How much time do you waste every day due to those people who are time disruptors? Do you have people who try to reverse delegate to you? Do you have team members who want to chat? Do you have a boss who wants to usurp your time by repeating old stories?

How can you get past these time robbers without seeming rude?


When your team members try to reverse delegate back to you the things you assigned to them, how do you handle the situation? Most supervisors get tired of giving instructions and figure that it would just be easier to do it themselves. Is this true or does it create the belief within your team members that you will do the work they don’t want to do?

Instead of taking on the work you assigned, ask them:

  1. What is the issue? Was I unclear in my instructions?
  2. Is there something I can clarify for you so you can complete this project?
  3. Have you tried the steps outlined in the manual? If you haven’t, please go back and do the steps. After you’ve read the manual, and you have a specific question, please come back.
  4. Do you have adequate resources to complete the task?
  5. Have you used your mentor to assist you?

When your team members understand that you won’t take the work for them, they will learn to come to you only with specific questions after exhausting other possibilities.


When individuals understand that you will stop whatever you are doing to chat with them, they will feel there is an extended invitation to visit. While impromptu meetings are valuable at times, these can also usurp your time making you take home work or stay late. When you have an agenda to accomplish and need to get though your list of things to do, follow these guidelines to gently move disruptors out of your path.

  • Give them a time limit. “John, I only have three minutes. Can you tell me what you need to in five minutes? If not, will you send me an email so I can arrange a meeting for later?”
  • Be assertive by announcing, “Mary, what can I do to assist you?”
  • Let them know you are on the way to another meeting and invite them to walk with you. “Walk with me on my way to this meeting.”
  • Shut your door with a sign that says when you will be available.
  • Maintain working when somebody interrupts you. “Jerry, I’m working right now. When will you be available later?”


It is easier to let your subordinates know you are busy, but it becomes much more challenging when it is your boss wasting your time. How do you let your boss know you can’t take on one more project at this moment without seeming disrespectful or incompetent? How can you release yourself from hearing the story about his famous high school football catch one more time?

  • “I can do this project for you right now if you are willing to allow me to transfer this other project to another department.”
  • “What I’m hearing is that you prefer me to complete this project for you rather than completing the other one.”
  • “I have five projects on my desk right now. Which one of those would you like for me to delay or transfer to another department?”
  • “I love your story about the touchdown catch. Can you share it with me the next time we have coffee together?”

People will disrupt or usurp your time if you allow them the opportunity. It is up to you to determine how much time you will allow others to take. Control your time robbers by communicating what you are willing to allow and when you will allow it. In this way, you will save the time you need for your family, hobbies, and exercise.