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Copyright © 1997, Sivasailam Thiagarajan. All rights reserved.

Many of us go through life in a mindless fashion, wasting valuable time. This game encourages you to discover the factors that contribute to wasted time in the workplace. It also helps you to figure out which time wasters you share with the others and which ones are unique to you.


To identify major time wasters in the workplace and arrange them in order of their impact


30 - 45 minutes


6 to 30


Flow of the Game

Brief the players. Explain that several factors encourage (and sometimes force) people to waste time in the workplace. Ask the players to name a common time waster. Comment on this example. Point out that identifying major time wasters in the workplace is the first step in removing them and reducing their impact.

Begin with individual brainstorming. Ask the players to spend a couple of minutes to reflect on the major time wasters in the workplace and to independently write down a list.

Steve thinks about time wasters in his office. After a few moments, he writes down these ideas:

Form teams. Organize the players into three or more teams, each with 2 to 7 players.

Andy, the facilitator, asked the players to form themselves into four teams of five members each. Steve joins a team with Diane, Ronnis, Deb, and Peter. The team members briefly introduce themselves to one another.

Assign teamwork. Ask the teams to spend the next 5 minutes recording a list of time wasters in the workplace. Encourage the team members to use the ideas they had generated earlier.

Deb acts as the team's reporter. While other team members call out different time wasters, Deb writes them down, adding her own ideas from time to time. In 5 minutes, the team generates a total of 17 ideas.

Ask the teams to narrow down their lists. Instruct each team to select the five main time wasters.

After some discussion and debate, Steve's team narrows down its list of time wasters to these five items:

  1. Too many reports to write
  2. Meetings without agenda
  3. Delays in getting budget approval
  4. Meaningless committee meetings
  5. Open-door policy

Prepare a common list. Ask the teams to take turns calling out one of the main time wasters on their list. Record this time waster on the flipchart. Encourage the teams to avoid repeating the items already on the list. Continue this procedure until the common list has 10 to 12 time wasters.

Here is the final list:

  1. People coming to meetings without doing their homework
  2. Waiting to see the manager
  3. Too many reports to write
  4. Lack of planning
  5. Wasting time trying to satisfy customers
  6. Inability to say "No"
  7. Problems in locating documents
  8. Delays in budget approval
  9. Wasting time on trivial items
  10. Too many committees

Ask the teams to select the worst time waster. Explain that you are looking for an item that everyone will see as wasting the most time in the workplace. Ask the players to review the items in the common list and select, with the other members of their team, the worst time waster.

Explain the scoring system. The teams will receive a score equal to the total number of teams that selected the same time waster. For example, if four teams selected, "Telephone calls" as the worst time waster, then each team would receive 4 points.

Steve has some trouble understanding the scoring system. Peter explains that they should simply choose the item that most of the other teams will choose.

Conduct the first round. Tell the teams to select the worst time waster from the common list on the flipchart. Circulate among the teams, gently speeding up the slower teams. Write down each team's choice on a piece of paper.

Peter suggests that the major culprit is "Lack of planning" and everything else in the list is a result of this factor. Diane disagrees with this claim. Deb suggests that they should choose "Too many reports to write" because she thinks most other teams will choose it. Steve and Ronnis agree to this suggestion.

Award points and rank the worst time waster. Announce each team's selection. Draw a line through the time waster in the flip chart list that was selected by most teams during this round. Place the number "1" in front of this item to identify it as the top-ranked time waster.

Three teams chose "Wasting time trying to satisfy customers" as the worst time waster. These teams received 3 points each. Only Steve's team chose the item about writing reports, so they received 1 point. The facilitator draws a line through "Wasting time trying to satisfy customers," and marks it with a "I."

Continue the game. Ask the teams to review the list and to identify the next-worst time waster. The teams may select (or re-select) any item from the flip chart list, as long as it does not have a line through it. After collecting the choices from each team, repeat the scoring and ranking procedure. Continue until the teams have identified the top 5 time wasters.

During the second round, Steve's team decides to stay with "Too many reports to write." This item is selected by all the teams, so they all receive 4 points each.

Break ties. If there is a tie for the worst time waster, award scores as before -- but do not rank or draw a line through any of the items. Give the teams 1 minute to prepare a presentation to persuade the other teams to select the same item. Then give each team 30 seconds to make its presentation. After the presentations, ask the teams to select a time waster. Award scores and rank the item receiving the most choices. If there is still a tie, draw a line through all the tied items, and give them the same rank.

During the third round, the four teams select four different items. Andy, the facilitator, gives 1 point to each team and explains the tie-breaking procedure. Speaking on behalf of his team, Peter explains how the lack of planning is the root of all time wastage. He also points out that this factor incorporates all other time wasters. Perhaps as a result of this presentation, two other teams switch to this item during the next round.

Conclude the game. Continue with the game until the top 5 time wasters are identified. Announce the conclusion of the game and ask the teams to add up their scores. Identify and congratulate the winning team.

After two more rounds, these are the top five time wasters:

  1. Wasting time trying to satisfy customers
  2. Too many reports to write
  3. Lack of planning
  4. Delays in budget approval
  5. Inability to say "No"

Steve's team has a total score of 13 points and wins the game.

Award points for the original lists. Ask the teams to retrieve their original lists and compare the time wasters on their list with the final top 5 list. The original list gets five points if it has the top-ranked time waster, 4 points if it has the second-ranked time waster, and so on. Ask the teams to add up the score for their original list. Identify the team with the highest score total and congratulate its members for having created the best original list.

Steve and his teammates check their original list and discover that it has the second and fourth items from the final top 5 list. This gives the list a total of 6 points. Gary's team has the best original list, with 12 points.

Debrief the players. Ask the players to compare the items on their original individual lists with the final top 5 list. Encourage the players to discuss how their personal perceptions differ from those of the others.


Not enough time? Eliminate the initial step of individual brainstorming. Eliminate the final step of comparing the teams' original five items with the final top five time wasters. Create a shorter flip chart list. Instead of 10 time wasters, settle for seven. Specify a time limit for each round. Instead of asking the teams to select item at a time, ask them to select the top three.

Not enough players? With fewer than six players, play an individual version of the game: Conduct the game as usual, but with individuals (instead of teams) generating and selecting the time wasters.

Too many players? Divide the players into smaller groups. Then divide each subgroup into teams and play the game in a parallel fashion.

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