time flies

Where Does The Time Go? Identifying And Dealing With Your Time Wasters

time fliesDo you ever wonder how you can possibly work so much but never seem to get anything done? One of the most important time management skills is identifying things that are wasting your time and taking control of them.

Here are some of the biggest things that waste your time and what you can do about them.

Online Distractions

You can find anything you want online and all of it can eat up your time and keep you from getting work done. Email, social media sites, videos, and online forums are the worst. How do you cut out the distractions? First of all, take an honest look at what you’re doing. Do you really need to check your email every hour on the hour? Do you really need to stay logged into Facebook just in case there’s an important message? And before you even begin a research project, narrow down your focus so you only collect the most relevant information. Have a goal around how many pieces of information you need and an organized way of collecting and documenting it.

Once you’ve identified your distracters, a great way to get control is to specify time for them in your schedule. For example, set aside just 15 minutes a day for Facebook. When your 15 minutes are up, close that tab on your browser to get rid of that distracting temptation.

Interruptions

If you work at home, there are always going to be interruptions, especially if you have a family. There’s no way to shut yourself off from the world entirely. There are some interruptions you can control and some that you can’t. To reduce interruptions, set realistic boundaries and expectations to let everyone know when you’re ‘at work’ and that you will stop work when you really need to. Don’t try to force work amid interruptions or you’ll lose focus.

Meaningless Meetings

Before agreeing to a meeting, make sure it’s absolutely essential. Turn down any meetings that aren’t absolutely necessary. Be proactive in moving meetings along. Set a definite finish time so you can wrap it up in a timely manner.

Multitasking

Most people are under the mistaken belief that multitasking saves you time. After all, you’re doing several things at once so you must be getting them all done faster. However, the truth is that multitasking is another time-waster. Each task takes longer than it would if you were doing them individually, and you’re not really putting the attention into them that they need. Try single-tasking and put all of your focus into the task at hand. You will make fewer errors and achieve better, faster results.

Loss of Focus and Burnout

You can waste time by working too much or too many hours. Long hours don’t necessarily mean greater productivity for most people. When your mind and body get tired, you lose focus. When you start to lose your focus, everything takes you longer to complete. If you’re not feeling motivated, sometimes it’s better to do something else for a while to avoid getting burned out. Don’t make it a habit, but if you do need to burn the midnight oil, make sure you’re at least taking enough breaks to keep your focus together.

Tracking Your Time

The best way to deal with all time management issues is to track your time. Keep a detailed record of what you do with your day for several days. This will show you exactly where you’re wasting time and it’s almost always a big surprise. You can use this information to create a time budget that’s more accurate.

One of the most important time management skills to learn is how to identify your daily time wasters and deal with them effectively.

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14 Comments

  • Beth Niebuhr

    Reply Reply October 28, 2015

    Realizing that multitasking actually wastes time was a real changer for me. It was a couple years ago and I shifted how I did things and got way more productive. Also stopping working and refreshing by doing something else increased my productivity.

    • Jennifer Hazlett

      Reply Reply October 30, 2015

      Yes, isn’t it awesome that taking a break actually increases productivity? Gives us permission to do so :)

  • Karen Grosz

    Reply Reply October 28, 2015

    I do battle with time wasters all the time. Thanks for the encouragement to track where I waste time the most. I am sure it is online.

  • melanie

    Reply Reply October 28, 2015

    Jennifer, can you offer some examples of setting realistic boundaries to stop interruptions?

    • Jennifer Hazlett

      Reply Reply October 30, 2015

      Hi Melanie, Sure, you can start by setting boundaries (esp when working from home) by having clear cut business vs. personal time. Set your business hours and stick with them. Ensure personal time is spent away from work-related activities. Don’t run errands during working hours or answer your business line when you’re about to sit down to dinner. This article talks more about boundaries: http://www.altadmin.ca/go-ahead-and-just-say-no Hope that helps. Do you have a specific issue that you’re struggling with? Let me know. I’ve got lots of tips :)

  • Lisa Swanson

    Reply Reply October 28, 2015

    I have many systems in place to keep me on task. The most important one for me is time blocking. If I don’t consciously block out distractions and focus on 1 task at a time, I’ll be lost down rabbit holes throughout the entire day. Great reminders! We live in a world where multi-tasking or rather distractions and encouraged.

    • Jennifer Hazlett

      Reply Reply October 30, 2015

      Time blocking is my fave strategy. Focus on one thing until completion – works best for me too!

  • Beverley Golden

    Reply Reply October 28, 2015

    Because I work on my own I am very open and flexible with when and how I do what I do. As a writer, I am inspired by in person meetings and often join a marketing partner/friend to explore new possibilities in person at meetings with other people. There is definitely way too many distractions for us all today and most of those have to do with being online and working there most of the day. I do keep my email and FB open (especially when I am doing group threads like commenting on blogs etc.) and don’t feel a slave to them, as I get up and step away and integrate other things into my online time. One thing I find being online so much is it is a sap for my creativity, so getting up and out into the world is the perfect inspiration! Thanks for the great tips on how to get rid of the time wasting distractions we all are being subjected to more and more each day, Jennifer.

    • Jennifer Hazlett

      Reply Reply October 30, 2015

      Yes, sometimes I think about how productive we were before the internet!

  • Roslyn Tanner Evans

    Reply Reply October 28, 2015

    Never thought to track my time on tasks. Guess I never thought I wasted time, but that’s probably not authentic. I spend lots of time commenting on page posts but I dont call that a time waster because it’s part of developing relationships. Hmm will have to look more closely to see if I waste time.

    • Jennifer Hazlett

      Reply Reply October 30, 2015

      It’s always interesting to see where we spend our time. If the activity is directly tied to building relationships that show results then it’s definitely a valuable marketing activity.

  • Lee Drozak

    Reply Reply October 29, 2015

    Multi-tasking is the biggest time waster. I remember watching the hubs one time because he gets so much done in a day. It was because he did one thing at a time. That’s was the day I quit multi-tasking.

    • Jennifer Hazlett

      Reply Reply October 30, 2015

      So true, Lee. Funny how we think that multi-tasking is such a great ‘skill’ to have.

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