How to reclaim your time

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Got a minute? That’s the phrase that has launched millions of time-consuming interruptions in the workplace, a much more serious problem than most people think.

Change-management expert Edward G. Brown cites these interruptions when explaining why we’re stressed at work, and why we’re wasting 40% to 60% of our time due to unwanted and unwarranted interruptions. The chief culprits are what Brown calls “time bandits,” those often well-meaning people or unexpected events that claim our time, often with crippling effects on our pursuits.

Brown’s new book, The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had (Cohen Brown Picture Co., 2014), is a worthwhile read for anyone who’s at the mercy of time bandits. With the right (positive) approach, Brown thinks professionals can recover three to five hours of their time each day.

Recapturing time involves some diplomatic skill, finesse, and negotiation — skills that can be learned and are outlined in various role-playing scenarios in the book. These skills are required not only because nonbinding agreements are involved, but because the worst time bandits are co-workers, bosses, clients, friends, family members — even ourselves.

If you’re too abrupt in reclaiming time, you run the risk of either offending the bandits, losing clients, or getting fired. Brown suggests a more nuanced process in which you not only “train” time bandits to let you work uninterrupted but make the prospect attractive to them by identifying mutual benefits.

Through techniques like time locking, batch processing, and applying the 80/20 Rule to prioritizing tasks, he demonstrates how to stretch your productive life. The main takeaway is that you’re not powerless to prevent interruptions, and it’s possible to do so while maintaining, even enhancing, personal and professional relationships.



“If you speak from your heart and not your brain, the time bandit will listen,” notes Brown, co-founder of Cohen Brown Change Management Group, a noted change-management consulting firm for financial services organizations.

Given Brown’s remarkable business career, which includes innovations like an internationally acclaimed time and workflow management program, he’s certainly worth listening to. Whether you’re a business professional, a student, or a busy mom trying to accomplish more each day, following the advice offered in The Time Bandit Solution might return a precious gift — your own time.