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A trade publication called MIS Week quotes recent studies suggesting that the biggest crime committed against business is the theft of time. The average employee, according to the studies, wastes nine work weeks a year by procrastinating. On top of that, another week and a half out of the year is devoted to personal phone calls. Then there are 2 1/2 weeks given over just to getting ready to start work and getting ready to stop.

What all this adds up to is 25% of the work year squandered. Throw in a couple of weeks for vacation and a couple more for paid holidays, and you have nearly one-third of all paid time going right down the tubes.

These statistics obviously have troubling implications for the health of the nation's economy. It is startling to consider that procrastination, using the boss's time for personal affairs, dawdling into the work day and then knocking off early in anticipation of its end, combine to cost more than pilferage and embezzlement. This is very serious stuff.

Still, we have no intention of hurrying off into any half-baked judgment about what it all means. Better to spend a few hours or even a few days soberly pondering the problem. We also ought to call some old friends around the country to see what they think about it. We'll try to get to that first thing tomorrow. Or maybe second thing. There's no rush.

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