Quit Using Phrases Like “We Ran Out of Time”

Frustrated man looking at computer is upset

Starting today, I want you and everyone that works for you to quit using this phrase, “We ran out of time.” Mainly because this is a lie.

It’s a lie because you didn’t run out of time; the problem instead was that whatever it was that didn’t get accomplished wasn’t a priority. Instead, replace “We ran out of time” with “That wasn’t a priority today.”

Because that’s the truth. Things that are a priority get attention and are worked on.

If it were a priority, it would have been finished long ago.

How Are You Prioritizing?

So the big question you should ask yourself here is how you prioritize what needs to be accomplished.

Not just in the large chunky tasks that are obvious but in the small moments that add up in between. For example, every minute that you have to go ask someone, “Hey, what’s this mean?” indicates that the instructions were not clear from the outset.

Did someone walk away from their workstation to get something? Why wasn’t what they needed to be brought to them yesterday?

If getting more things accomplished daily is important to you, having complete information and staying organized should be a priority.

Set Expectations

Another important part of prioritizing is setting expectations. Does everyone that works at your company know what’s next?

Sure, they are working. But are they working on things that matter most right now? How do you know?

Is there a schedule? Maybe a set of prioritized habits on what to do next? Are work instructions based on key information, such as the ship date?

Think about the work from an upstream-downstream point of view. Is someone waiting on someone else to finish a task? Why wasn’t it completed earlier?

What are you tolerating in your shop simply because “This is the way we’ve always done it.”

You can and must prioritize better.

Know Your Time

Typically, the reason someone uses an excuse like, “We ran out of time,” is at the end of the day. Do yourself a favor, and start digging in on what happens at the end of every day. I’m talking about habits here.

Back when I was in high school, I was a mediocre athlete, but I was taught to “play until the echo of the whistle.” This meant not anticipating the end but instead play through it.

For example, let’s say your shop’s shift ends at 5:00 pm. Is everyone working and hustling right up until that time, or do people start coasting around 4:00 pm? Sure, they might look busy; but are you actually measuring their output?

Once you examine the end of the day, you might also want to look at the effort around your breaks and lunch periods.

When do people naturally start slowing down? Right before something else is coming up. Why did you run out of time again? Maybe it was because, for about an hour a day, people are more pretending to work than actually working. Hopefully, this isn’t the case.

Everyone Has the Same Amount of Time

That’s the crazy thing, isn’t it? Everyone has the same amount of time. What’s always amazing to me is that some people can accomplish so much more in the same amount of time. You’ve noticed this before, right?

What makes them superior?

To me, it is a few simple ideas:

  • Organized – they are ready and prepared.
  • Educated – they know what to do and how to do it.
  • Focused – distractions are eliminated.
  • Willing – they want to do it and don’t give a half-hearted effort.
  • Team – if they work with others, the team has the same mindset.

Take a moment and think about the best employee at your company. With those five attributes, how do they stack up? Now, compare that to someone on the other end of the spectrum. For that person, what’s missing?

That just became your next managerial priority.


“Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have.” – John C. Maxwell

“No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under the leadership of average human beings.” – Peter Drucker

“Time is money.” – Benjamin Franklin


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Marshall Atkinson also shares exclusive blog content at Supacolor.com. Supacolor makes The World’s Best Heat Transfer and provides tips, inspiration, and other resources designed to empower professional garment printers.

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