7 Common Ways Leaders Waste Time and Energy

Wasting time and energy may be one of my biggest pet peeves as a leader. Some days I leave work and feel I never got off a treadmill. It’s physically and mentally draining.

Does it ever happen to you?

It can be frustrating to feel your most valuable commodity – time – has been wasted – or you invested good every on the wrong things. 

I firmly believe when we get rid of some common drains on our time and energy we dramatically improve our performance as leaders. With this in mind, I’ve observed in my own personal development some ways to eliminate time and energy wasters.

Here are 7 common wastes of time and energy in leadership:

Focussing too much attention on the naysayers.

I have found worrying over what critics are saying, especially the ones I have learned I will likely never make happy, delays progress and takes time and energy from me. Plus, it only detracts my focus from the positive people who believe in the vision and are supportive. Every decision a leader makes will make some happy and some unhappy. I need to be humble, make sure I’m not making decisions alone, and filter through the constructive criticism I need to hear – but then give my best attention to moving forward. 

Refusing to delegate.

When I make every decision, or become too controlling as a leader, I rob myself and our team of valuable extra time and energy a talented team could have provided. I feel overwhelmed more quickly, the team feels under-appreciated and we fail to accomplish as much as we should.

Second guessing decisions.

Sometimes I can wear myself out wrestling over a decision – even though I know I’ve covered all the bases I can – prayed, sought wise counsel, followed my gut. It’s often best just to make the decision. If I’m wrong, I find it is better to work to make better decisions moving forward rather than being timid about my next decision or living in a pity party of the bad ones already made.

Trying to have all the ideas.

Many leaders feel they have to be the originator of all the creativity of a team. Some do it it of pride and some mistakenly believe it’s what a leader must do. They waste time brainstorming alone and the energy created by expanding the creative process. Consequently, the best ideas often never surface. Original thoughts, better than ours, are usually in the room or the organization if we will welcome them to the table. This preserves my time and energy for more efficient uses and allows me to concentrate on things only I can do.

Living with bad structure.

Let’s face reality. Over time, rules take on a life of their own. What was once created to improve efficiency actually begins to slow progress and waste valuable time. Plus, bad structure is an energy-drainer. Change the rules – or, if possible, drop them. We need healthy guidelines, but the fewer restrictions we place on people the better they can perform – and you often free up valuable space for people to actually enjoy their work. Morale boosters are always good for productivity.


Many leaders feel overwhelmed because they don’t have good organizational skills. Learning how to better handle routine tasks such as processing emails, calendaring, and scheduling work flow each week will drastically improve time efficiency and energy to do more work. Begin each day with a checklist of “must do” activities. Take time to plan out your week. Work from a pre-determined schedule as much as possible. Learn the value of NO and use it. Being organized helps handle interruptions, which naturally come for all of us.

Completing tasks not helpful in my overall productivity.

This could be any number of things. Even reading a book, for example. Perhaps a silly example, but I have discovered sometimes I can read too much. It may sounds strange, but really it’s because I read things I didn’t need to read. I start a book and within the first chapter I know it’s not helpful, or even enjoyable, my sense of completion wants to finish. It would be better to put it aside and pick up another book. Take the novel length email I just received – I try to determine first if I’m the one who should respond. Many times I’m not – before I read and try to process – I pass it on to someone more suitable. It could be attending a meeting or supervising a project. Whatever it is – if I am not the best person for the job or it is just a time or energy waster – the sooner I say no or hand off the task, the more time and energy I preserve for other tasks I should be doing.

What time or energy wasters have you seen in leadership?

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36 thoughts on “7 Common Ways Leaders Waste Time and Energy

  1. Great post again Ron.
    I have always felt that a minute passed is a minute that will never be recuperated, so wasting time is also one of my pet peeves. This leads me to want to "rush" through things. I hate it when people take forever to do something simple. I'm the kind of guy that wants things done yesterday. – not a good attribute so I've been forced to slow down. Moving to a country setting in Southern Ohio has taught me that life here is nowhere near as fast as it was in Chicago. Frustrating! But I needed to slow down a bit.
    It's not good to rush through things and have to re-do them, and it's better to slow down a bit and get them done right the first time.

  2. A lot of good practical things here. One suggestion I have for most teams is to schedule a regular retreat once or twice a year, depending on the dynamics and logistics of the team. This allows these kinds of practical things to be reviewed and handled ahead of time as a team so the team becomes more efficient and unified.

  3. Ron – Could you please write a separate blog someday addressing in more detail some practical tips on how you deal with #5 Disorganization. I'm not Pastor, but I feel like these things are still killing me everyday. I feel like I have pretty good organizational skills (I can find a report from 5 years ago in a flash, whereas my co-workers won't even bother trying because they know its hopeless). I use all the tools (Drag that E-mail to my Calendar and poof its an appointment with reminder). I'm learning to manage the huge mass of Email I get daily better too (e.g. delete some E-mails without opening them based on the subject line alone, Don't leave emails in my Inbox that I now I'll never get around to reading – just move it to a folder, etc.). But i still feel overwhelmed, like these things are kicking my butt, managing by fire drill. Perhaps you could recommend a book on organizational skills.

    • I'll work on this. Good suggestion.For a couple books. Try “The Progress Principle” and “Do the Work”
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  4. Very good stuff. As a worship leader amongst other things I have found myself victom to every one of these things. Hopefully your post will help others getting into leadership positions NOT make the mistakes we have done so many times in the past. Peace to you.
    Twitter: ep_lewis

  5. Especially liked – “novel length emails. Decide if I’m the one to respond.”

    I’ve always hated reading those and never thought to choose if I needed to. thanks

  6. Great post. A minute in preparation saves 10 or more in execution. Every minute invested brings great dividends of the most perishable commodity we have…Time. Nobody ever on their last day asks for more tasks. They ask for more time. Thanks for the tips on being proactive with this extremely precious gift.

  7. Great stuff, Ron, thanks for your honest insight. I can use some improvement in each of these seven areas, will use this a a constructive outline and barometer. Embarrassed to admit it, but I often convince myself that I am too busy right now to get organized…but, will do so "soon" (which in the original Greek means "never"). Rats.

    • Ha! I've actually said that about exercise. “I'm too tired to exercise”…yet that's where much of my energy comes from.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  8. Taking up another person’s offense! Being an administrative church secretary who was always slammed with projects and things to get done, this was a trap I needed not to fall into if I wanted to use my time wisely, manage my energy and keep my focus. In the long run you can waste so much energy trying to “stick up” for someone who has been unjustly accused by assumptions, or their character is being defamed by false accusations and you feel the offense and just “need” to make it right, but making it right takes all kinds of time and seems to dig a deeper pit of human condition. If you just settle it in your heart that “God is the Vindicator”, that “GOD KNOWS”, that “God’s Got This”, you can take that phone call and just say: “I don’t agree with you, we will have to agree to disagree on this one, but the cool thing is GOD KNOWS and He’s Got This!” At The Heart Of Every Disagreement, I Had To Remind Myself Of My Real Mission: Matthew 28:19-20 And STAY ON MISSION, because that was my God given mission and the rest He has not assigned me! AWE-GOD!
    Twitter: kmac4him

  9. Ron, I really enjoy this post. Were you categorizing my past mistakes? You stopped me right at #1 because it is all too easy to get sidetracked here. There are always critics, and naysayers, but leaders do address them….and then push right on with the agenda.

    So what's the most important energy and time waster of all? Not learning from your mistakes. That dooms you to repeat them over and over….

  10. It may sound patronizing to say this, but I have found that if I take things one step, one task, at a time, I alieve a good deal of the stress from wasted time and energy. Mostly because I am able to look at these things in a more calm and collected mind frame, and better determine the things I really have no business doing. Many times, I cam delegate, but there are times when I just plain dismiss them!
    Twitter: bryankr