media agency. Breaking news is their forte.

Take this tip from me, you never ever say yes to this question: “You have a minute?”

Say: “I am in the middle of something. Can you check me back after work?” Fear not. They are not going to waste their time. They won’t show up.


Team time management should be a central component of time management and team-building interventions. Behavioural style diagnostics and team maps provide powerful insights into personal and group attitude towards time. Our effectiveness and impact are a function of team dynamics and group culture.

- Trevor E. S. Smith and the Success with People Academy guide the development of high-performing teams, incorporating behavioural assessments and team diagnostics on the revolutionary FinxS Platform from Extended DISC. They provide learning and productivity-enhancement technology solutions. Coaching solutions include 3-D Leader Certification: Leading Dominant, Difficult and Diverse Personalities and the ICF/SHRM-backed Certified Behavioural Coach programme – now enrolling candidates. Email: