It’s the end of another busy day, and you look back and wonder “Where did the time go?” Most likely, part of your time was eaten up with those little distractions that take away from the tasks that really matter.
It’s important that you attach value to your time. How you use your time has a huge impact on your ability to succeed. Increasing productivity and using your time wisely means you will have more time to do things that matter to you, like exercising, spending time with family and friends, having a hobby or pursuing other projects.
Set yourself up for success by cutting these 11 biggest time wasters from your life, and you may find you have more time than you realize.
Trying to do more than one thing at a time actually diminishes your productivity. The human brain isn’t designed to multitask. Your brain has to slow down as it switches between tasks, and this makes you less efficient.
You’re essentially shifting between two tasks without really focusing on either one. The result is that neither task has your undivided attention, so neither will be done to the best of your ability. Focusing on one thing at a time will make you more effective — you will have better results with fewer errors.
2. All things email.
Email may be one of the biggest time-sucking black holes. Every time you get an alert that you have a new email, your concentration is broken. Then there’s responding to pointless emails, or trying to find the right email in a disorganized inbox.
Try setting predetermined times to check your email, such as once in the morning, once in the afternoon and once in the evening. Hold off on checking your email until you’ve completed your most important task of the day. That way, even if email distracts you, you’ve accomplished what you need to.
3. Social media without a purpose.
Social media can be a huge distraction when you use it for personal use, but it can also be a time suck when you’re using it for legitimate work purposes. When used effectively, social media can help boost your business and increase sales or marketing reach.
But like any other tool, you need to know how to use it effectively. Reading random articles or getting sucked into useless “research” is all too easy. First, you need to identify how social media can best benefit your business and stay focused while you’re using it.
Second, stop obsessively checking your social media activity — this goes for business and personal use. Constantly checking your news feed or looking to see how many people are following you is eating away at your focus and your time.
4. Pointless meetings.
Meetings are indispensable for sharing information and making important decisions, but they’re often seen as a waste of time because they aren’t used effectively. The problem is not just the time spent sitting through pointless meetings; it’s also all the time it takes to prepare for said pointless meeting and sending and reading emails about the meeting.
According to one report, unproductive meetings are costing businesses approximately $37 billion annually. So if you find yourself drowning in meetings, look for ways to reclaim your time. Make sure meetings have agendas and a moderator who will keep them focused.
5. Disorganized work environment.
Is your desk cluttered with sticky notes and scraps of paper? Is your computer desktop a chaotic mess of random files completely covering your background picture? Does your filing cabinet look like an explosion of paper and files?
If so, there’s a good chance your disorganization is wasting your time by making it difficult to find anything, and making you look unprofessional to boot. It’s time to declutter your workstation. When everything has a place, you’ll be able to quickly retrieve the information you need and move on to the next thing.
6. Too much socializing.
There is a fine line between fostering a friendly and pleasant work environment and allowing yourself to get bogged down by chatty co-workers. There’s nothing wrong with socializing with colleagues; no one wants to spend the entire day in silence. But if you aren’t careful, it’s easy to lose valuable work time interacting with co-workers.
Wearing headphones while you’re trying to focus can help keep co-workers from popping by to chat. Don’t be afraid to tell others that you’re busy and need to stay focused right now. You can always see if they want to get lunch or hang out after work, but try to protect your work time for just that — working.
7. Refusing to seek clarification.
You get handed a big assignment. It’s a great chance to show off your skills, and you’re confident you can kill it. You dive in, but slowly you begin to realize that you’re in over your head and are not exactly sure what the final product should look like.
However, instead of seeking clarification by picking up the phone or sending an email, you press on. You tell yourself that you’ll figure it out. This is a serious waste of time because you’re letting pride get the best of you. If you have questions or are unsure how to proceed with a task, put your ego away and get the information you need to be both productive and effective.
8. Online distractions
Ah, the internet. There is nothing more distracting than having a source of unlimited information, entertainment, shopping and amusement right at our fingertips. There are a number of strategies to keep you from online distractions. If you know you have a weakness for certain websites, try using a website blocker to eliminate those temptations.
Try setting a timer for certain increments — you can start with 20 minutes and built up to 45 minutes or an hour. Stay focused on work for the entire time and you can reward yourself with a short break.
But even if you are determined to only use the internet for work purposes, it’s easy to drift from one thing to another doing online “research,” so make sure you are really staying focused on what information you are hoping to glean from online sources.
9. Too many breaks
The 3 p.m. doldrums hit and you’re looking for a pick-me-up — maybe a little snack or coffee to get you through the day. The problem is, you end up lingering and never really get your focus back.
That little break can turn into a big waste of time. Are you eating (or worse, smoking) your time away?
Mindless eating isn’t healthy to begin with, especially if you’re not being careful of what kind of food you’re snacking on. Neither is too much coffee or soda. And smoking can be perilous to your health. If you need a break to clear your head, try going for a brisk walk. It’s healthy, and may give your mind a boost to focus on work.
10. Ignoring your mental exhaustion
We’re putting in longer hours than ever before, and we’re facing burnout at higher rates. The overall effect is that we are often too fatigued to really focus and we end up wasting more time. If you’re constantly exhausted, you’re more vulnerable to distraction and likely to find it difficult to concentrate.
If you aren’t mentally prepared to do good work, you aren’t going to be successful. Do yourself a favor and make sleep a priority. The time you spend resting will pay dividends when you’re awake and ready to take on the world.
11. No clear goal to motivate you
Of all the items on this list, this one can be the most damaging in the long term. If you don’t have a big-picture plan and solid goals, you can end up frittering away your time. If you want to be successful, you need to maintain your motivation and have a clear picture of what you’re hoping to achieve.
If you don’t have an incentive to stay focused, it’s easy to let one day spill into another and never really accomplish anything. That’s when all the other temptations on this list are easy to give in to. You aren’t going to be successful by chance. It takes will power and determination. If you don’t know what the game plan is, you’re just winging it and wasting time.