Have you ever tracked how much time you waste in a day?
Chances are, if you haven’t, you’d be astounded (disgusted?) by the number.
Whether you’re wasting 10 minutes or an hour, it adds up to a lot of unproductive time.
However, if you’re serious about improving yourself, whether it’s to realize a dream, get more time for a passion project, or simply get more done at your job, you need to optimize your process to make the most of every minute.
If you can do this, you’ll be surprised by just how much time you find.
If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality.
– Benjamin Franklin
Having said that, here are five ways you’re wasting time instead of doing what you need to do.
1. Checking the news
Checking the news, whether it’s politics, local news, gossip, entertainment, or other, is easily one of the most significant ways most of us waste time.
I’ve absolutely been guilty of this in the past. Sometimes, the last thing you want to do is get to work. When we feel this way, we tend to make up excuses or create distractions for ourselves that will push work back just a bit longer.
Checking our favorite news sites serves as the perfect distraction because virtually every 30 minutes to an hour most large-scale sites have updates, giving us an excuse to check constantly.
However, even a single visit to one of these sites can tank 30 minutes of your time or more if you’re not careful, and multiple times a day, so it’s imperative you work on deconditioning the habit.
To work yourself out of the habit, try using a site blocker. Even if you know how to go in and deactivate it, the added resistance is usually just enough to keep you from browsing again. And the more you flex that mental muscle, the more you condition yourself to stay focused when that urge to distract yourself arises.
2. Email, email, email
It’s amazing to me how many people think that email is work.
Sure, it might be a required part of your job or business, however, for most professions and business owners, email is just regular maintenance.
Most of us make the mistake of allowing email alerts on our smartphones, which can literally turn us into a slave to our device and make our inbox a black hole that swallows enormous amounts of our time.
However, as necessary as email is for most of us, it doesn’t have to waste so much time. Start by removing notifications on your phone and desktop, filtering your inbox based on category, client, or issue, and only check it during certain designated times of the day.
3. Watching what others are doing on social
Social media, by very definition, is a way for you to check what others are doing. And, when you’re checking what others are doing, you’re almost never doing what you need to do.
There are obvious exceptions to this, such as someone who works in marketing or a business owner who connects via social media to build a business. However, what we’re talking about is checking your personal accounts.
I get it, you want to see what’s going on in your social circles and with your personal interests. However, you need to put a cap on this time because as long as you’re scrolling you’re wasting time you could be using to move forward towards your goals (or simply getting more done).
4. Too many meetings, too much talking
We’re social creatures, so it’s important that we talk to one another for a myriad of reasons. However, it’s easy to fall into the trap of talking too much and end up wasting way more time than is necessary.
This happens in two ways: meetings and general socializing.
Meetings can waste vast amounts of time, so it’s important to try and make the meetings you’re a part of as succinct as possible so you can get back to doing the things that actually help you make progress.
General socializing is less deceptive in that we tend to know when we’ve talked to one person for too long, however, those short “filler” conversations can build up throughout the day in a more deceptive way.
You’ll need to use your best judgment on this because these conversations could be important for building relationships with your colleagues, employees, or friends — but keep an eye on the habit.
Multitasking, aside from having proven to be less productive than focusing on one task at a time with your full attention, is really just another form of distraction. It’s a way of making ourselves feel as though we’re getting more done when we believe we aren’t doing enough.
It’s a sort of compensation behavior, clearly better than intentionally distracting ourselves, but still a common way we waste time and distract from what really needs to be done.
Part of that is because the things we’re often multitasking aren’t really important or possible.
Like listening to a podcast while writing emails. Your brain is literally unable to concentrate on what you want to write and pay full attention to the words in your ear at the same time, so you’re just wasting time convincing yourself you’ve spent some time learning or growing your mind today when you really haven’t. At least, not as much as you would if you carved out some dedicated time to listen to podcasts.
Some tasks lend themselves to these kinds of behaviors, like cleaning. Most of us can clean on autopilot because it’s a discursive activity that requires little to no mental power.
However, anything attached to work that uses your brain doesn’t function that way, and multitasking just ends up wasting your time while making you feel as though you’ve gotten a lot done.