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Most people associate a lack of knowledge and skill as being a time waster. They are quite right too. Where an individual lacks the knowledge and skills to carry out a task, he/she tends to take much longer than most others. This becomes a waste of time. If you were making a sales proposal for example and were good at it, you might take an hour or so. Someone who doesn’t have the skills may struggle with it for 3-4 hours.

Interestingly, a task which you like very much or are very good at could also become a time waster. Let’s stay with the same example of the sales proposal. If you enjoy preparing one and spend inordinately long periods of time checking the suitability of every word, cross-referencing and checking every figure to see if it can be further optimised; you are almost crafting it to perfection. You may end up doing a superb job but the question is was it worth all that time and effort?

I have seen executives get into this trap when they conduct job interviews. They spend so much time on their pet subject often getting so carried away in the details that they forget the very purpose of the interaction. The objective is not to show the candididate how much you know or how smart you are. The objective is to establish how much the candidate knows and whether he is capable of carrying out a task.

Liking a task or subject too much may result in our spending excessive time and energy on it. In designing or developing a product, we may assign attributes and values far in excess of what’s required. A designer may develop an amazing product but it is of no use if it is not commercially viable. Over engineering a product ends up not only being a waste of money but a waste of time as well.

So there you have it. Strange as it may seem: being incompetent definitely leads to wasting of time; being over competent tends to do the same thing. Do what’s necessary – and no more- especially when the task is one of your favourites.

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This is the 137 th of the “A Step A Day” series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success

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