How to waste your time at work

This article was originally published in
Insight #24 on 19 March 2008

Time is money.  
It’s a statement you’ve probably heard many times. This is because largely, it
is true. Regardless of our age or how much money we have or anything else
superficial, we all have access to exactly the same amount of time each day,
each week and each month as every other person.  
One of the most common reasons/justifications/excuses I hear from recruiters as
to why they don’t consistently tackle important activities (eg prospect
calling, staying in touch with candidates, completing thorough reference checks
etc) is … you guessed it …  

“I don’t have enough
or “I’m too busy”.  
Unlike most other jobs, as recruiters we have a very big scoreboard that tells
us how well we are managing our time in doing the things that matter – it’s
called our billings or gross profit/net margin. That big scoreboard doesn’t
care about how busy you are; all it records is how effective   you are at
performing activities that deliver desired results.  Confronting but true.  
This is one reason why many people don’t last in recruitment – they have come
from previous employment backgrounds where being busy is good enough to keep
their job (or get ahead). In recruitment being busy is never   good enough
to keep your job or get ahead.  
Speaking as a recruiter, here are the 12 easiest ways to waste your time:


1.         Start the day socialising rather than on the phone  
 You know how this goes: 20 minutes getting
toast and coffee, another 15 minutes having social chit chat around the office
and then another 30 minutes on emails. The first phone call of the day is made
at 9.50am.  It doesn’t matter what time you arrive at the office, what
really counts is when you start your outbound calls.


2.         Writing emails  
 It takes about five times as long to write
an email as it does to make a phone call where, in most cases, you can have the
complete conversation done and dusted in about 3 minutes. If your email is more
than 5 sentences long, it’s really a conversation, so get on the phone!  

3.         Surfing the Internet  
 I love being online as much as the next
person but I know that when I really need to accomplish something significant I
have to close my browser. As much as the web is great for sourcing all sorts of
useful stuff for our jobs, mostly recruiters use the web for personal reasons,
unrelated to their job.  

4.         Interviewing too many marginal candidates  
 If you are not referring at least 50% of
your interviewed candidates to clients within 4 weeks (for registered jobs or
float/reverse market opportunities) then your screening and selection skills
need to be improved immediately. I’ve yet to meet a recruiter who made a fee
from a candidate they interviewed but didn’t refer to a client.  

5.         Sole visits  
 Leaving the office for one visit is, quite
frankly, a crime against time management. There is so much dead time soaked up
in getting to and from a client or prospect visit that when you depart for a
client meeting it should be the first of three back-to-back meetings you have
scheduled. Book visits well in advance then make it your mission to arrange
other visits around the first one.  

6.         Not completing what you start  
 Jumping from task to task is part of the
landscape for a recruiter. Unfortunately a lot of time is wasted every time you
do this (in ramp-up and wind-down time); so much so that it dramatically
reduces how much you actually accomplish each day. Try operating from the DO IT, DELEGATE IT or DELETE/DUMP IT   principle and DON’T get DISTRACTED before
you finish it.  

7.         Opening and responding to emails immediately  
 One of the most effective time managers I
know, only opens his emails at the beginning of the day, at lunch time and then
at the end of the day. The rest of the time he is on the phone and talking to
people face-to-face. You would be amazed (or maybe not) by what he doesn’t
miss out on   by not looking at and responding to his emails as soon as they
come in.  

8.         Debriefing your colleagues after every little drama  
 A recruiter’s day is full of many minor
(and sometimes major) dramas. Regardless of how interested you think your
colleagues are in hearing about any of these (and here’s the brutal truth), they
really don’t care!   They have their own job to get on with. Save your war
stories until post 6pm wind-down, or even better, Friday night drinks when you
have a better perspective on the week’s events.  

9.         Messages left with no specific point  
 I get annoyed when people leave a voice
message and ask me to call, with no reason given. It means I can’t do any preparation
prior   to returning the call to enable the subsequent conversation to
accomplish something in the shortest amount of time. Make sure you provide
specific detail in any message you leave for another person.  It’s also
likely they will prioritise returning your   call ahead of other
non-specific ‘left message’ callers.  

10.    Writing things down on random pieces of paper  
 Nothing is more frustrating than spending
valuable time trying to find where you wrote down that address, salary or phone
number. What worked for me was having a spiral bound A4 notebook in which I
wrote down everything  . I then ticked it off when I had acted upon it (eg
transferred info into database, returned that call, etc).  

11.    Not confronting profit killing clients soon enough  
 If you have clients in this category you
need to have the tough conversation with them today  . The longer their
errant behaviour continues, with you in obedient tow, the more your time is

12.    Not working from a prioritised ‘To Do’ list  
 Without such a list you risk becoming
highly reactive to the day’s and week’s events. This makes the daily and weekly
accomplishment of high pay-off activities more luck-based rather than as the
result of your specific, proactive intention.

I once heard yachting described as standing under a
cold shower ripping up $100 notes. Something similar applies to recruiters with
respect to time wasting. Allowing any of the above 12 things to continue, now
that I have raised your awareness of them (although, let’s face it, you
secretly knew you were doing most of these anyway, didn’t you?) is like
throwing away $100,000 worth of annual fees or margin.  
That’s easily how much difference greater vigilance and action on time wasting
could make to your result in a year. Just one more perm placement per month (or
temp placement per week) through cutting down your time wasting activities is
likely to generate a huge dividend.  
Are you willing to give it a shot or will you continue committing crimes
against time?  

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