Accounting for personal conversations

By Tom Dowd | Aug 04, 2016

I used to work with a friend who had the same schedule, so we always walked out together each day. But, I found that his end time of 5 p.m. and my end time of 5 p.m. weren’t the same.

The clocks read the same, and we would often start packing up for the evening at the same time, but we were never ready at the same time. Sure, a customer might call, or colleagues needed our attention at the moment we’d planned on originally leaving. This is understood; it happens sometimes. However, what I found was that it happened to him consistently.

He was a social butterfly. He would go from person to person and spend what seemed like hours talking away about nothing important. As someone who teaches networking and the importance of relationships, I get it. However, there is a balancing act. He often complained that there just weren’t enough hours in the day to do everything he wanted, personally and professionally. There are enough hours — the question is, where do you want to spend them? Once I made him conscious of my observation of his nonproductive wanderings, he assessed himself and readjusted accordingly. His hallway conversations still met the needs of building relationships. His conversations didn’t have to be terse, but he found a nice balance and actually was recognized for his productivity a few months later.

Assess how much of your day is spent on random personal conversation, and determine if it is negatively impacting your ability to get things done. This does not mean you can’t be personal. It simply means, don’t spend forty-five minutes talking about the weekend and then complain that you don’t have enough time in the day to do your tasks. It might mean a five-minute chat and a genuine, “Great to see you” before you move on. What’s more important at work: relationship building or time management? If you find the right balance, this becomes an and statement, not an or, enabling you to navigate through the important social and professional aspects of your job.

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