How to Address the Biggest Time-Wasters on the Job and Start Your Year Productively

We’ve all been there. You work a full eight hours, only to realize you really haven't accomplished anything of value. Where does the time go? There’s no shortage of potential time-wasters in a traditional workplace. Identifying time-wasters and creating a plan to beat them can increase your productivity on the job.

Avoid Social Media

Social media use is probably the biggest time-waster for most people. It's hard to avoid all the notifications from friends and family that might pop up throughout the day. Scrolling through news feeds and updates can suck up valuable time, which could otherwise be directed toward productive work activity. 

To help you resist the temptation to continually check updates, turn off social media alerts on your phone. If you feel you absolutely need to check social media, designate a short block of time in the morning and one in the afternoon to do so. Limit these to 10 minutes so you can return to your normal workflow.

Organize Your Workspace

Having physical clutter in your workspace is one thing, but digital clutter can be just as bad. You can avoid wasting time searching for files and folders by taking a moment to clean up your digital space. Use filters to sort through incoming emails. Designate separate folders for existing documents on your computer. 

One great way to organize your workspace is to take advantage of cloud storage. Its capabilities allow you to organize and sort files and documents entirely online, storing them safely within “the cloud.” You can access your files and folders from anywhere in the world with just a simple internet connection.

Create a To-Do List

Creating a to-do list for the day will help you stay focused on what needs to be accomplished. Be sure to list everything you have to do during the day, no matter how menial. This will help you organize your time, and give you a sense of satisfaction as you cross something off as "Done" (in bright red ink, for emphasis!). 

A to-do list will help you keep your eyes on the prize, especially when you make sure to include any tasks you didn’t complete the previous day. These should be marked as high priorities, so you don't fall behind. It is perfectly all right not to finish every task on your list every day. But even on days when you can’t get through it all, keeping such a list will give you a planned path to begin your next day.

Stick to a Schedule

Everyone, no matter what work environment you work with has to contend with — and resist — distractions.  Sticking to a strict schedule can help keep you more focused on work, and less distracted by time-wasters. Create a list of the tasks that must  be done in a normal day. Schedule specific times throughout the day to check emails and voicemails, to answer the phone, and to complete other tasks. If you have a timetable, you’ll be less likely to go off track.

Control Your Finances

Problems with your personal finances can spread into your workspace, as well, in the forms of distress and distraction. Calls and emails from bill collectors cause worry and scatter your thinking, creating a huge time-waster on the job. 

To head off financial interruptions, start with the basics: by creating a budget. Be sure to put aside enough money to pay your essential bills, keeping some left over for your savings. Make sure you’re in touch with your credit, and learn how to improve your credit score. Getting on the road to stronger credit can lead to valuable cost savings in the future, too, as people with excellent credit often qualify for better interest rates on loans.

Delegate to Others

Menial and repetitive tasks can quickly clog up the day. Before you know it, the day is over, and you feel like you’ve accomplished nothing meaningful. It can help to delegate less important duties to others around you. First, identify what can be allocated for others to complete, then task these duties to subordinates, or even willing colleagues who might be willing to donate some extra time. 

Don’t delegate tasks simply to avoid work you don’t like, though; this can cause resentment before you know it — since others probably won’t be thrilled about finishing your boring tasks, either. Be selective and strategic. Use delegation as a tool to help  others develop their skills. That way, you can free up more time to handle important duties, while also creating opportunities for less experienced colleagues. Delegating tasks to others can create a win-win scenario for yourself, your co-workers, and your organization as a whole. 

Work in Blocks

It is completely natural to experience peaks and valleys of productivity throughout the day. Nobody is capable of running full-tilt through an entire eight-hour workday. Identify your periods of high productivity and use this knowledge to your advantage. 

Schedule high-value tasks that require the most concentration during your peak times. Conversely, tackle menial or repetitive tasks when you know your brain power just isn't there. By organizing your day to match your productivity, you will be able to accomplish more in the same amount of time.

Time-wasters are present in any job. Being able to identify time-wasters is an excellent first step, but creating (and sticking to) a plan to defeat them is even better. By following these tips and tricks to avoid time-wasting traps, you can become more productive throughout the day.  

Contributing Editor Credits: Chelsea McGovern