Feel like you’re always busy, but don’t have much to show for it? That’s a sure sign you’re working on time wasters that make you feel busier than you really are. This post will outline 5 common time wasters that look like work, but are really only distractions.
We have a lot of words for “wasting time” in the English language – dally, lollygag, loiter, procrastinate, putter, tarry, stall, and my 4th grade teacher’s favorite, “puddleduck.” Why do we have so many ways to say we’re wasting time? Apparently, it’s because we do it a lot.
Time wasters permeate our lives, and while it’s not an issue for many people, it can be a stumbling block to success when you’re focused on being productive with your time. If you’ve ever studied time management, you might have heard of the Pareto principle, named after famed economist Vilfredo Pareto.
The Pareto principle says that just 20% of the work you do is responsible for 80% of the results you get. That sounds great, but when you realize that means 80% of the work you do isn’t netting results, you know it’s time to make some changes to your work flow.
Around 80% of the work you’re currently doing is essentially wasting your time if it’s not getting results. Seek and destroy the time wasters you’re guilty of by checking out the list below.
5 Time Wasters That Make You Unnecessarily Busy
Time wasters don’t have to be in the form of hours of internet searches for cats wearing pajamas (seriously, that’s a rabbit hole that’s hard to get out of). Time wasters can be any tasks that are not urgent or important for your company’s operation. Here are 5 examples.
You might identify as a perfectionist and feel like micromanaging your employees, freelancers, and outsourcing providers is the only way to operate peacefully. In reality, micromanagement is a time waster that’s draining your resources and stressing you (and your employees) out.
Being a micromanager takes time away from that ever-important 20% of work that actually nets results. If you genuinely feel that your staff couldn’t handle the tasks and projects you assign on their own, it may be time to consider hiring new employees that won’t need to be micromanaged.
If it’s just a habit you’ve developed over the years, try taking a few steps back to let your staff show their skills. You’ll likely find that your employees are very capable and that micromanagement was wasting time all along.
2. Unproductive meetings
Ask a pool of random employees what they hate most about working at an office, and many of them will say emphatically, “Pointless meetings!” Statistics have shown that the average executive spends 33 minutes per day just planning and scheduling meetings.
Take a look at the infographic below and you’ll see that the meetings themselves are even more of a time-sink, lasting an average of 31-60 minutes but some taking up more than 1.5 hours:
Now, consider that on average, meeting participants rate about 33.4% of the total meeting time to be unproductive. Can you see why meetings as a whole are dangerously unproductive time wasters? Meetings are a necessary part of running a business and keeping everyone on the same page, but you can make some changes to ensure the time spent in meetings is productive instead of fruitless.
Thoroughly plan your meetings in blocks of time – discussion, brainstorming, teaching, etc. Stick to that schedule during the meeting, and if things begin to stall out, adjourn the meeting and regroup to consider how to better plan the meeting next time.
3. Trivial busy work
Loading information into spreadsheets, scheduling social media posts, answering phones, replying to emails – things that have to get done in the workplace, but feel like grade-school busywork. They’re not truly time wasters because they are important tasks, but there’s an important feature of all these tasks: They don’t have to be completed by you.
In a world where qualified outsourcing providers, freelancers, and independent contractors are abundant, there’s no excuse for you to take on the busywork of your business. Delegate these repetitive tasks to a qualified, experienced professional so you can put your focus back on the 20% of work that nets major results.
4. Internet research rabbit holes
It started as a legitimate quest for information about HIPAA regulations and somehow, it’s spiraled out of control and you’re clicking on an article that includes the words “You won’t believe what happens next!” It’s perfectly normal – what you’re experiencing is an internet research rabbit hole.
It’s relatively harmless at first, when you’re actually doing research, but before you know it, you can’t remember what your original search was for or why you’re looking at a collection of images of funny lunchbox notes parents leave their kids. It can happen to anyone, but regardless of who it’s affecting, internet research rabbit holes are time wasters. It’s best to install software that restricts your internet usage while you’re working or commit yourself to staying on topic.
5. Multitasking attempts
Most people lack the necessary skills to effectively multitask. Unfortunately, most people also believe that they have the necessary skills to effectively multitask. That results in a lot of wasted time and improperly completed tasks. You’ve heard the phrase, “Jack of all trades, master of none” – this is precisely what happens when you attempt to multitask and don’t quite cut it.
Instead of worrying about getting better at multitasking, it’s better to learn to divide your time so you can concentrate on individual tasks one at a time. Alternatively, rely on a freelancer or outsourcing provider to handle some of your tasks to free up more of your time.
Infographic courtesy of Attentiv