Leadership Advice

Managers: Here are a dozen ways you’re wasting someone’s time today

Advice from Jill Geisler, Bill Plante Chair in Leadership & Media Integrity, Loyola University Chicago and Freedom Forum Fellow in Women’s Leadership

Do you know any leader who isn’t chronically busy today, yourself included?  Even if you’re keeping up with your responsibilities, you probably long for time to just pause and think. 

You deserve it. All leaders do. We need time to learn. Time to rest our brain so new ideas can bubble up without distraction. Time to look away from our calendar without worrying that we’re about to miss a commitment.

Let me offer one small step that can free up a little bandwidth for us: We need to make sure we’re not wasting each other’s time. 

We do it in lots of small ways; we cause people extra work and waste their time when we:

  1. Call a meeting without an agenda and let it run needlessly long.
  2. End a meeting without “next steps,” causing people to have to further communicate, regroup, and realign their plans.
  3. Resist moving into group chat or planning apps because we don’t like change, causing teammates who are on the apps to do additional work to reach us.
  4. Send messages without subject lines, making them hard to prioritize and find later.
  5. Fail to modify the subject line on a thread when there’s a key update — turning all correspondence into a blur of old and new that is time consuming to follow and search.
  6. Answer a two-question inquiry with a response to only one, causing the sender a delay and an unnecessary follow-up.
  7. Neglect to scan our messages before sending them, to make sure that we are as clear as can be. 
  8. Avoid using calendaring software to poll for availability or send invitations. 
  9. Take bad notes during conversations, calls, or meetings, assuming others will track things for us, then expect them to fill our knowledge gaps down the road.
  10. Fail to keep good files on people, programs, and projects then reach out to others for the material we can’t find.
  11. Let our team members assume we want something NOW, even though it isn’t urgent, because we failed to indicate when we really need it.
  12. Neglect to provide clarity on our teammates’ span of control; that is, when they should defer to us for decisions, when they should decide and then inform us, and when they should act on their own.

May I suggest an exercise in candor and care? Use this column as an excuse to talk about these things with your team members. (Promise them it will be a brief, well-run meeting, of course.) Share the list. Ask if anyone among us could raise our game on any of these points or others I’ve missed on this list.

Listen with care. Act with collegiality. At the very least, you’ll change some irritating habits in your group. At best, you’ll win back a little precious time.


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Otufodunrin Lekan
Otufodunrin Lekan
1 year ago

Valuable insights

Lee Polowczuk
Lee Polowczuk
1 year ago

Eh.. pound the pavement…be aware of your community… talk to real people…. Done…..oh and listen to the consultants.. and after they leave.. forget everything they said

Donna Ladd
Donna Ladd
1 year ago

This is great.

Last edited 1 year ago by Donna Ladd