Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 145 / OCTOBER 1992 / PAGE 70

Killing time is killing you. (productivity)
by Daniel Janal

So you have a few minutes to kill. What's a little time? Might as well play Taipei or a few hands of Solitaire.

Those five-minute intervals come when you're waiting for an appointment or a revised document or the copy machine or while you're stuck on hold. Just enough time to leave a dead spot in a busy day. Not quite enough time to do anything meaningful. The problem is that if you have 12 five-minute delays you've killed an hour;

Every minute of your life is precious and never to be recalled. Here are steps you can take to increase the value of those wasted moments spent drifting in the doldrums.

Set one-minute goals. Ken Blanchard, author of One-Minute Manager, says it only takes one minute to determine what you want, how to get there, and how to measure your effectiveness. Take this time to determine where you want to go and what steps to take to get there.

Complete simple chores. Write thank-you notes, pay bills, write checks, balance your checkbook.

Handle routine office maintenance. Fill that laser printer tray, file old papers, throw out stuff you'll never need. Eliminate clutter; you'll become more efficient as you become more organized.

Review your agenda. What's going to happen tomorrow? Here's your chance to jot a quick note for an upcoming meeting or gather information to improve your presentation.

Delegate. What tasks can your assistant or colleagues do? Take a moment to clear your desk of tasks that can' help others improve their skills, and you'll be able to breathe easier.

Call people back. You probably have phone calls that haven't been returned for days because they weren't urgent. Show you have class by returning all calls--even if you only have to deliver a polite "No, thanks"to salespeople.

Proofread. Why take a chance on a typo in a memo with your name on it? As long .as you have time to kill, don't let a typo kill you. While a spelling checker can catch many errors, it won't catch an error in usage or a soundalike (to. too, two).

RUn errands. Create a logistical road map for the errands you must run. Make sure you don't backtrack while driving. Also, group appointments so they make sense.

Have a meeting. What? In just five minutes? Sure you can. Just use these four principles from Dale Carnegie. What is the problem? What is the source of the problem? What are the possible solutions? What is the best solution? By sending a request that the first question be answered before the meeting, you'll have everyone focused on the topic and thereby save time. By following this formula, your employees might even solve the problem without you ! Automate your software functions to create timesavers. Create macros that address envelopes, dial your online Service, upload and download mail. If you use different configurations for your AUTOEXEC.BAT file, you might want to get Easy Boot from Clear Software. It lets you create different files for each configuration you use. A real timesaver.

Create templates for work that you have to do over and over again. For instance, if you write many proposals, create a master form that includes the material that never changes-like your company's background, mission, and philosophy. Leave blank spots for the client's name.

Gather all your notes in one place. Software programs that include contact managers can store the names, phone numbers, and addresses of your clients and coworkers, as well as notes related to them. Those little details won't get lost in. the shuffle anymore.

Take an objective look at your time usage. Do you play a game of Solitaire at lunch, only to look up and find that all of your colleagues have gone home for the day? It might be time to remove the addictive games from your computer before your boss removes you from the payroll.

Create a to-do list. Number the items in terms of priority.

Correspond. Respond to letters with a handwritten note on the sender's stationery. You'll save the time it would take to create a fresh letter, and the sender will know what you're responding to.

Time is more than money. It's the stuff of life itself. If you fill dead moments with simple tasks, you'll avoid boredom and be more effective.