Time Management: What Are You Doing All Day at Work?

time management I once had a job where, after four months in the office, I still couldn't pinpoint exactly what one person in my office did. She and I would be in the same meetings, but she didn't say or do anything that hinted at her professional purpose.

Not once did we collaborate on a project, though we made polite conversation in the hallways. When I asked my boss about this person's role, I received an eye roll and a shrug. In other words, no one knew what this person with a vague job title spent her time doing.

In all honesty, most of us probably don't know what other people are doing on a daily basis. We know what their job functions are, but how they spend their working hours is anyone's guess. Perhaps no one is on the receiving end of such speculation more than our bosses. Surely we've all thought, "I'm doing all the work, but the CEO's bonus is bigger than my entire paycheck."

Recently, the Harvard Business School released the paper "What Do CEOs Do?" For their research, they looked at the day-to-day responsibilities of 94 CEOs in Italian organizations. (Yes, the study is based in Italy, but we're going to trust Harvard on this and assume their results give us insight into American bosses, too.)

Here's a glance at what the survey found:

  • CEOs spend 85 percent of their time with other people.
  • CEOs spend 60 percent of their workday in meetings.
  • Phone calls, conference calls and public events combined only comprise 25 percent of a CEO's day.

In other words, CEOs are rarely alone. Perhaps this makes sense if you think about how much strategizing and negotiating goes on among business leaders. This, of course, means the rest of us are doing the work that drives the business that our CEOs are always meeting about.

And we're back to the question of, "What are you doing with your workday?" Apparently, we're wasting a lot of it, and not necessarily because we're lazy. In fact, we're trying to get things done and getting sidetracked by the small stuff that needs to be crossed off our to-do list.

Earlier this year, Fonality, a company specializing in business communications needs, looked at how the average worker spends his or her day in a small or midsize business. According to Fonality, "[Workers] spend 50 percent of their workday on necessary, yet unproductive tasks, including routine communications and filtering incoming information and correspondence."

The survey explains that workers spend:

  • 39 minutes each day duplicating communications via multiple channels (such as email and phone)
  • 33 minutes attempting to schedule meetings
  • 29 minutes dealing with unwanted communications, such as SPAM and unsolicited calls
  • 67 minutes trying to find important information relevant to work
  • 74 minutes trying to contact customers, partners or colleagues

Or, if you're basing this on an eight-hour workday, you spend 50 percent of your day on the above tasks. Basically, trying to do something but not doing the actual task.

Admittedly, the company who conducted the survey is concerned about wasted time relating to communications, because they are a communications-focused organization. And this survey certainly emphasizes an office culture, so the results would probably shift once other professions (such as retail sales and food service) were taken into account.

Therefore I'm not pretending it's a perfect replica of everybody's day, but it certainly appears to be a trend for many workers. Plus, not too long ago we discussed the strange phenomenon in this country: We keep scheduling meetings, but we claim to hate them.

Does your workday seem to follow the same pattern of attempting and trying to do a bunch of tasks before you actually get anything accomplished?

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