How do you keep yourself and employees from goofing off?


I have noticed that for the past few months, I have been wasting a lot of time on needless things. How do you keep yourself focused in your business?

Time Management Business

asked Dec 11 '10 at 09:55
2,079 points
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6 Answers


At the end of each day we each post a status update of what we did, what we got stuck on, what we where going to do next into a skype chat room so everyone else can see what is being done. Having to account daily for your actions is a great way to stay on track.

answered Dec 11 '10 at 11:16
522 points
  • I agree. We do this too. Not as a hearing, but rather; "Who got stuck on what, and can we help?" But in my general opinion you'll have to slack off. There is just no way to be productive unless you get to play some too. But of course – it's a balance act. – John Sjölander 13 years ago
  • @Pierre: That's a little hyperbolic. Ben basically uses scrum, and I don't scrum has ever been directly linked in a causative way to employee deaths. In fact, the only people who fear it are a) those who are insecure about speaking in public, which this helps them with, and b) those who fear being discovered as not being productive. It's a win-win. – Alphadogg 13 years ago
  • @Pierre: I think you are building it up too much in your mind. How does this approach result in the "punish the people that outperforms"? Where is this soul-killing fear you seem to imagine in having to tell your team what you did work on, what you are going to work on and what your roadblocks are? – Alphadogg 13 years ago
  • I guess my point is there is accountability and then there is fear-mongering. You don't need to avoid accountability because of some fear-mongerers ruining some good ideas. I find it funny that you say you are a scrum coach, yet advocate what? Not huddling "in public"? I'm really confused by what you are saying. – Alphadogg 13 years ago


  1. Keep the distractions out of the office. Idiotic foosball tables, Xboxes, beer fridges, etc. Why? Work hard at work, play hard at home. I talk deeper about it in one of my articles:
    How a foosball table can kill your startup – part two
  2. Use of Agile in business is fantastic. We do it at our company and it works like a charm.
    Yep, you guessed it, just wrote an article about it after being interviewed by a WSJ journo.
    How to Avoid Turning Your Startup into a Dysfunctional Family
answered Dec 11 '10 at 15:27
Apollo Sinkevicius
3,323 points
  • I won't vote you down, but for the record I whole-heartedly disagree with you. A major privilege with being a small business is that you get to do the stuff that larger business' don't. Make use of that! I've tried to build a work place that's better than home. If my employees rather stay at the office than leave for home, I win. We have xbox games, beers in the fridge, free food in the freezer, constant dinners out and in, arrange meetups for Ruby and Scala developers, and we play starcraft II about half an hour after lunch each day. My employees work really hard, 'cause they love their work. – John Sjölander 13 years ago
  • ps. I'll defend your/our right to disagee. :-) And your 2) is awesome. Agile rocks! – John Sjölander 13 years ago
  • You pay employees to deliver value. Conning employees into staying longer in the office does not deliver more value, it burns them out. Do you know why dev offices with all those gimmicks need so many QAs? Anything over 40-50 hours per week is detrimental to quality of work. There is not a single one of those gimmicky things in our office and 1 dev with two contractors wrote a public beta of complex software in under 3 months. 100+ dev office I headed biz ops in had zero of that too and employees lasted 4+ years with us. Try that in the gimmicky tech industry! Office should be only for work. – Apollo Sinkevicius 13 years ago
  • I'm sure that works for you. But there is no simple answer to anything. I challenge you to visit our offices and see if any of your claims are true. I'd think you'd be surprised. – John Sjölander 13 years ago
  • +1. I am 110% with you on work hard at work, play hard at home. I always tell guys, get out of office and have a life. – Pradeep 12 years ago
  • @JohnSjölander I've worked in an environment where beer, food etc were plentiful. I wouldn't be so sure your employees are working hard because they love the work. Perhaps they feel guilty for getting all the free stuff? Or not. Just good to understand your employees' motivations. – Sunday Monday 12 years ago


Daily (yes, daily) short (about 3-5min/member) huddles at all levels. Borrowed it from Scrum. As you go up the chain, from team to dept to management, the meetings get broader in scope obviously. Individuals may talk about specific tasks, while management may cover changes in metric trends.

In fact, scrum is a great general project management technique if you ignore the software development-specific bits.

Each huddle, you must "answer me these questions three":

  1. Did you finish what you promised yesterday?
  2. What will you do today?
  3. What could impede your work today?
  4. "Bonus round": anything notable or interesting?

When any team member continually over-promises and/or under-delivers, first we see if the root issues can be drawn out, we solve, and if there is no solution or continued problems, the individual gets "voted off the island".

ADDED: This will go contrary to command-and-control types, but I worry about point "B", not how my staff gets there. IOW, are there clear goals and metrics? Are they hitting them? If so, what does it matter if they blow steam playing Farmville for a bit?

answered Dec 12 '10 at 01:35
1,383 points


Hire the right people and give them interesting work to do.

answered Dec 12 '10 at 00:09
Mark Stephens
976 points
  • I wonder what's percentage of possible interesting work in a non-research company? %25 ? So what's the 75% of employees are going to do? Or do you consider 1 day bug fixing - Q/A testing every week as interesting work? – The Dictator 13 years ago
  • This is a nice, but unactionable statement, like most airport business books. Of course, if you hire people that don't goof off you will cut down on goofing off. – Alphadogg 13 years ago
  • Yes, and this is actionable how? – Apollo Sinkevicius 13 years ago


This is a big topic but I think this is the most crucial bit:


  • Have a good, very good task list and do one thing at a time, if needed leave 15 min. break quickly goof around, facebook, news sites, RSS etc. and then move to the next item
  • You don't have a task list? [Stop now, slap yourself, find a tool/web app to do this and start using it now]
  • Keep tasks small, one task should not be more than 1 hour


  • Have a them a tasklist,
  • Expect results (not time commitment)
  • Teach them how you get things done and help them to learn tricks from you
  • If they consistently don't deliver, pep-talk, try-to-understand. If they still don't deliver fire get a new and better one
answered Dec 11 '10 at 19:17
The Dictator
2,305 points


Ok, I have an answer which is totally logical but some people might not like. You need to monitor the exact hours worked by your staff, and monitor Internet use and computer use during those hours. It's important to not JUST monitor, but if you have no monitoring at all you will for sure be losing some productivity to "goofing off". Check out (my software) or to implement this type of monitoring.

answered Mar 24 '11 at 20:47
151 points
  • That's illogical. Consider the impact on morale and ultimately productivity when you take action based on your monitoring. That type of behavior strongly communicates distrust from the company leadership. – Sunday Monday 12 years ago

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