Hindsight is 20/20, and it’s when we look back that we often see how much time we waste throughout the day. Changing your current habits begins with identifying some of the biggest time wasters in your life and figuring out how to spend your time more mindfully and productively.
Fortunately, I have experienced many of these productivity killers firsthand and can tell you exactly what you need to start cutting out of your day to boost your productivity.
If you want to ensure you get the most out of the 24 hours you have, let’s take a look at 10 time wasters you need to avoid for improved productivity.
1. Prioritizing Basic Tasks Over Important Work
What is productivity?
The way I define productivity is being able to successfully take care of the most important tasks throughout your day. Someone who is productive knows exactly what they need to get done and how to do it with the least resistance.
But the problem is that many will turn to the most abundant, convenient tasks.
This can make you feel like you’re getting a lot done when, in actuality, the work that you’re doing doesn’t help you achieve anything important in your day (like answering emails, for example).
That said, answering emails does little to help you with the actual work you need to do. Instead, it puts you behind, with the work you need to do still in front of you.
So how do you guarantee that you aren’t wasting time on tasks like these aren’t as much of a priority?
- Ask yourself: what are the repercussions of not finishing this task? If it doesn’t get done today, what are the consequences?
- List the items you need to do by priority. If it doesn’t need to be done immediately, move onto the most urgent tasks first
- Stop procrastinating. Sit down and get started. It can be easier to get to take care of basic tasks, but it won’t help you get the most out of your time
Non-essential tasks can be some of the biggest time wasters.
Make sure that you take care of tasks based on their urgency, not their level of difficulty.
2. Opening Up New Tabs to Browse the Web
The internet is both outstanding and terrible for productivity.
On one hand, you have access to a wide variety of tools that can improve your productivity. On the other, you have a myriad of distractions just one click away.
Avoiding these distractions takes a great deal of willpower. But you can make this process simpler by finding tools that prevent you from becoming distracted.
Some excellent solutions I recommend include:
- A website blocker that redirects you away from distracting sites like Netflix or Youtube
- A time tracker like Toggl that helps you stay on task. Knowing that you’re timing yourself to enhance your productivity can be very motivating
- Using the “do not disturb” feature to prevent any notifications from distracting you from your immediate task
With these types of tools at your disposal, you can stay focused on what truly matters.
3. Engaging in Tasks That Should Be Automated
Many of the tasks that we do on a daily basis are time-consuming.
Whether you need to take care of tasks like sending out emails or posting to social media, chances are that these types of items on your to-do list are preventing you from tackling some of your more important work.
This is one reason why you may not be getting as much out of your day as you would like.
The good news?
These time wasters can easily be automated. Some common time wasters worth automating include:
- Social Media Posts
- Blog Post Publishing
- Invoices and Accounting
- Reviewing Website Analytics
- Your To-Do List (if you have repetitive tasks you want reminders for certain things you do regularly but don’t want to write down every day)
With a little bit of research and a desire to waste less time, you are sure to find an abundance of tasks that can be automated so that you’re free to tackle more demanding work.
4. Failing to Plan Out Your Day Beforehand and Stick to a Routine
Organization is crucial to productivity.
I always make it a priority to schedule tasks ahead of time. Why? This ensures that I know exactly what I’m going to do and when I’m going to do it. Without a plan of attack, it’s easy to become overwhelmed as you try to figure out what needs to be done first.
One excellent rule to live by is working on your most demanding tasks first.
Much like with our time, we only have so much mental energy to use throughout the day.
Tasks that are less challenging and demanding should be done last, not first. This ensures that you are dedicating your time to the most pressing tasks and not pushing these items over to the next day.
You should also dedicate blocks of time to certain tasks in your day. Time blocking is an efficient way to plan for the future and limit the time it takes to do tasks.
As I’ve discussed in the past, time blocking is something that I unintentionally came across. However, it greatly impacted my ability to get work done, providing positive results that enhanced my work life.
Having a regular routine and organized schedule that works best for your needs is a must if you seek to avoid time wasters.
5. Attempting to Multitask
At first glance, multi-tasking sounds like an excellent strategy. After all, what could be better than doing two things at once?
But the reality is it rarely works this way. Instead, you may find yourself losing focus and time as you jump from one task to another.
It is far better to put your full focus on one task until it is finished. Then, once you’ve wrapped up this task, you can move onto the next.
Of course, things are rarely as simple as this. Putting a stop to multitasking is part limiting distractions and part planning.
Limiting distractions can be quite easy, and you’ll find many helpful suggestions within this guide alone. But how are you supposed to ensure that you get the work done when you finally sit down and deal with it?
Incentives and rewards are the best motivators for enhanced focus when you simply can’t follow through on a task.
Whether these incentives are small breaks, fun activities, or even tight deadlines, look for ways to keep yourself actively engaged in what you’re doing.
Getting more done begins with getting one thing done at a time.
6. Letting Perfectionism Hold You Back
Perfectionism is a common trait that many professionals share. But while close attention to detail can be beneficial for polishing work, it is rarely helpful for those looking to waste less time.
Put simply, your work doesn’t have to be flawless, especially when it is in development. It is far better to work on a project, only editing after you have finished the first draft.
This is due to the fact that editing as you go just serves to slow you down. Second guess yourself enough and you can spend hours attempting to finish a task that may have been finished a while ago.
Although you should always aim to do your best work, it’s important to know when something is good enough.
Give yourself permission to do your best and let it be once you know that your work is solid.
7. Having Unnecessary Meetings and Conversations
Meetings have become more common in today’s workforce. When done correctly, meetings can help you come up with the ideas needed to drive great work.
As you may have noticed, however, not all meetings are necessary. Many can take up more time than expected and offer little value in return.
The key to avoiding these time wasters is to understand when a meeting is needed and when you should skip them altogether. Management is also a main focal point.
For improved management of meetings, ask yourself the following questions.
- What is this meeting designed to do? Is it necessary to have this meeting or is this something that can be condensed into an email?
- When are these meetings taking place? Am I taking care to make sure that I have scheduled meetings close together so that my day is not being taken up by meetings?
- Do I have notes laid out that will help me get the most out of my meeting and talk about the most important items?
The goal of a meeting is to tackle any difficult topics or ideas that cannot be productively expressed via other mediums of communication.
If a meeting is more difficult than a text or an email, it’ll only be a time waster.
8. Taking on More Work Than You Can Handle
We often overburden ourselves with work because we are unable to say no to certain opportunities.
Others may work more because they are addicted to the perceived benefits or social approval of overworking (although this example is more extreme).
No matter your reason for overworking, it’s important that you address this issue.
Only take on as much work as you can comfortably handle within a day. If you find yourself falling behind or working well into the night to catch up, you’ve taken on too much.
9. Refusing to Delegate Tasks
Delegation is the key to freedom and better time management.
So why is it that so many people refuse to observe this necessary practice? A large part of it lies in the fact that there is a fear of delegation. Namely, people are afraid to relinquish control and trust that others can handle tasks as well as they can.
This fear of losing control or facing consequences for delegating tasks then leads to overload.
With too much work to do, you fall behind, stuck in a constant cycle of being unable to successfully complete your tasks.
Being able to delegate is a process, but one that is absolutely rewarding when it comes to boosting your productivity. Getting started may begin with asking yourself, why am I afraid of delegating my tasks to others?
Chances are that you may feel that others are not reliable or capable of producing the same output. In this case, find someone that you trust and work on developing that trust by testing delegation out for yourself.
Once you see the impact of delegating firsthand, you’ll understand just how instrumental it is to learn to delegate so that you get more done in less time.
10. Not Setting Boundaries Regarding Your Workday
Interruptions can take us away from our priorities, but only if we let them. It’s important that you set boundaries for people you interact with both online and in real life.
Some great recommendations I have that can ensure you stay focused and productive include:
- Getting Rid of Your Open-Door Policies: Open-door policies for employees and family can seem friendly, but they only open the door for potential distractions. Instead, let people know that you should only be interrupted if there is an emergency. This will limit the number of times per day you are taken away from your work, especially if it’s already a problem at the moment
- Only Checking Your Phone During Certain Hours: What many forget is that people are able to distract us virtually as well. When we accept every phone call and correspondence that comes our way, we lose time and productivity. Make it a priority to only check your phone during certain timeframes to avoid losing your focus and time throughout the day
- Limiting Your Interactions to the Essentials: It’s rare that meetings and other interactions are as vital as we believe them to be. Before you start any type of conversation, ask yourself, is this necessary? If you know that you’re going to be wasting more time and gaining little value, limit the interaction to an email or a similar type of interaction to avoid this common issue
Remember, your time is valuable.
Every interaction you have should provide you with some type of value. Otherwise, it may only be holding your back.
Time wasters abound in everyday life, but the good news is that they don’t have to stop you.
In order to stay focused and stay productive, you just have to avoid common time wasters like:
- Tackling important tasks in order to avoid some of the major projects you can’t seem to push through. Do you usually reach for the easiest tasks first? If so, this can be a major problem area to focus on
- Spending time on distracting websites and apps that take time away from you. Try to make your work more appealing than your usual distractions
- Not automating basic tasks that are less demanding and urgent than other projects. If it’s only taking away from more important items, it should be automated
- Going into your day without a plan or schedule that helps you stay organized. Your day should be organized in such a way that you are getting the most out of your time
- Trying to multitask and work on multiple projects at once rather than sticking with one until it is finished. Even though it can feel like you’re getting more done by tackling multiple tasks at once, the truth is that you’re losing vital time and focus
- Overanalyzing your work and preventing yourself from moving forward with work that is good enough. Challenge yourself to allow things to be okay rather than 100 percent flawless
- Overloading your day with meetings that are not productive or valuable. Not everything needs to be a meeting
- Taking on too much work and falling behind on all of your tasks. Stick to at least three major priorities, only adding on if you feel you have enough time
- Hoarding tasks rather than relinquishing control and allowing others to tackle non-essential work
- Allowing others to interrupt your focus time, whether it be virtually or physically. Boundaries set you up for success
With some slight changes to your habits and schedule, you can easily avoid these time wasters and transform into the productive person you’re looking to become.