4 ways to deal with chronic time wasters at work

It’s clear that there’s a difference between running into a coworker you’re friendly with in the morning and quickly catching up here and there, and that colleague who regales you with every single one of their trials and tribulations each day.

But whether it’s a coworker, a direct report, or even you doing the time-wasting, there are specific strategies you can use to cut down on it.

Don’t be afraid to address the person head-on

You don’t have to be a victim.

Dorie Clark, a marketing strategist and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, writes about how to discuss this with the guilty colleague in the Harvard Business Review.

Here’s the script she recommends using: “Frank, you’ve suggested having in-person check-in meetings a few times now, and I wanted to ask you about that. My bias is typically to minimize meetings and try to get as much done on email as possible, but maybe you can tell me a little more about what information you’re looking to share. Is there a way we can make it work for both of us?”

Don’t get too caught up in what others think of you

Author Gwen Moran features advice from time management expert and life coach Steve Chandler, author of Time Warrior in Fast Company.

“Chandler says the biggest time waster of all is trying to please people at the expense of your own productivity. Attending meetings you don’t need to attend, taking phone calls you don’t need to take, and fielding tasks that don’t need to be done all in an effort to get people to like you can eat hours out of every day, he says. Learn how to say ‘no’ graciously without worrying that someone won’t like you, and you’ll reclaim large blocks of time,” Moran writes.

Too loud? Get those headphones out

Does your coworker make it especially tough to focus on your work?

Jacqueline Smith features advice from Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work, in Business Insider.

“Again, this isn’t a great permanent solution, but it can help. ‘You don’t want to be seen as being rude, but proactively explaining to people that you work best when you block out all the background noise can smooth any ruffled feathers,’ says Kerr. ‘You may even implement a headphones etiquette rule, such as: Don’t disturb or interrupt people wearing headphones unless it’s absolutely critical,'” Smith writes.

Managers, make sure you’re crystal clear

It doesn’t hurt to clear a few things up.

An article in The Balance says “team members need clear expectations.”

“Once employees are hired, make sure that each of your team members knows specifically what they are supposed to do and how and when they are supposed to do it,” the article says. “Most importantly, each team member must understand why they do what they do. They need to know how what they do fits into the vision you are creating.”