How to Stop Wasting Time


Common distractions can consume a big chunk of your day. That sinking feeling that you’re not keeping up with your workload could be a warning sign that you’re wasting time. Learning to reclaim your daily routine often means a complete overhaul of your work habits and figuring out how to manage your time, your co-workers and even the technologies that are supposed to make you more effective.

Technology Interruptions

  • The steady flow of personal emails, texts and social media posts often tops the list of workplace time wasters. Many employers are blocking employees’ access to sites like Facebook to stop workers from frittering away hours on personal tasks during company time. Follow that example by saving your personal web surfing and messaging for non-business hours. If your job requires you to do online research, set a timer so you don’t get lulled into fun sites or games that have no connection to your work. Software like SelfRestraint for Windows will kick you out of certain sites after a specific amount of time as a way of curbing the temptation to spend too much time online, especially if you work from home.

Manage Emails

  • Schedule time to reply to your business emails, and then turn off email alerts outside of those times. You might discover it’s most effective to sift through your backlog as the first and last thing you do during your workday. Otherwise, you will be too tempted to keep checking every alert to see who’s contacting you. Microsoft discovered in a 2007 study that employees typically spent an average of 10 minutes responding to each email and then another 10 to 15 minutes returning to whatever task they were doing when they got interrupted. This constant fluttering between your inbox and your other responsibilities represents a significant drain on your time.

Time Audit

  • Track your workday activities for several days to see where you are productive and where you squander your time. Start by logging all your activities at work from your arrival to your departure times. Every hour, jot down what you did for the previous 60 minutes. This exercise helps you identify the tasks that did not add value to your job so you can become more organized and focused on your most important duties. You may need to decline invitation requests for meetings that are time-wasters or not directly related to your role. An effective way to deal with chatty co-workers is to politely tell them you need to finish an assignment and cannot join them in their office banter right now. Another helpful time-management tool is to place a “do not disturb” notice on your office door or cube to discourage walk-in distractions.

Improve Your Focus

  • Your own procrastination may be the reason you’re wasting time at work. If you’re struggling to start a task, you may not know what your boss expects of you. Ensure you have complete instructions by having ongoing conversations with your manager. Map out your workload on your calendar or to-do list so that you carve out time for assignments. If your mind wanders and you keep losing your focus, push yourself to work nonstop for 30 to 45 minutes and then take a break. If you schedule an easy task after you’ve completed a more complicated job, you give your brain a quick rest. For example, save your office filing for after you’ve finished writing and editing the company newsletter.

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