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That which is most precious

Russ Kathrein - Leadership

Never ahead, ever behind, yet flying swiftly past; for a child, I last forever; for an adult, I’m gone too fast. What am I?

The answer of course is time, the one thing we have that’s limited, yet it’s something we take for granted. When I was newly married and started having children, I got the chance to attend a David Sandler presentation. He developed the Sandler Selling System, and back then you had to pay to attend a live seminar. It was incredibly invaluable to me as a young person starting out in sales, and he said one thing that has resonated in my brain ever since. He talked about people working long hours in their job to impress their boss, and then carving out quality time for their families. “You’ve got it all turned around,” he shouted loudly. “It’s about quality time at work, and quantity time with your family!”

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That comment struck me like a thunderbolt. How often had I thought if I’d just tried harder for a longer period of time it would have helped me be successful? While hard work at your job does pay off, smart work that is more productive creates more opportunities. From that point forward I vowed I would always look for better ways to do things, even if it meant challenging the system.

Today, I look for things in my work life that waste time, and then I try to figure out how to improve or eliminate them. Here are some examples and some pet peeves I alone cannot fix:

Meetings: The first rule is to have an agenda of how the meeting will work, and for goodness sake, can we get rid of the time on the agenda spent talking about the agenda? Also, I have found conference rooms tend to be too comfortable and we end up stretching the meeting to the time allocated. To combat this, I’ll hold a stand-up meeting or connect in some open- area collaboration. Get done what you need to do and let everyone disperse. And while virtual meetings can be very productive for regular updates, you have to turn on your camera. If I can’t see you, that means to me you’re not engaged, you’re multi-tasking, or you’ve checked out.

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Cell phone greetings/cell company voicemail instructions: Stop with the long-winded introductions. All I need to know is that I have the right person. Give your name and company and let me get to my message. And why is it I have to listen to the phone company tell me how to leave a phone message before I hear the beep? I think by now we all have that down. Mobile phone companies—give people back some of their life!

Requests for information: If you have the information already, don’t make me keep giving it to you. The healthcare industry is the biggest culprit when it comes to requesting the same information over and over.

Improper email usage: We all know ALL CAPS MEANS YOU ARE SHOUTING. And if you CC me on an email, don’t expect a reply. The email was not to me. Lose the Reply All function. We don’t all need to know what your reply was back to the sender. I especially despise Reply All emails that say “Thanks” or “Got it.”

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Group texts: You want to drive me nuts? Put me on a social group text with a bunch of numbers not on my contacts. Not only are the comments mindless, but I have no idea who is responding.

Okay, time to step off the soapbox. Now that you’ve heard mine, what things have you found that waste time, and what have you been able to do about them? Send me your responses at and I will share the best of them in a follow up column.

Russ Kathrein is with the LBM Division of Do it Best Corp. based in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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