Ever look at the clock to see it’s 4:45pm and find yourself wondering where in the world your day went and what you got done that day (if anything)? We did too. That’s why we decided to do some research on just where our time was going. Turns out, there’s a ton of things we are all wasting our time on on a daily basis, and with a few little tweaks, you can be back on the road to productivity in no time!
Spoiler Alert: We are definitely going to tell you to spend less time on Facebook. Sorry.
1. Not Listening
Miscommunication is one of the top time wasters out there. When you fail to listen to someone the first time, you are either going to do the task that was asked of you wrong – which will result in having to do it over and doubling the time it takes, or you’re going to have to go back and get clarification, which also wastes precious time.
Taking the time to stop what you’re doing and listen intently will not only save you time, but also a lot of unnecessary frustration for both parties. This can also apply to hearing feedback or criticisms. If you are unwilling to listen, you won’t be able to learn and will become caught in a vortex of making the same mistakes over and over with the same results.
Although it may seem time-wasting at the time, taking time out of your busy day to really listen will help you in the long run.
Okay, this one is pretty obvious. day-dreaming can take up a lot more time than you think and soon it will be 5pm already! The trick is to stay focused and limit your chances of drifting off into no-mans land. Having an upbeat playlist of music can be one of the best ways to get in the zone and stay on task. You’ll also want to make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating a well balanced diet and getting your sweat on to make sure your brain is in peak performance mode. This will limit the chances of you becoming bored and imagining yourself on a sunny beach somewhere for hours on end.
While it may seem counterintuitive, multi-tasking can actually make you a lot less productive and take up a good chunk of your day. When you focus all your attention on one single task, your brain can become more immersed in what you are doing and get it done better and faster. On the flip side, when you’re bouncing around from task to task your brain never gets focused on a single thing. This can make your work subpar and actually take you longer to complete.
The easiest example of how well single-tasking works is if you think of an assembly line – everyone does one specific thing over and over. If they are making cars for example they don’t skip from painting to putting on wheels to building the axel. Focusing on one task helps them do their individual job better and with more accuracy. Seriously, Henry Ford knew what he was doing.
4. Social Media
If there’s one technology time-sucker that takes the crown in for procrastination, it’s got to be social media. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are literally black holes waiting to suck you into the depths of the internet, never to be seen or heard from again.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic but it sure can feel like they have this type of power! And if your job includes making constant updates to your company sites, you already know how fast time can fly while you’re on there. This is where time monitoring software and scheduling can come in really handy.
The best way to go about limiting your social media time is to schedule it out. Set out a chunk of time each day to get everything done – then don’t look at it again for the rest of the day! Programs like Hootsuite and Buffer can help make this easier, as well as apps like StayFocusd and RescueTime which block time-sucking websites and track the time you waste on them, for a game-changing wakeup call!
So next time you’re trying to avoid a task, instead of scrolling through your Twitter feed for 15 minutes, jump in head first and get it done! Then you can reward yourself with a little Twitter gossip.
5. General Internetting
Don’t worry, we all do it. We start out with the perfectly innocent intention of doing some research for out latest blog post/presentation/article only to find ourselves 15 minutes in to a “Best Cat Vines from 2014” video an hour later and with little to no research to show for it. No one knows how it happens, it just does.
Luckily, since most of us can’t escape the lure that is the internet in our daily jobs, people have to found a way to control it and use it to our advantage and not our detriment. There are a few simple ways to go about doing this and each one correlates with just how much will-power you have in you.
First, for the person who just can’t resist a good Cat video, Reddit post or daily dose of Celebrity Gossip, there’s an app for you. Using something like StayFocusd (which is a Free Chrome extension), which temporarily blocks your access to certain websites, will be just the ticket for getting more things done with your day. And for those of you who are somehow able to resist all these internet temptations, simply jotting down 10 or 15 minutes in your schedule dedicated to “mindless internetting” will help greatly.
Takeaways: Keep in mind what your goal is, notice when you’ve watched one too many cat videos, and if you can’t resist them – block it!
6. Obsessive Email Checking
In 2012 a study was conducted that showed the average worker can spend up to 1/4 of their day checking and replying to emails. To put that in perspective that’s 2 hours of an 8 hour shift, and if you factor in lunch and breaks, you’ve wasted almost half of your day!
So how can you stop this major time waster? Don’t reply right away. In fact, turn off your notifications all together so you don’t even know when an email has hit your inbox. There are a variety of programs that can do this for you – like Inbox Pause for Gmail – but you can also go the old fashioned way and simply quit out of your mailbox application (Gasp! The horror!). Even if you’re only practicing this technique for an hour at a time, your productivity in that hour will skyrocket, and you’ll be amazed at what you’ve accomplished by the end of it!
Another way to limit your inbox distractions is to unsubscribe from any distracting emails. You know the ones we are talking about – Save 75% for 2 Hours Only! – for example. Not only will you waste your time opening the email but you’re bound to check out the site and see if there is anything you “need”. Unroll.Me is a great way to clean up your inbox in minutes by unsubscribing to newsletters and promotional materials. Or, if you still want to get them, you can set your notification settings to VIP only on many apps and devices so you are only notified when certain people email you.
Whichever path you decide to take, the main goal is to stop checking your email every 5 minutes. And now you also have the perfect excuse for not emailing Deb from Accounting back. 6 times.
While it’s important to have good relationships with your colleagues, it’s arguably more important to get your work done, you know, while you’re at work.
23.4% of workers surveyed said their #1 time waster at work was socializing with other employees. Sometimes this can be hard to avoid when people just decide to “drop-in” to your office to chat. One good tactic to take is to stand up when someone walks in. This makes it so the other person won’t be tempted to sit, an therefore get to the point quicker, limiting your distraction time.
Another way to limit co-worker interruptions is to lay out times of the day when you are “in the zone” and don’t want to be bothered. If you don’t have an office door to close, you could send out a quick email saying you will be unreachable for the next 20 minutes and direct any questions or comments to a colleague. Just make sure that person is okay with it first and not in their zone.
8. Phone Calls
Phone calls run the exact same lines as chit-chat but they are a lot easier to take control of. While you can’t just blatantly ignore someone that comes to your office during the day, you do have the option to screen and ignore their incessant phone calls.
Setting your phone to silent and only checking it a couple times a day or making it so only VIP contacts can get ahold of you is a great way to get a handle on distracting phone calls. While you probably don’t want to ignore an important call from your boss you can do without picking up for a reminder for your doctors appointment on Monday. That’s what voicemail is for.
“Networking” occurs when you waste time on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn and then claim you were simply creating new business relationships. We all know it’s next to impossible to be on either of these sites without eventually stalking an ex or getting trapped in a friend’s photo album of their adorable kids.
Of course networking is an incredibly important part of any business, but how you go about it is going to make the difference. Spending a bit of carved out time each day to connect with like-minded business professionals is a great idea, but the same rules apply as when using any social media, watch your time and don’t get sucked into the black hole! Set a timer or use your RescueTime to see just how much time you actually spent on these sites. Once you know, you can work at lessening it and becoming more productive instead of just mindlessly scrolling.
10. Putting Out Fires
Another huge burden to productivity at the office is having to put out minor “fires” all day that could easily have been avoided with a little bit of planning or extra attention.
This one tends to happen a lot at a managerial level and you may find yourself fixing other people’s mistakes a lot of the day. Unfortunately, the only way to get around this one will come with a bit of hard work. Training employees to correct their own mistakes (and trust that they will) will save you a ton of time and effort in the long run. While this only comes with practice, what you can do for now is have clearly laid out procedures with no room for misinterpretation.
Other annoying “fires” include things like computer glitches, miscommunications and not having something you need. The best way to put these out before the start is to be prepared – so make a list of everything you might need and get it within arms reach to waste less time.
47% of employees say that having to attend too many meetings sucks up most of their productive time in a day, where 11% say it’s their #1 time waster. While structured and well-thought out meetings can increase productivity, useless or excessive ones can have the opposite effect. Not only are the meetings themselves a time-waster, but it’s also said that 33 minutes per day is spent just trying to set them up.
There are a few ways to counteract this and make your meetings into successful and productive ways to spend your time. If you are a manager, consider using a tactic like daily 1 minute meetings instead of long-winded ones. Or, if you’re asked to attend many meetings in a day, let your boss know your time may be better spent working on a specific task – they will probably agree with you if the meeting is not related.
We’re sure you’ve heard some version of the old saying, “A cluttered home is a cluttered mind” and there’s a reason it’s used so often. Being disorganized eats your time like nothing else. Say you’re starting a simple project of making decorative snowflakes for an upcoming staff party. All you need is scissors, construction paper and a pencil. How long do you think it will take to create 10 snowflakes?
Well, there are really only tow different answers to this. If you’re organized and know where all the necessary supplies are you may be looking at around 10 minutes start to finish. But, if you have no idea where you put your scissors, accidentally threw out your construction paper and all your pencils are broken with no sharpener in sight – it could take you days!
While this is an over-simplified example, you can see how quickly things can add up if you’re not prepared. You can waste a lot of time looking for those scissors that are on the floor under your desk!
13. Being a “Yes” Man
In order to keep your time productive, you have to learn how to say “no”. You are only one person and can’t physically do 20 hours of work in an 8 hour shift. Sometimes, you will have to say no to certain tasks or assignments to keep the integrity of the ones you already have on the go. Don’t stretch yourself too thin or the quality of your work will suffer and you won’t be productive at all. You may also find yourself wasting time on menial tasks that could easily be done by someone else or at a different time – just to keep the asker happy.
The best way to keep this from happening is to really consider if you have time to do the proposed task well. If you don’t, explain to the asker that you will have to rush either this project or another and the quality of your work will suffer. Most people are sure to understand and find a different person to get the job done.