Time Wasters In The Workplace: What Are and How to Avoid Them

Author: Madalina Roman

In today’s fast-paced work environment, low-value tasks that waste time can hinder productivity and hinder overall effectiveness. In this article, we explore practical strategies to identify and eliminate these productivity drainers.

By taking proactive steps to address time-wasting activities, professionals can reclaim their time, enhance focus, and achieve optimal productivity. Learn what are time wasters and how to avoid them at work.

Free eBook: How to plan your team’s time

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What are time wasters?

Time wasters are activities or tasks that drain our time without returning positive/valuable results.

It’s extremely easy to waste several minutes throughout the day with small talks with colleagues, scrolling through social media, navigating the internet, and getting off track gets easy. 

According to a study, more than 50% of employees agree that spending too much time in meetings prevents them from being more productive at work. And most of us can agree that we also multitask during these meetings.

time wasters definition

All these things will waste your time and may cause you to lose focus and motivation. Some of them are the reasons why you’re feeling unproductive.

So, are you ready to uncover the time-wasting activities in your schedule? Here’s our list of 10 time wasters at work and some tips on how to avoid them.

The 10 most common time wasters at work

  1. Meetings
  2. Multitasking
  3. Doing other people’s work
  4. Online distractions
  5. Emails
  6. Interruptions (i.e. notifications)
  7. Bulky to-do lists
  8. Disorganization
  9. Postponing harder tasks
  10. Excessive breaks
time wasters at work

1. Meetings

Avoid unnecessary meetings, always. Instead of just popping into a meeting and spending hours there, try to structure it ahead of time and get all the relevant discussion points. 

Also, set time limits for the meetings, don’t let them slip away, and make them shorter. If everyone has already prepared their talking points, you won’t need super long meetings to get to the point.

Additionally, try to stay on topic as much as possible. It’s easy to start dissipating and start talking about personal matters and other things that are not relevant to the meeting itself.

Track time spent on meetings to find more billable hours

2. Multitasking

We sometimes think that multitasking and/or content switching are timesavers, but most of the time it just doesn’t allow us to commit to each project fully. Jumping from task to task won’t save you in the long run.

It’s proven that only a small percentage of people can multitask effectively because it can make you make mistakes, compromise the quality of your work, and inhibit your creativity.  

So, what can you do? Prioritize your tasks and break down your daily to-do list into chunks of time.

Did you know that multitasking is one of the reasons why people feel unproductive?

Free eBook: How to plan your team’s time

Get your free copy and discover how to leverage the power of time tracking in your team.

3. Doing other people’s work

If you’re a team manager, this tip is for you. Don’t take all the responsibility and work on your shoulders when you have a team. Delegate tasks and get things done.

Even though it can be difficult sometimes because you’re so confident in your work letting go and passing the tasks to someone else can be hard. 

However, you have a team for a reason. Set goals for them, communicate openly, allow them to grow, provide constructive feedback, and delegate work.

If you’re struggling to manage your team and workload, read our blog about how to lead a team. You’ll find everything you need to succeed.

time wasters examples

4. Online distractions

We believe that this is probably one of the top reasons why we get so distracted and waste time, especially if we work digitally. The two most common online distractions are:

  • Social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, you name it. If you sneak peek at social media during your work time, it’s not a big deal. However, if you frequently look at it and spend too much time on it, that kills both time and productivity.
  • Internet browsing: Whether it’s shopping for a piece of clothing, looking for a place to go on your next holiday, or just checking newsletters, try not to spend hours doing it. Use your break time to do this.

To avoid wasting too much time with this type of distraction, using a time management app – Timeular – will ensure that you’re taking proper breaks from time to time. 

5. Emails

Our reliance on emails to communicate at work means that we regularly check them throughout the day, making us waste our time. It’s probably one of the biggest time-wasting activities you can do on your job.

So, if you’re looking for a time management hack to remain productive, you must limit the amount of time that you spend checking your emails.

6. Interruptions

It’s practically inevitable, especially if you’re working at the office. From email notifications, calls, text messages, and co-workers stopping by to ask a question.

While these interruptions may seem harmless, they can distract you from the tasks that were originally on your to-do list and make it challenging to refocus repeatedly.

Consider time blocking a specific period during your workday that you can use to focus without interruptions. You can put up an away message on your email or turn off your phone for no disturbances.

Free eBook: How to plan your team’s time

Get your free copy and discover how to leverage the power of time tracking in your team.

man lost in his notes

7. Disorganization

We’ve all been there. Have you ever struggled to find a super important document or file before a meeting, or just to send it over to a colleague? 

The point is, that not having your work organized it’s a major time waster. Besides, it’s super stressful and frustrating looking for something essential and not finding it. 

Try to organize your computer and workspace by setting up an organizational system that works for you and the people around you, declutter workstations, and keep a schedule or a checklist. It will make your life a lot easier. 

8. Bulky to-do lists

To-do lists can be your best friend or worst enemy. Smart prioritization is essential to be more productive and successful in your workday.

For your to-do list to be effective, you need to keep it short, usually around 3 of your most important tasks per day. So, look at your tasks and mark what’s important for that day. 

This way you can for sure stay more focused on what matters, not feel overwhelmed and you can more easily be productive during the daytime.

9. Postponing harder tasks

There are just some tasks that we don’t feel motivated enough to get done. We end up doing everything else and keep postponing that one task, but sadly that won’t make it go away.

So, instead of letting that hang over at the back of your head, just avoid wasting time and go for it. We have a tip for you, do it in the morning. It’s going to be easier, as you can read in our post about the time management eat-the-frog technique

Did you know that you can use a tool to automate some tasks, even boring ones? Find the best task automation software.

10. Excessive breaks

It’s necessary from now and then to get the mind and the eyes off the computer screen during work. It’ll allow you to re-establish focus and motivation, as well as reduce stress. 

Free eBook: How to plan your team’s time

Get your free copy and discover how to leverage the power of time tracking in your team.

However, taking a break for coffee and just to chill outside way too many times during the day is not okay.

Designate a specific time for breaks and use a time-tracking app to check out how much time you’re spending.

It’s okay to stand up, stretch, or take a brief walk in between those times, but don’t push it, otherwise, you’ll be wasting way too much time.

Timeular time tracking app and dice that allow to track time and time block your day

How to avoid time wasters?

If you’re tired of having countless time wasters in your work schedule, you must try to locate the exact source(s) to find the solution. Take the time to stop, take a good look, and remove them from our lives.

The positive side of it is that once you determine what is making you waste your time, you can more easily remove it from your schedule and organize your life. Here’s how:

1. Budget your time

If you don’t know what a time budget is, we can tell you that is not that different from creating a financial budget.

You’ll create a budget to know where and how we’ll spend our time. If you want to know more about this technique, please read our blog about time budgeting and its benefits.

2. Time blocking

If you don’t know what time blocking is, we can brief you: time blocking is planning out every moment of your day in advance and dedicating specific time blocks for certain tasks but also for breaks.

This is one of the best time management techniques and the idea behind time blocking is to reduce the clutter of tasks in your calendar and increase your productivity and effectiveness by getting you to focus on what matters.

If you think this method isn’t effective, maybe you reconsider knowing that Elon Musk manages his day in a 5-minute rule.

3. Time tracking

A time-tracking tool will allow you to be productive all day and waste no time. How and why?

If you track time for the tasks you work on each day, not only you be more effective with your time, but you’ll also learn what tasks have been taking away most of your time.

Overall, it just allows you to get a better sense of where your time is going and not being wasted.

With this kind of analysis, you’ll be able to manage better your time and reduce time wasters. That’s why time tracking is important, it’s about productivity.

Identify and eliminate the tasks that are wasting your time

4. Mute your notifications

Sometimes it’s so hard to not get distracted by notifications popping on our phones during the day.

Emails, messages, social media, all of it. One of the best ways to stay focused on your work and waste no time on distractions is by turning notifications off during the day. 

5. Don’t check your emails regularly

Here, we’re not talking about personal emails. Yes, we’re talking about working emails.

If you try to quickly reply to every email you receive, probably you’ll lose your focus very often. So, you can select a specific time to check your inbox and answer emails, otherwise, you’ll be super stressed unnecessarily. 

6. Prioritize

There are several ways to prioritize your working day.

We suggest you apply the 4 quadrants of time management of Stephen Corey or Eat the Frog technique. They’re examples of the most known and best prioritization techniques due to their efficacity. 

If you’ve already tried this technique and the output wasn’t good, you can try another one. You just have to use the one that works better for you.

Time wasters report chart

How to report time wasters to your manager?

If you’re done wasting your time at work on things that don’t benefit you, it’s time for you to report it to your manager. 

To do that, just follow these steps:

  1. Track your time: Keep track of time and see how many hours you’re spending doing things that don’t benefit you. 
  2. Make a list: Get a list of all the time wasters you detect, such as doing other people’s tasks, being stuck in meetings, or receiving and having to answer e-mails every 10 minutes.
  3. Do the math: Sum up how much time that takes on your week and show it to your manager. 

Why is it important to avoid timewasters in the workplace? 

In conclusion, it’s crucial to avoid all timewasters because they will only cause distraction, interruption, and lack of quality and productivity. 

By avoiding them, you’ll be able to improve professional growth and the ability to focus and accomplish goals. 

Therefore, saving time is one way to increase productivity. Also, it’s crucial to understand that productivity is more than just the amount of work you do. It’s about how much value you produce. 

Even though it’s extremely hard to prevent these time wasters, being aware it’s already a huge step to help you overcome them and cultivate success in your career. 

But what leads us to waste time during the day? Whether it’s feeling mentally tired and simply can’t get things done, or not having deadlines.

Other explanations might be not feeling inspired, or focused, and being surrounded by easy distractions also makes your life harder.

We know that it can be extremely difficult to avoid time wasters. So, put that phone away, take a break, and organize your schedule.


Are meetings time wasters?

The answer is most of the time yes. Meetings sometimes spiral out of control, once you’re in it there’s no way out. Eliminate them and opt for another means of discussion and collaboration or restrict meetings to instances when nothing else will work.

What’s another word for time waster?

Depending on the context, there are several words for time-waster, such as lose time, delay, procrastinate, kill time, etc.

A time waster delays an important task. If your task is delayed because you’re focusing on less urgent, more enjoyable, and easier activities. In other words, you’re procrastinating.

It can restrict your potential and undermine your career. So, it’s crucial to take proactive steps to prevent it! 

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