In this day and age, it seems like there’s never enough time to get everything done. While chit-chatting with coworkers or unproductive meetings seem to be the most common activities that are thought to be “time wasters,” there are other daily habits and activities that also consume our time and decrease our productivity at work.
Most activities considered time wasters are just routines with little to no positive effect on one’s life. It’s also busy work that keeps us looking productive without making much progress.
Whether working from home, at the office, or hybrid, here are some time-wasting habits to look out for.
The Science Behind Habits of Time Wasters
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a time waster is “someone who causes another person to waste time doing something that does not achieve any good result.” In other words, a time waster is an activity or person that prevents us from being productive.
Time wasters can take many forms, from social media scrolling to unproductive meetings. And while we all have different triggers for time wasting, there are some common culprits.
One of the most common time wasters is multitasking. When we try to do two things at once, our brains work harder – and less efficiently – than if we were just focusing on one task. This can lead to mistakes and decreased productivity by up to 40%.
Another common time waster is perfectionism. Trying to meet unrealistic standards can lead us to spend hours on tasks that could have been completed more quickly and easily. This may also threaten a positive team climate and hinder the project’s success.
According to some experts, there may be psychological reasons behind our tendency to waste time. Individuals with ADHD may have difficulty focusing on tasks and may be more likely to engage in activities that provide immediate gratification. Procrastination can also be a sign of anxiety or depression. If you find yourself frequently wasting time and it is impacting your ability to function in daily life, it may be worth speaking to a doctor.
12 Most Common Time Wasters in a Workplace
In a fast-paced world, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wasting time at work. Whether it’s checking personal email, browsing social media, or engaging in water cooler chat, there are many potential distractions.
1. Chatty Coworkers
Chatty coworkers can be a real drain on productivity, and they often disrupt concentration and focus. One way to deal with chatty coworkers is to use time blocking. This involves setting aside specific periods for tasks and letting colleagues know you are not available during those times.
By doing this, you can minimize interruptions and maximize your productivity.
The impact of disorganization can be even greater for work-from-home employees, who often struggle to maintain a separation between their personal and professional lives. Messy working spaces can overload our senses with excessive stimuli, making it difficult to relax and amplify stress. 
Not only are you wasting time trying to refocus, but you are spending precious time looking for items that you need for your work.
3. Proving You’re Working
A recent study found that remote workers spend more time proving that they’re working than actually working; about a third of employees feel like there is more pressure to be more visible to their managers and leaders when they’re working from home. 
This “productivity theater” takes the form of long hours, over-communication, and a constant barrage of updates. While it’s understandable that managers want to know their team is making progress, this culture of constant monitoring can be destructive and counterproductive.
This is also caused due to employees not wanting to have their work-from-home options being taken away.
4. Unnecessary Meetings
Most people have experienced the frustration of sitting through a long, pointless meeting. In today’s fast-paced business world, time is always at a premium, and it can be difficult to justify spending hours in a meeting that could have easily been handled over email.
70% of all meetings keep employees from working on the tasks at hand, which halts their progress, and employees spend at least four hours per week preparing for status update meetings.
5. Social Media and Other Online Distractions
Social media and other online distractions are a huge problem for many people. It’s estimated that people spend around two hours and twenty-seven minutes every day on social media, and this number is only increasing. Not only does this wasted time take away from productivity, but it can also lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
Studies have shown that the average person spends about two hours each day surfing the internet for personal reasons. This means that over a year, 500 hours are wasted browsing the web.
6. Checking Emails
It’s easy to get caught up in the constant cycle of checking and responding to emails. As our business culture is evolving and remote work is common, 86% of professionals use email as their preferred method of communication.
Whether we’re juggling work and family responsibilities or simply trying to stay entertained during a long commute, multitasking has become the norm. But while multitasking may help us feel more productive, recent research suggests that it can lead to poorer performance.
So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the things you have to do, Try focusing on just one thing at a time. You may find that you get more done in less time—and with less stress.
8. Lack of Delegation
Oftentimes, we don’t delegate because it’s hard to trust other people to do a task as well as we could do it ourselves. We might have had bad experiences in the past where someone didn’t do the task correctly, or maybe we just like being in control. This can also be caused by the need to be a perfectionist, which reduces your effectiveness as a team player.
Whatever the reason, not delegating can cause us a lot of stress. After all, we can’t do everything ourselves! A good way to start delegating is by giving simple tasks to people you trust.
9. Taking on Another Coworker’s Tasks
Teamwork is highly encouraged in a working environment, but taking on excessive work can actually hinder productivity. While doing this from time to time builds team camaraderie, it’s important to draw the line when you feel yourself overworking or not making progress on your tasks. Finish what you can and don’t try to bite off more than you can chew.
10. Micromanaging Employees
No one likes to be micromanaged. It’s demotivating, shaming, and a surefire way to stifle creativity and innovation. And yet, many of us have experienced the soul-crushing reality of working for a micromanager at some point in our careers.
Micromanaging is an ineffective leadership style and one of the culprits of wasted time at work. Whether it’s a boss who constantly hovers over our shoulders or a colleague who feels the need to weigh in on every little decision, micromanagers can make our working lives a living nightmare.
11. Not Organizing Tasks Ahead of Time
One of the biggest productivity killers at work is not taking the time to organize tasks ahead of time. According to a recent study, employees spend, on average, at least two hours a day (25% of their work week) looking for the documents, information, or people they need to do their jobs.
By organizing ahead of time, you’ll be better prepared for when deadlines approach and your work will feel unrushed.
12. Busy Work
Busy work is defined as work that usually appears productive or of intrinsic value but only keeps one occupied. Common examples of busy work include organizing documents, running errands, and color-coding spreadsheets.
The reason we often indulge in busy work is that it can help us feel like we’re being productive when we’re not accomplishing anything meaningful. This can be especially true in the business world, where the pressure to appear busy and productive can be intense.
However, indulging in too much busy work can lead to burnout and prevent us from focusing on the tasks that matter. That’s why it’s important to ditch the busy mentality and focus on quality over quantity.
Surprising Productivity Boosters that are Mistaken as Time Wasters
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that anything that isn’t working is a waste of time. However, there are a number of activities that can boost your productivity, even though they may seem like they’re taking you away from your work.
1. Listening to Music in the Background
Listening to music in the background can help improve focus and productivity, according to research. The so-called “Mozart Effect” refers to the finding that classical music can help boost brain power, particularly in the area of spatial reasoning.
Scientists believe that this is because listening to music and spatial reasoning are related tasks that use some of the same brain regions. As a result, listening to music while working on a task can help improve focus and performance.
While the Mozart Effect is most pronounced with classical music, other genres may also be beneficial. So if you’re looking for a little boost while working on a challenging project, consider putting on some tunes in the background.
2. Having Downtime
It’s no secret that stress can have a negative impact on our health, both mentally and physically. But what many people don’t realize is that even a small amount of downtime can help to alleviate stress and improve our overall well-being.
According to a recent study, just six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by 68%. And while working out during lunchtime might seem like it would add to your stress, research shows that midday exercise can help to reduce workplace stress.
So, next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, take a break and do something you enjoy. It just might be the key to boosting your productivity.
3. Go on a Vacation
There are a number of reasons why vacations can have such positive effects on careers. First, vacations provide a much-needed break from work. This can help to reduce stress and burnout, which can, in turn, lead to improved focus and mental clarity.
Vacations also offer an opportunity to recharge and reset, which can give you the energy you need to tackle future challenges. Moreover, taking time off can help you to gain a new perspective on your work and find new ways to approach familiar problems.
So if you’re feeling guilty about taking a vacation, don’t be! The benefits are clear: vacations can make you happier, healthier, and more successful.
Tools to Help Manage Time Better at Work
In today’s fast-paced world, it’s more important than ever to manage your time wisely. Fortunately, there are a number of helpful apps that can make it easier to stay on track.
A self-improvement app, Forest tracks and limits your digital media use. Like a digital babysitter, it will help you get things done. The purpose of this program is to encourage you to perform one activity at a time and stop you from using other apps.
The app is straightforward and provides a sense of satisfaction and reward upon task completion without distraction. Its premium edition lets you track team members’ output while planting trees together. You may also set an allowed period for certain applications by adding them to the “allow” list to be used during that time.
The internet is a huge barrier to productive, innovative thinking. Though social media has its uses for research and amusement, it makes it hard to get any real work done if you continue being sidetracked to check your feeds (whether Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even email).
The Freedom app essentially functions as a distraction-free zone. It functions as a virtual private network (VPN) that overlays your current network and prevents access to specific websites at predetermined intervals. A green pop-up will appear whenever you try to access a potentially distracting website on your PC or mobile device.
Once you’ve made your choice and confirmed it, you’ll need to restart the computer or wait until the allotted time has passed before you can get access again.
Although it has the potential to challenge Evernote, the note-taking software Notion is still in its beginning. It claims to be a combination note-taking tool and task organizer but lacks a straightforward interface for either purpose. However, for beginners, it can be a great task management app.
Spark is a powerful email client that can be downloaded for free for the iPhone and iPad. It has an improved inbox, the ability to personalize actions, improved notification reliability, and a seamless connection with cloud storage and other services.
Spark continues to be one of the best free alternatives to Apple Mail, and its latest version solidifies its place at the top with new features including customizable toolbar actions, contact avatars, and support for Dark Mode.
1Password has been considered by many to be an excellent password manager due to its comprehensive set of standard and advanced security options.
You can make as many separate password vaults as you like, and it works on any platform or device.
Automatically saving and filling in forms are only a couple of the time-saving features included with 1Password, along with 2FA. Vaults can also be used to store documents and security notes, making this an extremely flexible system.
Time wasters are activities like chores, unnecessary meetings, and other tasks. This might be anything from mindless scrolling on social media to pointless administrative tasks. The fact that you could fall prey to these diversions doesn’t make you a bad artist, businessman, or writer. Once you realize what’s wasting your time, you can take measures to stop doing it.
Featured photo credit: Tristan Gassert via unsplash.com
|||^||Cambridge Dictionary: time-waster|
|||^||American Psychological Association: Multitasking: Switching costs|
|||^||MindTools: Managing Perfectionists|
|||^||Psychology Today: Why Mess Causes Stress: 8 Reasons, 8 Remedies|
|||^||Vox.com: Remote workers are wasting their time proving they’re actually working|
|||^||Otter.ai: Shocking Meeting Statistics In 2021 That Will Take You By Surprise|
|||^||Oberlo.com: HOW MUCH TIME DOES THE AVERAGE PERSON SPEND ON SOCIAL MEDIA? (2012–2022)|
|||^||CNBC: Americans spend nearly two hours a day shopping online at work, study suggests|
|||^||Templafy: How many emails are sent every day? Top email statistics for businesses|
|||^||Human Resources Director: Employees waste at least ‘two hours a day’ searching for what they need to work|
|||^||BBC:Does listening to Mozart really boost your brain power?|
|||^||Harvard Business Review: The Upside of Downtime|