Seven Ways to Waste Everyone's Time


By Samuel Greengard

The ability to use—and misuse—messaging has reached epic proportions. Here are seven approaches that will ensure you waste everyone's valuable time and wind up on your colleagues' blacklists.

1.   Don't respond to emails and calls. A lot of people (and companies) have discovered the perfect solution to time and productivity pressures: Don't respond to inquiries. If this is you (or your company), please do everyone a favor and state this fact on your Website, or use an auto responder that lets people know your time is too valuable and they won't hearing from you.

2.   Don't read your emails. How many times have you sent an email message to a colleague and had the person asks a question that was answered in the original email? Probably a lot. I'm convinced that many people don't read an entire message. They skim the first line and reply. Then you have to explain everything again.

3.   Use email and IMs for everything. Frequently, what could have been a three-minute phone conversation winds up requiring a dozen or more IMs or emails—and 30 minutes of wasted time— because someone refused to use a phone. Email is great for exchanging information, but not for facilitating discussions.

4.   Write a novel. Some people have a remarkable penchant for transforming what should be a basic five-line statement into a lengthy, convoluted missive with way too much detail. If you can't say it in a paragraph or two, something is wrong.

5.   Expect that everyone is working because you're working. We all know people who work 24x7x365. If you are one of these maniacs, great. The company loves you for all the time you donate. But your colleagues may actually want to sleep, attend their daughter's basketball game or take a day off. Give someone 24 hours and the weekend to respond before you mail-bomb them. That's the whole point of email!

6.   Do you know the way to CYA? Please don't copy your boss and whoever else might hold sway simply to exert political pressure and cover your butt. And skip the high-fives to the entire company over winning the annual softball game. A distribution list should include only those who have a legitimate need to be informed.

7.   Go "Chicken Little" on everyone. Save the exclamation points! And the breathless subject lines and "urgent" icons (!!!) for those special times when it's truly urgent and necessary! SKIP THE CAPS TOO! Otherwise, you simply train colleagues and others to think of you as a over-excited spammer!!!