How Much Time Are We Wasting on Our Projects?

How many times do we find ourselves running out of time to successfully complete a project?  This can happen for our home-improvement projects as well as for larger projects we are involved with at work, such as building and deploying a new software system. Many times folks have asked me how we might get more time on our projects or be more efficient with the time we have been given.

The deck sure seems to be stacked against us. According to the article “Time Wasted? Perhaps It’s Well Spent” published by the New York Times on May 31, 2007, a Microsoft study found that American workers, on average, spend 45 hours a week at work with 16 of these 45 hours described as “unproductive”. Sixteen hours per week of unproductive time?  You have to be kidding me. Do folks really spend 35 percent of their average work week doing things that yield little to no project results?   No wonder we are running out of time on our projects.  Guess I need to update my work week in the latest project plan to be a bit more brutally honest about how much is getting done.

A friend told me that on the average, an individual spends 45 minutes a day just looking for information.  I can see how this might happen.  Imagine that when you are asked for some project data, you look in your inbox, in your archive folders, on your desktop, in the project plan,  in your document folders, in the pile of paper on your desk and finally have to ask someone else before you get the information that was wanted.

If one person can spend 45 minutes a day looking for information, that means a team of 10 people spends 450 minutes each day ding these kinds of things.  Think of how this can add up across each week of your project schedule, where a team of 10 people spends 2250 minutes or about 37.5 hours of each week looking for information and perhaps not doing other tasks in the plan. Ouch!

Maybe some of this lost time isn’t such a big deal.  In the article, Bob Kustka, founder of Fusion Factor, a productivity and time-management consulting firm, says “workers are like athletes in that they are most efficient in concentrated bursts.” He compares them to elite athletes, who “play a set of tennis, a down of football or an inning of baseball and have a pause in between,” he says. Kustka believes that working energy is best used in spurts where we work hard on a few focused activities and then take a brief respite,” he says. “And those respites look an awful lot like wasting time.”

Well, wasting time or being super-productive, we are scheduling work in a one-dimensional way that doesn’t take this into account and could get our projects in hot water of we miss those deadlines.  How do you think your project teams are doing with the productivity and time-management skills? This project manager has to decide if she is the “productive time” enforcer or interested in the bottom line and a successful project outcome.  What do you think?

If you want to learn more about how you can better manage your time, try one of these courses from Learning Tree:

Time Management Essentials

Managing Information Overload

Oops, gotta go, the clock is ticking…

Susan Weese

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