10 Time Wasters That Are Killing Your Productivity

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10 Time Wasters That Are Killing Your Productivity

It happens more often than you think: people sit at their desks and engage in one or two activities that make them seem busy, yet they are unproductive. People are surrounded by more time wasters than they think, social media, gossiping coworkers, endless meetings, and you can think, Let me just engage this for a few minutes, but before you know it, you have spent 3 to 4 hours on an activity that isn’t valuable.

If you would like to avoid time wasters, you’ll first need to identify which ones you engage in, and then you can make plans on how to avoid engaging them frequently. So, let’s discuss what time wasters at work are and how to deal with them.

What Do Time Wasters Mean?

Time wasters are activities or tasks that consume valuable time without contributing meaningful returns to productivity, effectiveness, or fulfilment. They are behaviours, obligations, or phenomena that waste time and can negatively impact focus, productivity, and careers. It means anything that takes time away from your workday because it distracts or adds little value.

Before eliminating time wasters, you must understand why people engage in them. 

Why People Engage Time Wasters at Workplace

People engage in time wasters at work for various reasons. 

  • Lack of awareness: Many individuals may need to realise that certain activities are time wasters and do not contribute to productivity or the organisation’s overall goals. They may engage in these activities out of habit or without realising the impact on their work.
  • Inefficient work processes: Poorly designed work processes or lack of clarity in task assignments can be time wasters at work as the employee will spend more than necessary trying to navigate the poor work process. When individuals are unsure about their responsibilities or need more tools and resources to complete tasks efficiently, they may engage in time wasters.
  • Lack of priorities: Without prioritising tasks, employees may spend time on low-value tasks, which are time wasters, instead of focusing on high-priority and high-impact activities. A lack of priorities can lead to a sense of busyness without accomplishing meaningful work.
  • Distractions: The modern workplace is filled with distractions, such as social media platforms, personal phone calls, or excessive chatting with colleagues. These distractions divert attention from important tasks and can lead to engaging in time wasters.

10 Examples of Time Wasters at Work

Several common time wasters at work can decrease productivity. Examples include the following:

Social Media

Social media platforms have become an integral part of our daily routine, with users spending an average of 2 hours per day scrolling through their profiles while on the job, and the average is rapidly increasing. While checking your social media is not an issue, you should avoid frequently checking notifications, scrolling through them mindlessly, or getting lost in an argument online. 

Chatting With Coworkers

Excessive chatter among workers is another time waster that can be a productivity killer. We get it; the gist about what happened at the event they attended over the weekend can be very interesting; however, that could take up to 3 hours of your work time. So you reduce the talk time or save it for after work hours. 


Attempting to do multiple tasks simultaneously decreases efficiency and leads to mistakes. A study shows that attempts at multitasking cause a 40% loss of productivity, which places multitasking as the most common and maybe the worst time waster.

When you multitask, you are not doing only one task at a time. Instead, you are temporarily giving partial attention to each task. As such, most of your energy will be devoted to switching tasks and not completing them. Moreover, switching from one task to another will increase the time it takes to complete each task and the number of errors. Instead, try time management techniques like the Pomodoro Technique, which involves working in focused bursts with short breaks in between. 


When employees work from home, keeping their personal and professional lives separate can be difficult. As a result, disorganization at home can have an even greater impact on these individuals. The senses can become overloaded with excessive stimulation in cluttered working environments, which makes it harder to relax and amplifies stress levels.

A disorganised workspace can be a time waster as you would be not very productive because you are wasting time trying to refocus. Also, you are wasting time tracking the things that you need for your work, which is a time waster.

Taking on Tasks that are for Another Coworker

While collaboration among coworkers is highly valued in the workplace, taking on too much at once can be counterproductive and reduce efficiency. Hence, you should know when to say no to taking on some tasks, and draw the line when you feel like you are overworking or not making progress on your assignments.

Although taking on coworkers’ tasks occasionally might help foster camaraderie within the team, you should take on only what you can handle; instead, focus on finishing what you’ve started.

Checking Emails

Email notifications can be overwhelming, leading to a constant need to check inboxes. Checking emails frequently can be a time waster which affects help productivity negatively. To avoid this, schedule specific times to check emails, such as in the morning, after lunch, and in the afternoon. This applies to smartphone messages and voicemail as well. When waiting for an important email, only constantly check emails and schedule specific times, such as during commuting or the day.

Not Automating Recurring Tasks

Most of the duties we generally complete daily are ones we repeatedly do. A good number of these recurrent responsibilities are, in fact, amenable to automation in one form or another. For instance, if you send the same email every other day, you can create templates so that you all have to do is fill in the blanks. This will save you time and allow you to focus on more important things.


Spending excessive time on tasks in pursuit of unrealistic standards can hinder productivity and team success. Even though taking pride in your work and aiming for excellence is crucial, perfectionism can rapidly become a time waster if it’s not managed properly. While you strive for perfect work, make a schedule and know when to stop spending excessive time fixating on minute particulars; that way, you can make headway and advance in your tasks.

Excessive Meetings

Unplanned and impromptu meetings are a significant time waster and unproductivity, with 47% of respondents stating they are unproductive. Employees spend 5 and 13 minutes in weekly meetings, with management meetings consuming thousands of hours annually. Hence, meetings with no specific agenda, clear takeaway, and time frame are a recipe for disaster, wasting time and preventing others from getting things done.

To reduce the unproductivity caused by meetings, only attend important ones, have an agenda, objectives, and outcomes, invite the right people, avoid back-to-back meetings, and allow time for preparation and follow-up. Additionally, address problems that can be done through quick phone calls or group chats, and leave meetings for more critical issues.

Poorly Structured Workflow

A poorly structured workflow is a time waster as workers might struggle to get things done. To improve the flow of work, your process should be analysed and streamlined to eliminate any extra stages. You can also use project management tools, or task management apps that can be helpful when it comes to keeping track of work and deadlines.

Also, tasks should be clearly distributed, and clear communication routes and protocols should be established to avoid confusion and delays.

How Do You Deal With Time Wasters at Work?

Breaking the distraction habit requires a combination of strategies and techniques, and also, it takes time and effort. You can deal with time wasters by doing the following:

  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is a powerful tool for avoiding time wasters, including the habit of distraction. By cultivating awareness and being present at the moment, you can become more conscious of your distractions and consciously redirect your attention.
  • Identify and prioritise tasks: Make sure that your goals are well-defined, and organize your tasks in order of significance and time constraints. If you do this, you will be able to concentrate on the most important activities and prevent getting distracted.
  • Remove physical and digital clutter: Physical clutter can be a significant source of visual distraction, so clearing your workspace of unnecessary possessions can help improve focus. Similarly, digital clutter, such as desktop icons, open programs, and visible notifications, can distract your attention. Take the time to declutter your digital environment and remove any unnecessary distractions.
  • Avoid multitasking: Multitasking may give the illusion of productivity but can decrease efficiency and focus. Instead of trying to do multiple tasks simultaneously, focus on one task at a time and complete it before moving on to the next one.
  • Manage feelings of anxiety: Distractions are often used as a coping mechanism to avoid stress and anxiety. To overcome this, practice calming techniques such as deep breathing and rationalise your fears by asking yourself if they are blown out of proportion.
  • Make small changes to your environment: Simple changes in your physical environment can help reduce distractions and improve focus, such as clearing your desk, keeping it organised, and keeping your phone away.
  • Track your distractions: Record how you spend your time and track the activities that distract you. This awareness can help you identify patterns and consciously minimise or eliminate those distractions.
  • Use time management techniques: Use time management techniques such as the Pomodoro Technique or time blocking to allocate specific time slots for different tasks. This can help you stay focused and avoid wasting time on unrelated activities.
  • Delegate and automate tasks: Identify tasks that can be delegated to others or automated using technology. You can free up time to focus on high-value tasks by offloading non-essential tasks.
  • Improve work processes: Streamline work processes by identifying bottlenecks or inefficiencies and finding ways to optimise them. This may involve improving communication channels, implementing project management tools, or seeking feedback from colleagues to identify areas for improvement.
  • Practice time blocking: Allocate specific time blocks for different tasks, ensuring focused work and reducing the likelihood of multitasking or getting distracted.
  • Take breaks: Incorporate regular breaks into your work schedule to maintain focus and prevent burnout, as prolonged work without breaks can decrease productivity.

Technology and Time Wasters

Technology can also play a significant role in avoiding time wasters and improving productivity at work. Here are some ways technology can help:

  • Seamless communication: Tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams facilitate swift and effective communication, reducing the need for long email threads.
  • Remote work: Platforms like Zoom and Google Meet enable practical remote work, saving time otherwise spent commuting.
  • Task management: Apps like Asana and Notion help visualise and manage tasks, eliminating confusion and forgotten responsibilities.
  • Automation: AI and machine learning can automate mundane tasks, freeing time for strategic thinking and creative work.
  • Collaboration: Platforms like Google Drive and Dropbox make file sharing and collaboration easier, reducing the need for endless emails and version control issues.
  • Project management: Comprehensive tools like Jira and Basecamp bring all project elements under one roof, avoiding miscommunication and disjointed workflows.
  • Time tracking: Apps like provide insights into time spent, helping identify silent time-wasters and improve productivity.
  • Continuous learning: Platforms like LinkedIn Learning and Coursera offer endless knowledge to boost efficiency and stay ahead.
  • Customer relations: CRM platforms like Salesforce streamline customer relationship management, saving time on manual follow-ups and data tracking.


Dealing with time wasters is important because, if not handled, it can harm work-life balance and productivity. Hence, recognise time wasters you engage in and implement strategies to overcome them so that you can improve efficiency and satisfaction in both your professional and personal life. You should also consider technology, and it can be effective in avoiding time-wasting activities and ensuring tasks are completed.


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