Whether you’re working remotely or in the office, there are a lot of challenges to your daily productivity. On some days, it seems like the more hours you put in, the less you get done. Wasting time at work can mean missed deadlines and unhappy bosses. It can also lead to tasks piling up, creating anxiety and overwhelm in the workplace.
What are some common time wasters in the workplace and why is it so hard to be productive? Read on to find out about the eight most common time wasters at work, as well as how to overcome time wasters for better workplace productivity.
How much time is wasted at work?
How much of a problem are time wasters at work? Surveys show that almost a third of workers report wasting up to an hour or more of time per day. The same study reports that workers are spending an average of 2.9 hours per 8-hour workday on non-work activities.
Another study drives home the financial implications of all of this time wasted. It’s estimated that U.S. companies lose an average of $1.7 million per year for every 100 employees, just because of work time wasters.
Being concerned about workplace time wasters doesn’t mean advocating for longer work hours or shorter breaks. In fact, many of the solutions to eliminating common time wasters in the workplace involve ensuring that workers have plenty of breaks and aren’t overwhelmed.
Read on to learn about eight common time wasters in the workplace and our solutions for better workplace productivity.
8 common time wasters in the workplace and solutions for eliminating them
Work time wasters can be frustrating as an employee and employer. The more time wasted at work, the more tasks pile up and it seems like things never get done. Eliminating time wasters in the workplace is the first step towards effective time management. These eight common time wasters in the workplace can easily be avoided for a more productive workday.
1. Unnecessary meetings
How many times a week do you attend a meeting that should’ve been an email? For a recent study by Otter.ai and Dr. Steven G. Rogelberg, participants reported spending over six hours a week in unnecessary meetings. The study also found that 46% of employees believe they have too many unnecessary meetings on their calendar.
Thankfully, this is an easy problem to solve. It just takes a little buy-in from your team members and leaders.
The best way to avoid unproductive meetings is by establishing new norms. Default to other forms of communication, like email or Slack, and then bump the conversation to a meeting only when it’s necessary. Other alternatives include Otter.ai, an app that records and transcribes meetings you can’t attend personally, and Loom, an asynchronous video messaging software.
When you schedule your meetings can greatly affect how productive your day is. Try scheduling meetings at the beginning or end of the day, leaving plenty of time in between for uninterrupted Focus Time. Overly long breaks between meetings can also be a big waste of time. Leaving 5-10 minutes between meetings is necessary, but not much work gets done in the 30 minutes between meetings.
Clockwise offers effortless and dynamic scheduling so you can protect your Focus Time and waste less time on meetings. Use Scheduling Links to schedule meetings with a click, and Flexible Meetings to move meetings around without having to waste time sending out emails.
Emails can be a major time waster at work, because there will always be emails in your inbox. Unlike meetings that are carefully scheduled, your work day can be potentially interrupted by responding to and filing away emails at any time of day.
To eliminate time wasted in your inbox, schedule a specific time during the day to check and respond to emails. Put time limits on checking emails and commit to not looking at your inbox at all outside of that allotted amount of time. Because answering emails is a mostly menial task, schedule email time for when your focus and energy are naturally lower throughout the day, instead of wasting all of your energy on shallow work.
Being disorganized can not only be frustrating — it can actively cost you hours of wasted time. When your files are scattered everywhere, you spend precious time searching for things. While it may only be a minute here and a minute there, those times stack up by the end of the day.
Organization doesn’t come naturally to everyone, so look for an organizational system that makes sense for you — one that you’ll actually use. The beginning of the year is a great time to take a few days to organize everything around you. Create a system for filing away emails, clean up your files and folders, and organize your workspace. Set up systems that automate organization in the future, so you don’t have to constantly keep up with organizing. While it may seem like a drag to do all of this, and it’ll feel like you’re not getting any “work” done, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much time it frees up in the long run.
Multitasking is a popular strategy to try and increase productivity, but it often does the exact opposite. While it may seem like working on one task at a time greatly limits productivity, the truth is that when you focus all of your energy on one task, you’re able to get it done that much quicker.
Splitting your attention to multiple tasks at a time will inevitably lead to mistakes, and will ultimately slow you down. A big reason for this is that constantly switching between tasks demands a lot of energy and focus. There is no way to perform at peak energy levels when your energy is being sapped away by constant context switches.
Set time aside to focus on one project at a time, and you’ll be surprised at how much more you can achieve.
It can be tempting for managers to micromanage their team’s productivity, especially with employees that are working remotely. Constant check-ins, requiring employees to use time tracking apps, and frequent progress reports can all be big time wasters. Entrepreneurs are also prone to micromanaging themselves as they go through their work day. If you’re your own boss, try letting go of rigid metrics.
Instead of micromanaging how your team members spend their time, help them design their day for optimal productivity. Clockwise helps you determine how much uninterrupted Focus Time team members should get in order to complete their work. By using a tool like Clockwise to manage your team’s schedule, you’re sending a message that you trust them to get their work done. And as a manager, you’ll find a lot of your time being freed up to focus on what’s next.
6. Social media
Social media is probably one of the biggest time wasters at work. We have become habituated to checking social media frequently throughout the day, and it’s not easy to let go of that while we’re at work. While it may seem like scrolling through social networks like LinkedIn or Instagram for a minute does no harm, more often than not it leads to rabbit holes where you find yourself still scrolling after ten minutes.
Even checking social media during breaks can ultimately lead to time wasted. Scrolling through social media does nothing to rest our mind — in fact, all of the information we absorb through social media actually takes up a lot of our energy and focus.
While you’re at work, try using apps and browser extensions that block access to online distractions during work hours. That way, even when the urge hits, you won’t be able to access those sites. Put your phone facedown, or even in a closed drawer, to reduce the impulse to check your text messages or social accounts.
A reason why we turn to social media is often because we feel we need a break. By scheduling more frequent short breaks throughout the day, you can actually save time by reducing the need to turn away from work to scroll through social media.
7. Social interruptions
There will always be social interruptions at work. Some level of socializing with your coworkers is healthy, but it can also become disruptive to your day if you’re constantly being distracted by coworkers. For office workers, this can look like frequent chats at the “water cooler,” or coworkers coming to your desk often to chat (there’s always one chatty coworker in every office). If you work remotely, then you may have noticed that you’re often distracted by constant Slack pings.
If you’re in the office, signal to your coworkers when you’re hard at work and would like to be left alone, and when you’d appreciate an interruption. You can use large, over the ear headphones as an obvious signal, or even a small sign that you put on your desk.
If you’re working remotely, it’s important to limit Slack notifications when you’re hard at work, so you won’t be tempted to break your concentration to check Slack. Clockwise integrates with Slack to automatically update your status to “Do Not Disturb” when you’re participating in Focus Time or meetings.
8. Working without a plan
Working without a concrete to-do list can waste a lot of time at work, even if you’re not the type to create color-coded lists everyday. Without a blueprint outlining your most important tasks, it’s easy to take the path of least resistance and waste prime energy and focus on easy tasks — like checking email — to “get them out of the way.” Then, by the time those smaller tasks are done, you’ll find it harder to focus on your high value tasks.
Planning and prioritizing tasks actually requires a lot of mental energy, which is why it’s so important to do ahead of time. Otherwise, after every task you’ve completed you’ll be wasting energy — and therefore time — thinking about what you have to do next.
Try setting aside 10-15 minutes at the end of each day to sketch out how the next day will look. Make a to-do list of tasks that you need to complete, and schedule chunks of time to do deep work during times when you have more energy. Once you do this for long enough, creating a plan will become an essential part of your daily workflow. Creating a daily plan of what you’ll work on can also help you overcome procrastination. By prioritizing your tasks and dividing them into smaller tasks, you can prevent overwhelm that leads to procrastination.
We can’t be at 100% focus at all hours of the workday, but we can take steps to drastically reduce time wasters at work. The less time you waste at work, the better you feel about your performance, and ultimately the easier it is to stop thinking about work when you sign off for the day.
Clockwise helps get you and your team’s schedules under control, so you can make more time for what matters. Click here to try it for free.