Time Wasters: Master Your Time, From Someone Who’s Done It

Time wasters are those activities (or lack thereof) that we do that take away from our productivity at work and our lives at home.  Let’s talk about the things that might be wasting your precious time and how you can learn to avoid them.

Time wasters are things we do that consume a great deal of time but don’t contribute to our happiness in life or our productivity at work. The key I’ve found is identifying the specific activities that are contributing to a waste of time, then devising a plan to address each of them individually.

Do you ever feel like there’s not enough time? Or perhaps you don’t know how to prioritize your time?  I’ve learned a few things and we’re going to discuss how to avoid time wasters and better organize the time you have to be more productive and less stressed.

What are Time Wasters?

Time wasters are activities or menial tasks that take away from our personal time. These can be quite elusive-meaning we’re doing them without realizing they’re a waste of time. Time wasters can cause a real setback in our days that are already overpacked with work, school, family, and all the little things in between.

Playing Video Games - Balance to Time Wasters - Gone Minimal
Playing Video Games

Whether you’re struggling with your productivity levels or just want to find a little more time for yourself, acknowledging and addressing your time wasters can help you manage your tasks more efficiently and be more productive in life. Therefore the first thing we need to talk about is what is causing us to waste time.

Causes of Time Wasters

There are both internal and external time wasters.  Internal time wasters include those behaviors within ourselves such as procrastination, disorganization, and “I don’t wannas”.  External time wasters are those things outside of our control-sometimes other people-that make us feel like we’re running out of time or we just can’t accomplish things.  We’re going to discuss ten common time wasters that you’ve probably already experienced as well as how to work on saving more time.

What are the Top 10 Time Wasters?

1.    Social Media

With Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and even more with each passing day, it can be tempting to peruse these sites with the intention of only spending a few minutes.  An hour later…  We’ve all been there.  One thing leads to another, one post leads to a funny video, YouTube thinks you would be interested in this related video-it goes on and on.  They’ve added accountability measures in most smartphones to tell you how much screen time you’ve had, but what do you do with that, if you even use it?

Using Many Gadgets and Digital Devices - Time Wasters - Gone Minimal
Using Many Gadgets and Digital Devices

2.    Procrastination

This is another way of wasting a lot of time.  If you have ever told yourself, “I’ll just wait until ______…” then you have procrastinated and probably not gotten everything done. 

3.    Over-Planning is a Thing, Yes!

We might spend so much time planning how to accomplish a task that by the time we finish the plan, we could have finished half the task itself!  Over-planning is also a way to set yourself up for disappointment if things don’t go exactly to plan. 

4.    Under-Planning

This is what most of us do (unless it’s a wedding or some big event-right?) because we think “I don’t want to stretch myself too thin or be a perfectionist”.  However, that sets up an environment for unplanned tasks and errors to occur which leads to (you guessed it!): wasted time.

5.    Email

Email is everywhere. It’s tied to everything.  Work, bills, your kids’ school, every. Little. Thing.  Learn how to screen what is important and what is not.  What is spam and what phishing.

6.    Meetings

Some meetings are just planned to discuss meetings and to plan meetings and so on and so on!  It can sometimes feel like we’re talking about the same things day in and day out and getting nothing accomplished.  Especially when these meetings are scheduled at the last minute and you’re expected to be there! 

7.    Routines

Routines can make us feel like we’re able to complete tasks throughout the day, but routines can also get in the way.  If we have a set routine with little to no flexibility, when something new comes up it can feel like it’s just not possible to do or it adds stress to our day. 

8.    Menial Tasks

Those things we do day in and day out and we may not even know why.  They’re tedious, they don’t accomplish much, and they may not even be necessary.  These include folding laundry (yes it needs to be done-but it is often postponed), dusting furniture, vacuuming, generally those things we need to do around the house and (unfortunately) don’t get paid for.

9.    Gadgets

Gadgets include smart phones and watches, tablets, and those things that are supposed to make our lives easier but can-in fact-waste more time.  For example-your “smart” phone isn’t so smart if it allows you to check your email every time it dings, check Instagram every time there’s a notification, or watch hours of YouTube videos on end. 

10. Lack of Organization

Being disroganized can waste a great deal of time when we’re trying to accomplish a task.  If we don’t have the tools and resources we need and haven’t planned enough, the lack of organization can contribute to a task taking way too much time.

What are Some Common Examples of Other Time Wasters?

 Some other examples of activities and behaviors that can be time wasters include multitasking, being a perfectionist, saying “yes” to everything, and not delegating those tasks that you can. We often attempt to do more by being busy, though after a point, efforts can become less effective en though we’re spending a lot of time and effort seemingly getting things done.

For those with an entrepreneurial mind, here is a helpful video that dives into specific time wasters that can be avoided, allowing you more time to be productive, fulfilled, and happy:

Biggest Time Wasters 

The biggest time wasters are the things we do that we don’t even realize are wasting our time!  We end up using a great deal of time to do tasks then look back and think, “Why did I even do that?”  Hindsight is 20/20, you know.  Social media, jumping from task to task, being disorganized, and not being prepared are some of the biggest time wasters people have identified. 

Time Wasters At Work

Work time wasters include driving around the parking lot at work trying to find a spot.  Others include arriving late and being disorganized.  Coworkers who call in sick and add to your workload.  Lack of communication and incivility can waste a great deal of time at work as well, plus interfere with productivity.

Last minute meetings scheduled and disorganized leaders lead to time wasted during meetings.  People who talk too much during meetings and meeting facilitators don’t reel them in-causing too much time to be spent on a topic and meetings running late.  

Time Wasters In Teamwork

Teamwork time wasters include those members who don’t play along, don’t help out with tasks, or don’t communicate.  You know the ones who sign up to help out and never show up?  Big waste of time and so frustrating!  There’s also the people who are or try to be in charge and keep changing things.  You could be ultra prepared with a plan in place, but if someone else changes things your plan is potentially wasted.

Time Wasters For Students

Students tend to waste time by procrastinating starting a project despite an approaching deadline, not knowing available resources, and not asking for help when they need it.  Not reading the instructions for an assignment and not completing it correctly also leads to a great deal of wasted time-both for the student and the instructor.

Internal Time Wasters

Ignored emotions are some additional internal time wasters that prevent us from accomplishing those things we’d like to do.  If we let our emotions get a hold of us, it often gets in the way of getting things done, and take our focus away from things, and even distract us from ourselves or other important relationships.

How to Overcome and Deal with Time Wasters

Identify the time wasters and look for solutions to the problems.  Explore alternative methods of completing tasks or plan for the unexpected.  Being prepared for the worst and knowing how to deal with it if it should happen.  

Happy and Relaxed - Time Wasters - Gone Minimal
Happy and Relaxed – Free From Time Wasters

Here are a few good ways to overtime time wasters, and their benefits:

Method to Reduce Time WasterBenefit of Reducing Time Waster
Check email only 2-3 times per dayBy checking and focusing on email at set times during the day, it allows focus to be on oter items, knowing you’ll also have focuded time for email reading and responding.
Set Social Media time LimitsThere can be benefits to social media reading; while 15 minutes might be refreshing and insightful, 2 hours might be too much. find a time that works for you and then stick to it
Plan Meals for the WeekSome folks spend a lot of time thinking about what to eat. Having a plan ahead of time saves much of this daily debate, allowing for easier meal preparation and enjoyment
Set Time to RelaxIt’s easy to feel that relaxing time is “wasted time”. Though in reality, it’s essential. Humans are not robots, and require a balance of work and play to feel good and be productive. Having a set time to relax can allow one to focus and enjoy it
Keep a Clean HomeClutter around the home can be tiring. Moving things in order to do others, shifting piles of paper from one table to another. Having a clean home allows one to focus on whatever task is at hand, fully, and purposefully. Being immersed in the moment can be quite enjoyable.
Being Open to ChangeAdapting to the day, as it presents itself, can allow one to navigate the moments more comfortably, and effectively. We can spend less time wasted on thinking through the plans that are no longer actionable, and instead focus on the moment and what can be done in a positive way to help the rest of the day.
List of Time Wasters and Ways to Benefit from Reducing Them

Time Wasters Quotes

Here are a few thoughts to reflect on, when considering what might be time wasters, how you’d like to spend your time, and what’s most important for you. I definitely like these and they can even inspire others.

“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.”

-Bill Watterson

“There’s no good way to waste your time.”

-Helen Mirren

“It is named the ‘Web’ for good reason.”

-David Foster Wallace

“If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.”

-Margaret Thatcher

Helpful Time Waster Insights

How can we avoid time wasters?

First, we need to recognize our time wasters.  Once we learn how to recognize and identify them, we can begin to fix and even avoid them.  Is there something you’re doing that you don’t need to?  Is it really important or is it something you do to pass the time?

Why we should not waste time?

We only have 24 hours in a day, and usually only about 16 of those are waking. It’s important to utilise that time both productively, and happily, so that we can accomplish essential things while also enjoying the special moments in life. If we reduce the amount of time we waste, we can feel more comfortable and focus more on fulfillment and joy.

What activities are a waste of time?

This can be very individualized!  What I consider to be a waste of time may be very special to someone else. For example, gamers can spend hours on end playing video games, I might craft or hike, others might draw. Consider things that do not bring you joy, and aim to reduce them. This will allow one to focus on those that bring them happiness.  

Reading in the Park - Balance to Time Wasters - Gone Minimal
Reading in the Park

Is thinking a waste of time?

Yes and no.  Again-very individualized.  Worrying about what others think is usually a waste of time.  But thinking about how best to accomplish a task, about what is on your schedule for the day, or what you’d like to do when your off work is definitely NOT a waste of time!  

Is it okay to waste time?

Absolutely!  If you’ve arrived at a meeting early and are prepared, take a few minutes to meditate or check your social media accounts.  Sometimes wasting time is good for the soul!  Often, balance is key. In order to not waste time, sometimes we need to experience relaxed and soulful moments, which can definitely be excellent uses of time.

Is it bad to waste time?

That depends on the situation.  If there’s something you should be doing, don’t waste time to postpone doing what you should be doing.  Prioritize and plan to avoid wasting time.  Other times, “time wasting” can actually be healthy, since it’s not really wasted but being spent to relax, recharge, and rejuvenate the body; which is essential.

What do you say to a time waster?

Confrontation is usually counterproductive-so have a discussion with them regarding their views on teamwork, a project that’s been assigned to them, or how to help them be better organized.  If there are tasks to be completed, delegate those to the time wasters for a win-win!

Why is it important to manage time?

Managing time is important because we have a limited amount of it.  We need to prioritize tasks in order to take time for ourselves.  When we take care of ourselves, we are better prepared to be productive as well as care for others.

Spending Time in Nature - Balance to Time Wasters - Gone Minimal
Spending Time in Nature

Other Resources:

In Closing

Sometimes time wasters are a bad thing and as long as you identify that there’s a problem, you can figure out a way to fix it.  If you’re always feeling rushed, unsuccessful, unaccomplished, or you’re looking to make changes in your life or you work then the best time to get started is now! 

There are plenty of resources out there to help you work through these challenging time wasters and prevent you from falling back into old habits.  If you’ve read through this article, you’ve already taken the first step towards success!

Related Topics

Is there a good synonym to use when referring to time wasters?

You’ve probably heard your parents calling it “piddling the day away” instead of getting your homework or chores done.  Grandparents may have referred to it as “dilly-dallying”.  If you’ve felt like you’re idling or just passing the time-guess what?  Those are other names for time wasters!

What wastes the most time?

We waste so much time daily doing things that don’t contribute to our productivity or our happiness.  Time is wasted with repetitive tasks, rush hour traffic, complaining, procrastinating, and many other activities we don’t even think about.  

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