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EPISODE 12| Dealing With Time Wasters

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

On today’s show I will be talking about how to deal with people that waste your time and distract you from what is important.

But before I go into that, on last week’s episode I explored the topic of achieving larger goals by focusing them into Twelve Week slots using Brian Moran’s productivity system - The Twelve Week Year. It was a hefty episode and covered some pretty big questions. As it ended I asked you to think about how that system could work for you and for you to start making a few decisions about where your own life and work is going. Deciding on your larger life goals is something that doesn’t necessarily take ten minutes, especially if you’ve not really considered it before, but if you can do that, you can begin to tailor your life and work to get you closer to them.

The famous American motivational speaker, Earl Nightingale says simply, that “People with goals succeed because they know where they're going.” Unquote.

And I gotta back that up. It’s not some hippy dippy dreamlike collection of words, it’s a statement of absolute fact.

If you want to achieve your goals you need to start deciding exactly what they are. If you missed the episode do go back and check it out, and if you have an opinion, as ever, I urge you to get in touch and tell me how you’re getting on.

You can get in touch via the speakpipe recorder or by email on’s contact page or on twitter @filmproprodpod and if you are struggling with something you think I can help with then I’ll do my best to feed back to you in future episodes.


  • · Today I’ll be going into a bit of time management, and it’s another quite large topic so buckle up.

  • · TIME you must never forget is one of your most valuable commodities. If not that then it is the most valuable of all. Don’t lose track of that.

  • · You only have a certain amount of it in your life and it doesn’t matter how old you are you need to take it seriously, because you can’t get it back – and therefor you need to guard it.

  • · Would you let someone walk over to you, pick up your wallet or your purse and start removing your hard earned cash and putting it in their pocket? Of course not, but that’s exactly what these sorts of people are doing with your time and you need to stop it.

  • · Its ok for YOU to waste time, that’s a different matter for a different episode on procrastination perhaps, and sometimes you have to slow down and relax as that’s important for your health, but what I’m talking about is when other people waste your time. That is one of the very biggest obstacles you will find to being productive and efficient and unless your higher level self, recognises it and stops it, it’s just going to keep happening.

  • · You can't afford to waste time on what seems important but isn't.

  • · You can't let anyone else control our schedule and invade our boundaries.

  • · Remember that your time is for your family, your own business, your own goals etc and if YOU want to waste it that’s absolutely fine. But when other people impact on it, and steal it away, it’s an entirely different matter as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve wanted to tackle this subject for a while now, as it is something that I am more and more aware of. I’ll detail here a few of the more common types of time waster, many of whom are not intentionally wasting your time, but if you allow them to do so, they will.

It's smart to watch for the warning signs someone is about to waste your time, and cut off these time leaches before they get their teeth into you.

So let’s start with the seemingly inoffensive…


It’s a strange world out there and some people really want to talk about stuff that just isn’t important. It’s a very human thing I know but if you’ve not got the time to sit and shoot the breeze with someone, which when you hang about a film set I recognise that sometimes you do, then you need to confront these SMALL TALKERS and get rid of them. I think we have all been guilty of this at some point or another, and I still am on occasion, but these ramblers are the 1st and perhaps most common form of time waster.

“More of your conversation would infect my brain.” ― William Shakespeare, Coriolanus

I won’t generalise, but many a time I have been sitting beside the extras and listened to some of the most inane chat I have ever had the misfortune to hear. I find it really distracting when someone is talking nonsense within my earshot let alone directly to me. If you’re stuck near them on a film set then remove yourself and if you have work to do then set up somewhere else and get to it.

If you want to be productive then you must recognise small talkers, get ON YOUR MISSION and not let them distract you!


Gossips, are obviously people who talk about others behind their backs but in effect they are just small talkers who like to make themselves feel superior by talking others down and spreading negativity – and of course if they’re talking about others then they will no doubt be talking about you.

You can just say STOP I DON’T WANT TO HEAR THAT if you have to, although I don’t say it nearly enough myself. I did put pain to a rumour earlier this year when someone said they’d heard that a filmmaker I know was a con artist. I explained that I knew the guy and that I’d never seen such behavior. They in turn explained that they didn’t actually know the person they were gossiping about and so the rumour ended there. I don’t think they’ll spread that it again in a hurry. Resisting the temptation to badmouth other people is one thing, but when a friend is launching into an offensive story about someone you know, your best tactic is to ask why they’re telling you. That will be their first alert that you’re not happy with the discussion.

I try to be supportive in the things that I say but you have to be careful you don’t become that which you oppose. As George Wither said “Little said is soonest mended” Unquote.

I’ll balance that with the famous Oscar Wilde quote:

“If there is anything more annoying in the world than having people talk about you, it is certainly having no one talk about you.”

But either way, gossip is just negative small talk and it will suck up your time if you let it.

Another sub set of the small talker is the WANDERER

They are unaware of time and don’t know how to manage the clock. They are people without goals, and if you are not careful they will take your time and suck you into oblivion. They either can't or don't want to differentiate between the important and unimportant and will side-track from what is important onto their own, often trivial chatter. They will also interrupt to tell you just about anything, no matter how trivial and the best way to deal with them is to avoid them at all costs.

Which brings me round to INTERRUPTORS

Interrupters are those people that take up you time on the phone, or by accosting you in person.

Often the best way to deal with a phone call when you are busy is to not pick up. Let them leave a message and listen to it when you have a moment. Reply on your terms and schedule.

If you do pick up however, or meet them face to face then you must quickly try and to interrupt an interrupter before they take up too much of your time: Don’t get into a run of small talk with them. Also you must train yourself to avoid saying that they can call you later or promise to get back to them as that just delays the time wasting exercise - Get right in there, jump ahead – and ask them WHY THEY ARE CALLING or WHAT THEY WANT FROM YOU.

You simply can’t allow people to have unlimited access to your time - so ask them what they want and if they don’t know, then re-class them as a WANDERER and then get rid of them – you don’t have time to let them hum and haw until they decide. Even if they do know, and it’s something that interests you, you can ask them to detail it in an email and you can schedule a more suitable time for the discussion.

IF IT INTERESTS YOU, and only IF IT DOES, you can say - I have a very busy week at the moment and, I’m dealing with immediate problems. Can I get back to you this? I find I have to do this all the time at the moment and it’s not my intention to be rude when I do. I just want to give the things that interest me or that are important THE PROPER TIME and if I know I can’t look at something and give it real mental energy and time until the following week I will just be straight up and say that. It goes hand in hand with the doing one thing at a time strategy I talked about in episode 11.

On many occasions btw the matter raised has turned out to be trivial and certainly not worthy of my stopping what I was currently doing to deal with it. I feel that it is your responsibility to be clear about your intentions and vice versa. People appreciate it.

BTW the interrupter can also get you at a distance and every time they have a question they’ll send you an email or text you. Be careful not to form the habit of responding to everything. That email will distract you from what you are doing just as surely as a phonecall, and by the time you tune back into what you were doing 15 minutes or a half hour will have slipped from your fingers.

With cold callers, just move on as quickly and politely as possible and if that’s not working hang up.

Another sub set of the interruptor/ wanderer is the CAMPER

That’s what coffee shop employees call the customers that buy one drink and nurse it several hours without buying more. They take up space in your office or wherever you have set up to work as an uninvited visitor and they just won’t go away.

You need to cut these people off or they will trap you. Explain that you are working and politely ask them, if they are after something to get to the point. If you have an office you don’t need to let them in. Stand in the doorway and confront them. Ask them what they want without inviting them in. If you let them in then you can say goodbye to the next several minutes at least and they will come back. If you feel that you must help them out, and it can often seem that way especially if that person is a colleague, a friend or family member, and then you can say - I'm busy right now. Let's meet at say 1pm for 15 minutes and we can discuss everything then.

This stops them getting in and setting up camp and "teaches" them a new discipline. Eventually they’ll get it. It also means that your have capped your time with them and put you in control.

For me the most impactful damage to my free time comes from FREELOADERS or TYRE KICKERS as they are known in the sales world.

I’ve fallen for these idiots time and time again. They play on your freelancing necessity to work, or your keen-ness for involvement in what appears to be a large or interesting production or your passion for what you do and they often only want to scam you for your advice and time for free.

They lead with a statement saying they want to hire you months from now but need information or advice first. Sometimes they are just whimsically considering making a film or TV show and want to bring you on board, but more often than not those types just want to make themselves feel important and suck you dry of your creative energy. And the shows they are talking about never happen as they go from one pro to the next talking about what they plan to do rather than actually doing it.

There’s a mid level tyre kicking producer working in Scotland that contacted me and asked me to look at a film he’d shot maybe 10 years before that. He wanted to re-use some of the action footage which involved large scale battles and, here’s where I should have had alarm bells ringing, re-purpose that footage into a new film which he’d get me to shoot. Simultaneous to that he wanted me to work on a new film idea he’d had, based on his half-finished script, and take that to a shooting draft…

…and btw this guy is a millionaire – but my experience of working with millionaire’s like this guy is often that they have achieved that status as they will not put their hand in their pocket for anything. They are absolute skinflints.

I eventually dodged this guy and drew a line under it, but only after spending just over 10 days working things up with him. At that point I got what was happening as I wasn’t the first guy he’d done it to and it turned out he actually had someone else working on the same projects at the same time. I turned up to a meeting and lo and behold some other poor sod had done a bit of work on it already… I scarpered sharpish and haven’t looked back. I later mentioned the experience to a friend of mine and BAM - discovered that he’d also wasted that guys time too.

It’s my experience that these types NEVER hire you – and a year later, you discover they've stolen, sorry 'used' all your ideas.

As a fight director I have done several very detailed breakdowns of the fights only to not get the job at a later date because they never had any money. Then when you look into it their pal has done it.

So if people don't have the funds to hire you right now, tell them you can have a conversation and answer some questions when they are ready but don't, whatever you do, get suckered into a situation where your precious time is drained by someone promising future business where there is none.

I know a guy that tried to hire Steven Fry to do a voice over. He spoke to him on the phone and Stephen said, do you have a budget in place? He didn’t. He’d approached Stephen so early that he really didn’t have much in place at all, and when he said No, or not yet or words to that effect Stephen said well call me when you do and ended the phonecall. It sounds kind of harsh but Stephen Fry had the right idea. He’s a busy guy. He simply didn’t have time to waste on a project that was not able to give him that sort if information. He’s clearly learned not to have his time wasted by maybe productions ltd.

On another level of this I quite often get social media messages, emails, even calls from people who want advice and if I’m free I will quite often give it, but these requests seldom lead to new business. Don't let the freebie chasers waste your time just because they follow you on twitter. If you’ve been around as long as I have you can smell this sort of thing a mile off.

You have to get wise at spotting the signs – they normally don't reveal how much budget they have to spend; they normally don't bother with an initial meeting and they're normally very vague.

One thing you can do to counter the tyre kicker is to prepare a standard email response that asks the important questions. Email them your options – Spend a bit of time on a questionnaire that answers the questions that you know you need to ask. You can use this to figure out if a follow up is worthwhile.

A sub set of the FREELOADER is the NON PAYER. That’s someone who has you do the work and then disappears without paying you. There are one or two people out there that have in effect stolen my time and my work with the agreement to pay and not paid up in the end. For these I reserve a special place in hell. In the UK you can get your union involved and EQUITY has helped me out more than once, but sometimes people are just crooks and do a runner because they never intended to pay you in the first place.


I’ve complained about this type of time wasting activity before.

If you are a freelancer, then meetings have a real impact on your time but some people seem to do nothing but organise meetings because being in meeting is a way to feel important. It's also a great way to hide from making and taking responsibility for decisions, and to harvest the ideas of others. The greatest organisers of meetings are in public office and they get paid to attend meetings, it gets them out of their office and interacting with real humans for a change. They will milk their meetings to the death and they will always want another one.

I urge you - before you set up a meeting or accept your next meeting invitation, stop and ask yourself: Do I really need to be in -- or hold -- this meeting? Is there a more time-efficient way to handle this? A conference call? An email? Anything but another meeting.

But if you do have to attend one you must do these 4 things.

1. Have and communicate a clear, achievable objective for the meeting.

2. Circulate a written agenda in advance.

3. If you must attend a meeting, you also have a plan to get what you want out of it.

4. If you know that there is nothing more to achieve at the meeting then you can ask to leave early. Have an exit strategy or best of all GIVE A PRE AGREED END TIME FOR THE MEETING.

The next time waster you will have likely faced already is the HATER/ The JOY STEALER

Haters are trolls and bullies – and they are another long range time waster usually raising their ugly heads online. They’re only purpose in life is to wind others up and they don’t deserve any of your time whatsoever. If you respond at all to these time-wasters then they have won.

If you are giving them attention, they are wasting your time and you are letting them away with it. Assume that when you make any comment, or raise your head above the parapet in any form of social networking or creative endeavor that somebody somewhere will say that it’s a pointless exercise and that you have no talent. They’ll then take a potshot at your looks, at your mental health and insinuate that you are likely a Nazi or something equally horrible.

If you know its going to happen, and it will, you will be able to laugh at these people and move on. If you don’t, and take it to heart, and start interacting with them then you’re going to lose a lot of time on brooding about it and ruminating over something you can’t control.

The Christian author and speaker Joyce Meyer says to “Watch out for the joy-stealers - Those who gossip, criticise complain, find fault, and have a negative, judgmental attitude.” Unquote - I agree.

The penultimate TIME WASTER that I face as a FILM PRO is the AVAILABILITY CHECKER, but this one is easier to get over.

Availability checkers ask me for availability and I quite often find myself calling round and clearing the decks of other jobs, pinning them down to make myself available for jobs that I don’t ever get booked for. There’s a production coordinator in Scotland that’s done this to me like 5 times in a row and I’m more cautious about the whole thing now.

I don’t tend to do any work clearing decks now until I have more info on the job. This one can be sorted by asking a couple of questions. You can even ask am I the only person you are considering for this if you have to. It’s kind of a problem that comes with the freelancer territory. My biggest issue with the availability checker is that in my mind I start thinking about the job and then when I don’t get booked I feel that I’ve missed out.

The final timewaster is YOURSELF, but I’m not talking about watching TV or lazing in the sun.

“Regret for wasted time is just more wasted time”
― Mason Cooley

He also said that The time I kill, is killing me which is true.

There’s a great Youtube video about this which I’ll add to the show notes, but in short it points out that time spent being angry or having regret is just wasted time. Try and let these things go. As I’ve said before on this podcast. Everything is going to be alright.

There’s another 5 minute rule which salesmen have to get over the annoyance of not making a sale, which can be applied anywhere really. It’s NOT the 5 MINUTE RULE I covered a few episodes ago. This rule says if you are annoyed about something, or have regrets, give yourself 5 minutes to be angry annoyed and worked up, then move on. 5 minutes is all it needs. Give yourself a break.


To sum up - This is a business – never forget that! – and it's crucial that you spend your time wisely, so you make good money, allow yourself some downtime and get the most out of every day. Each of us gets only one life to live. We have 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week and how you spend that time affects every area of your life. Every day that passes is one you are not going to get back. Waste it or invest it. And time is money.

Be more selective and don’t allow people to waste your time .

You must engage in a higher level of thinking as it's all too easy to get sucked into a time wasting situation when you think it could lead to future business – so don't let that happen. Treat your time with the value and importance that it deserves.

If you can - only grant access to people once you know they are in alignment with your own objectives.

And IF YOU ARE GIVING YOUR TIME AWAY because you choose to, because you want to volunteer for something or because you just want to help someone out then take my advice and schedule it – it will pay back, but don’t write anyone a blank cheque on your time as that – you will live to regret.


I hope that this episode has been helpful to you and that recognising the ten time wasting archetypes that I’ve identified here will be helpful to you.

All I ask as a call to action is that you don’t waste a moment of it.

Your time is evaporating even now. So think of Robin William’s in Dead Poet’s Society and SEIZE THE DAY!

Thanks again for listening - Next episode I’ll be talking about achieving excellence through habit forming where you will discover that we are what we repeatedly do.

Until then, don’t waste a moment, take control of your own destiny, keep on shootin’ and join me next time on Film Pro Productivity.

· The music that you are listening to right now is Adventures by A Himitsu.

· You can view the show notes for this episode at

· If you’re struggling with something you think I can help with or would like to tell me how you are getting on then please get in touch via the contact page on the website. Alternately you can get me on Twitter @fight_director or follow the show @filmproprodpod

· Please subscribe on the podcast app of your choice and if you are in the caring/ sharing mood then I’d really appreciate it if you would spread the word and leave an AWESOME review.

Thanks: A Himitsu

Image: Main Photographs taken on the Giordano UK shoot by Bryan Larkin.

Music: Adventures by A Himitsu Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported— CC BY 3.0 Music released by Argofox Music provided by Audio Library ––– • Contact the artist:


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