Top 9 Time Wasters at Work that Everyone Should Avoid

Time Wasters at Work
6
min read
October 11, 2022

Workplaces can be great for getting work done, collaborating with colleagues, and celebrating big wins. However, offices can also be places for unproductive meetings, unnecessary emails, and water cooler talk—and that's just the beginning. 

You might think these are the unavoidable consequences of working with people, but they're not! 

There are many ways to mitigate common workplace productivity busters. Below, we've created a list of nine workplace time wasters (and what to do about them).

9 Workplace Time Wasters and How to Fix Them

#1. Multitasking

One of the biggest time wasters in our lives is multitasking. We all want to feel productive, and we all want to be able to switch quickly between tasks, but this leads us down a dangerous path that can cost us precious time. 

Research has shown that multitasking doesn't help you get more done and makes your brain less efficient at completing tasks. You become less productive when trying to do multiple things at once because it takes longer for your brain to process a bunch of different information. One study found that just 2.5% of people can multitask effectively.

Multitasking also causes stress and burnout, which may make you less efficient overall, even if it does get some things done faster than single-tasking would have done them!

A better way: Focus on one task at a time when possible (that's why "focus mode" exists in software like Google Docs) and hone your time management skills with a detailed time-blocked calendar to help you dedicate a specific time for each task.

#2. Unnecessary Meetings

We’ve all heard the saying, “This meeting could have been an email,” and unfortunately, most of us have lived through it too. The University of North Carolina surveyed 182 senior managers in various industries: 65% said meetings give them less time to complete their work. Seventy-one percent said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. 

Looking at the time it takes to plan a meeting—from deciding on a date and time and location to sending out a plan and reminders about attendance and materials—an hour-long meeting can quickly take two or three hours out of the organizer’s workday. Then there's the inefficiency of having everyone sit around waiting for people to show up or listen to side conversations unrelated to the meeting. 

A better way: Every meeting should have a clear schedule with time blocked out for each talking point. If possible, meeting organizers should keep track of time and prompt speakers to wrap up their discussion a few minutes before their time slot ends. If possible, keep meetings brief, i.e., thirty minutes or less. 

#3. Procrastination and Non-Work

It seems kind of obvious to say that procrastination is a time waster for workers. Putting off a big project in favor of watching YouTube videos or browsing Amazon isn’t the most productive thing now, is it? 

The problem with procrastination and non-work is that we all know it’s “bad,” but we all still do it. And the more we do it, the worse we feel. Stress compounds, and before we know it, we have less than 24 hours to finish a sales pitch. An academic study even found a positive correlation between procrastination and depression.

A better way: To avoid overwhelm, workers should break up their large projects into small chunks with a project to-do list. Then, reserve a block of time each day to work on them. You can use a time tracking app like Hourly, which records how long you work on each project in real-time. That way, you can make sure you're giving projects the attention they need.

Want to boost productivity when working from home? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Working From Home article for tips.

#4. Noisy Environments

While open-office layouts seem ideal for brainstorming and collaboration, they can also be meccas of distraction. Constant printer noise, doors opening and closing, people chatting, phones ringing, keyboards clicking, and more can cause workers to lose focus. One study found that office workers lose 86 minutes daily because of office distractions.

Noise is one of the most common time wasters, but it often goes unnoticed by management.

A better way: While it’s not always possible to re-design your workspace, you can take matters into your own hands. Consider reserving a conference room for some peace and quiet or drowning out office noise by wearing headphones and listening to music.

#5. Too Many Emails

E-mails are a great way to communicate and a necessary part of our jobs. But they can take up a lot of time, especially if you have to deal with hundreds daily. The average office worker receives around 121 emails every workday.

A better way: To avoid hours spent checking emails, create rules for incoming messages that help you manage your inbox better. For example, if an email has been sent by an unknown sender or is marked as spam, create a rule to automatically file it in its own folder so it doesn’t clog up the rest of your email box. 

#6. Interruptions

We’ve all been there: you’re focused intently on a spreadsheet, and BAM, a co-worker, is at our desk asking questions about how to use the new printer. 

While it's common for office workers to face a variety of interruptions, from email notifications to calls, text messages, and coworkers stopping by to ask a question, there are ways to downsize the number of interruptions drastically. 

A better way: Consider setting up an away message on your email, turning off your phone, and hanging a sign on your door to tell co-workers to come back at a specific time. 

#7. Social Media

Social media can be a fun, helpful way to connect with others. Still, it's easy to get sucked into spending a lot of time on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, especially during work hours.

A better way: If you have trouble keeping yourself from wasting time on social media during work hours, consider blocking access to these sites or deleting them from your phone.

#8. Lack Of Clarity

Clarity is vital in any workplace setting—it's essential for good communication between team members, coworkers, and supervisors. Without transparency, it isn't possible to set goals or meet deadlines effectively.

A better way: As someone seeking clarity from others in your organization, try starting with questions like: 

These questions help ensure that everyone involved clearly understands goals and expectations so that projects can proceed smoothly without getting bogged down by confusion or miscommunication.

#9. Notification Nightmares

Push notifications are interruptions, and interruptions are time wasters. Our phones and apps are designed to keep us interested. Push notifications are strongly linked to smartphone addiction. These “small” disruptions throughout the day add up to a big waste of time.

A study of nearly 2,000 full-time office workers revealed that most people spend over an hour reading news websites and almost 45 minutes daily checking social media. 

A better way: To avoid wasting time with constant notifications, simply turn them off while you’re at work. You can use focus mode or even adjust your notification settings. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to avoid your phone for longer spurts of time.

Get More Done with Less Time Wasters

We can't get through our workday without some kind of distraction. But the good news is that by minimizing the impact of these time wasters on our lives, we can get more done and save time! When you have important tasks to do, don’t panic and remind yourself it’s possible to stay productive and positive. It just takes a few adjustments.

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