There are only so many hours in the day to get things done. Knowing this, does it sometimes seem like you’re constantly chasing down the clock, scrambling last-minute to finalize projects, gather your thoughts and make it home in one piece? Could it be that you’re wasting precious time doing things that are unnecessary, low priority, out of sequence or simply the wrong things at the wrong time?
Here’s a look at 10 of the biggest daily time wasters while at work. See if you recognize your time wasters among this list:
Time-Waster #1: Checking texts and tweets
If you can’t bear to miss what could be important texts and tweets, you’re likely guilty of FOMO (fear of missing out). In reality, most of the instant messages, texts and tweets can wait for later. It’s all too easy to become hooked on checking, replying and checking again cycle. No wonder you can’t get anything done at work, home, school or elsewhere.
What to do: Only check texts and tweets on a pre-determined schedule. And don’t make that too often or you’ll defeat the purpose.
Time-Waster #2: Addicted to email
Email is a necessary part of doing business. It’s also the bane of productivity at the office, home business, on the road and so on. If you always have your email client open and notifications pop up on the taskbar or chime to let you know another email has arrived, then you’re engaging in highly unproductive behavior. Not only are you inclined to rush to that incoming email to see what it’s about, you’re also taking your concentration away from the task you’re engaged in.
That’s not conducive to good work habits. And it won’t win you any points with the boss – unless, of course, the email is an urgent one from your superior.
What to do: Set specific times to check emails, say at 9:00 a.m., Noon, and 3:00 p.m. Don’t be tempted to interrupt your schedule to peek. That’s defeating the purpose.
Time-Waster #3: Multitasking
You’re not a superpower. That means you don’t have the ability to perform multiple tasks simultaneously. Somehow, however, you’ve come to believe that you’re really good at juggling several things at once.
What to do: Prioritize your day, setting a specific time to accomplish each task. Work to complete one before beginning another. By focusing on one task at a time, you’ll train yourself to finish it in the allotted time. You’ll probably do a better job at it as well.
Time-Waster #4: Reacting, not acting
How much of your day is spent reacting to something others foist on you, interrupt you with or feel you have to comment about? If you’re always reacting, that robs you of time you could better spend taking action.
What to do: While you can’t stop all interruptions, you can figure out how to deal with them more effectively. Don’t answer the phone when you’re in the middle of a project. Let it go to voicemail. If someone asks you for help, say you’ll be glad to when you’re finished with what you’re doing.
Time-Waster #5: Doing personal stuff
Everyone does it. That doesn’t mean tending to personal stuff when you’re supposed to be working isn’t a huge time suck. Hoping you can post to your social media or sneak some errands in before your boss notices is not the best strategy. And you’re more likely to extend the time than cut it short.
What to do: Use your lunch break to take care of personal matters, such as updating social media, gabbing with friends, etc. Let others know they can reach you during this time, not when you’re working.
Time-Waster #6: Endless surfing the Web
The Internet is a wonderful resource, but it’s also the perfect venue for wasting time. Not only can you get lost by following different links, the temptation to endlessly surf the Web is almost irresistible.
What to do: Here is a case where you really need to set limits. If you can’t engage in a quick peek when you’re researching something for work, set your surfing aside and indulge in it during lunch break or after work. At least finish what you’re working on now. Otherwise, the end of the day will arrive and you’ll have wasted it.
Time-Waster #7: Looking for things
Where did that report go? You know it was just here, but you can’t seem to find it in the pile on your desk. If your work area – or the area where you do work – is cluttered, scattered and messy, you are wasting time you can’t afford.
What to do: Spend 10 minutes at the end of the day to clear your desk. File what needs to be kept. Recycle or shred documents that are no longer needed. Make your workspace neat and tidy. This will add to your efficiency tomorrow and cut down on wasted time.
Time-Waster #8: Little breaks that go on forever
Stretching a coffee break into longer than necessary is another common time-wasting practice. That smoke you just have to have (even though you’ve promised yourself you’d quit) seems to take you away from the job far more often than it should. These constant little breaks are adding up to a lot of lost productivity. Not good.
What to do: While mini-breaks, as in, looking away from the computer or getting up to walk around every 15 minutes, are good, heading out for too many breaks is counter-productive. Cut them to mid-morning, lunch and mid-afternoon and you’ll find you’ve gained back some of that time you lost.
Time-Waster #9: Meetings that go nowhere
Who doesn’t hate unproductive meetings? The fact is that many meetings lack a solid agenda, meander without ever accomplishing their goal, degenerate into argument or reach no consensus.
What to do: Distribute an agenda prior to the meeting (if you’re the one calling it). If you’re an attendee/participant, encourage others to stick to the agenda. Most importantly, if a meeting isn’t necessary, elicit ideas and input another way, perhaps via email.
Time-Waster #10: Nonproductive in-between time
Your workday isn’t all alone time at your desk. It’s comprised of meetings and phone calls and time in-between meetings. These windows of 15-30 minutes are often completely wasted.
What to do: Instead of doodling at your desk, using the time to check social media, emails and engage in other time-wasters, try to schedule meetings back-to-back. The time you save can then be grouped into a single block of time, possibly later in the day. That allows you uninterrupted time to actually get something done.
Stay tuned for part 3 of this time-saving series next week!