How To Handle Time Wasters

What do you do when someone wastes your time? Thank you to a fabulous reader who inspired today’s post.

She booked a hotel over the phone. They spelled her name and address wrong (even though she did the whole “V as in Victor” situation). She corrected them while she was on the call. They emailed a confirmation with the wrong spellings anyway. She emailed with the corrections. Then they asked for proof of the spellings in order to correct it!

They asked for a utility bill, birth certificate, or drivers license. That would require she find the correct document, scan or take a photo of it, and send it to them. Not to mention, they’d now have that personal information. (A birth certificate?!)

I had similar time-sucking situations last week. The post office website said a package arrived that didn’t; I had to follow up with someone multiple, multiple times for a work matter; People texting while walking up or down stairs, completely unaware they are on this planet with other people; Catalogues arriving that I didn’t sign up for, having to call to get taken off the list. (Pet Peeve: my information being sold but my not making any profit on it. Not to mention the huge waste of paper. How about the trees get the profit?)

When someone else introduces a problem into your life you didn’t sign up for, it feels frustrating, unfair, and maddening. Of course this isn’t the first time a thoughtful response and awareness are lacking, but the frequency makes me wonder whether our culture is having a cause and effect problem. People are on overload so they’re more inefficient, and not communicating well. “Ghosting” is a thing for goodness sakes.

How is it we have more communication but it’s not better communication?

Let’s face it. As caring, thoughtful, and evolved as you might be, not everyone in the world is reading the same self-help books, or in the same mood, or has the same EQ or organizational skills as you. Sometimes it depends if you catch someone before or after they eat lunch. As for dating and romance, there’s now an unfortunate acceptance of speedy and careless communication. (Check out the post “No Premarital Text“.)

So what do we do with these daily obstacles?

Here are some ideas:

1. Recovery is a huge, overlooked strategy in life. Recover quicker by not letting it make you think everyone in the world is like this, or that the fates are against you. Stay on point to just solve the problem. Take a break if you’re in your own bubble and resolve the problem some each day.

2. Carve out time for these things. In other words, embrace that it will take three phone calls and three hours to clear up the problem. Figure in more time and effort than you expect it will. It lowers my stress level every time.

3. Recognize that taking time to solve your problems isn’t actually a waste of time. Flip “I shouldn’t have to do this” to “I’m taking my time to take care of myself.” Then it’s about being good to yourself rather than focusing on how other people are f*ing it up.

4. If you can, change who you’re speaking with. I once had a billing correction and the call started with the woman saying attitude-full, “I bet you think I’m going to change this.” After more resistance from her, I said genuinely, “I don’t think we’re going to solve this together. Is there someone else I can speak to?” There wasn’t, but she did drop the ‘tude. She made me jump through more hoops, didn’t resolve it, and I heard she got fired. But I really like the idea of “solve this together.”

5. Do what our reader did when they asked her to fix their mistake. She said, “Thank you for wasting my time” which I think is a hilarious – and useful – twist on “Thank you for not wasting my time”. (If that woman hadn’t been fired I’d send her a note with that sentiment right now!)

Let’s keep the conversation going and keep follow through and common courtesy, er, common.

4 Comments on “How To Handle Time Wasters”

  1. Anonymous says:

    In response to different parts of your article, I have a few comments:
    I must say, if it were me in that first hotel situation, I never would have gone to that hotel. In fact, I would have (hmmm, would this be a time waster?) contacted the manager and complained. Perhaps your reader did just that.
    I agree with you that it’s helpful to budget extra time to take care of annoying matters so you’re not feeling so frustrated.
    And I’ve also found that asking to talk to another person in a phone matter instead of the one with the attitude (or the one who’s just not being helpful for other reasons) is empowering and sometimes even solves the problem.

    1. Heather Maidat says:

      Thank you for your comments. Yes! It really often does solve the problem to talk to someone else on the phone. When I can tell it’s going nowhere I’ve said “Okay, thank you, that’s all” and then called back. (As long as there’s not a long phone tree to do over again!)

  2. You see the “funny” in everything (give the trees the profit, hahaha)– once you get over it I suppose.
    I am actually going to copy this because I didn’t think of your suggestions before. I read, “Here are some ideas…” and after I read #1, I sighed a big sigh, and I knew you were on to something. Really. The other suggestions, too, are so right and so helpful. Thank you once again.

    1. Heather Maidat says:

      Thank you so much for your response – for sharing the laughs, and ideas, and being part of the conversation.

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