The Thieves of Time

Image credits: Illustration and Painting

Understanding the thieves of time and retaking control of your most precious resource is essential to improve your productivity and efficiency at work.This will not only delay your progress and impact your productivity but could also make you miss a promotion being too busy to look around and improve your visibility.

By Emile Fhakoury
Let me explain some of these thieves of time so we are well prepared to be efficient:

1-Unplanned Work:
Receiving or taking on too much-unplanned work will ruin your day and load you heavily with tasks. Learn to say no sometimes and not take everything on your shoulders, delegate and empower your team and don’t hesitate to ask for help.

It’s essential to build a certain amount of flexibility to plan for the ‘unplanned work' to ensure this work never derails the key projects, while leaders should take steps to control the level of unplanned work coming into their teams.  

2-Conflicting Priorities:
Working in a matrix organisation could make you subject to conflicting instructions or priorities from the leadership team, putting you in the middle of the conflict; you should ask for clarity in case of doubt. Sometimes, it is good to question your management’s objectives or plan and have open discussions to avoid wasting your efforts. The plan should be regularly reviewed and updated, considering the latest outcomes.

3-Neglected Work:
Sometimes, the neglected work comes back with a higher impact to be tackled and requires additional efforts and resources; hence, failing or not completing the task will add further stress to your plan. Minimising their impact is an ongoing transformative process that will likely require fundamental cultural shifts for individual teams and the organisation.

4-Too Much WIP:
You become loaded, busy, and inefficient with too much work in progress (WIP) as you cannot think and plan. While some consider themselves good multi-taskers, our brain is designed to do only one thing at a time.

We can deliver our best when we're intently focused on one task at a time and will likely finish more work faster. That's why it's essential to schedule a time to allow teams to focus on one project at a time, as much as possible, and avoid pulling them from one task to another throughout the day.

We're all trying to do more with less or doing more with our organisations’ available budgets and resources in our professional lives. This will continue as we are in a competitive, challenging environment.

I believe the solution is to design a process that does the following things:

  1. makes work visible to eliminate Unplanned Work.
  2. measures and manages the flow of work to control Conflicting Priorities.
  3. prioritises effectively and adjusts based on learnings to manage the Neglected Work.
  4. limits work-in-progress (WIP) to reduce Too Much WIP.

But while getting the most out of the resources, don’t let other factors act as ‘the thieves of time’ for our most precious resource – one that we cannot replenish once it's been used – our time.


Emile Fakhoury

Corporate Expert Writer, Business Professional in Energy/Water/Oil/Gas, Specialist in Coaching/Training, Association of Project Management UK Fellow Member. The professional who believes that adaptation to various social or corporate environments is the only way to survive and strive. Master the rules of the game in order to reach the top and change the rules.
See full bio >
The Liberum runs on your donation. Fight with us for a free society.
Donation Form (#6)

6 comments on “The Thieves of Time”

  1. Very insightful,it’s very challenging to manage ever changing work priorities & unplanned activities coming up.Good suggestions.

  2. 🤝 well said, though sometimes is difficult to say no to a task especially when you are in the process of learning,all in all, this is very good.thanks

    1. Well said Flavia ! Keep in mind the main objective to reduce distractions

More articles you might like