Young Upstarts

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At Work, Do You Make Things Happen Or Just Fill Time?

By Phil Cooke, author of “Jolt! Get the Jump on a World That’s Constantly Changing

Innovative gadgets and mobile devices have brought great ease and efficiency to the workplace, but I’m convinced they’ve also become huge time-wasters.  How often do you spend hours answering email and think you’ve actually accomplished something?  Are you spending time in endless meetings to avoid actually making decisions?  Do you have beautiful “to-do” lists, but don’t actually finish anything?

I have 5 suggestions to help you quit your wasting time to boost your productivity.  After all, you don’t want to get to the end of your life and realize your only real accomplishment was sending and receiving 10 billion email messages:

Put down the mobile device occasionally.

Chances are, you don’t really need to check your email every five minutes.  Learn to control that fear that there just might be a REALLY IMPORTANT message that you need to check RIGHT NOW.  Email is a wonderful tool, but can easily evolve into bondage – particularly at the expense of your personal relationships.

Stop checking your email first thing in the morning.

If the first thing you do on waking up is check your email (don’t deny it!), you’ll suddenly discover that it’s noon, and you’re still answering those messages.  Don’t get caught up in the vortex.  When you come into the office, do the most important thing you need to do that day.  THEN, check your email.  This change alone will make your productivity shoot right through the roof.

Learn the power of priorities.

Far too often we spend enormous time dealing with trivial tasks and feel like we’re actually accomplishing something important.  But never do minor tasks at the expense of major projects.  Stop responding to what everyone else thinks is “urgent” and start focusing on what’s really important.

Shut the office door.

Whoever invented the “open door policy” never actually accomplished very much.  Of course you need to be accessible to your employees and associates, but not all the time!  Unexpected visitors and phone calls are the worst time wasters of all.  Some studies suggest that it takes nearly an hour to get back on track after a single interruption.  At that rate, it doesn’t take much to wreck your entire day.  Schedule certain hours for meetings and visitors, but otherwise, keep the door shut and focus.

Finally, you don’t have to answer every cell phone call!

I’ve seen people interrupt important meetings, critical family times, sensitive negotiations, counseling sessions, and more to deal with minor phone calls that could have easily gone right to voice mail.  Don’t be afraid to let the caller leave a message and get back to them when it’s more appropriate.  If you’re in the middle of something important, and you can see the caller isn’t a critical contact, leave it for later.  You’ll waste less time, accomplish more, and even the caller would rather have you call them back when they actually have your full attention.


In today’s radically changing world, those who succeed will be the ones who control technology, and don’t let technology control them.  Focus less on gadgets and more on people, and you’ll see your life transformed for the better.


Phil Cooke is a television producer and media consultant at Cooke Pictures in Burbank, California. His new book is “Jolt! Get the Jump on a World That’s Constantly Changing“. Find out more at





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