Do you often feel like your workday slips away before you achieve the tasks you had planned? Does your productivity take a nosedive due to email notifications, excessive meetings, and umpteen other distractions?
If so, you're not alone. The modern work environment is rife with time wasters that leave you feeling frustrated and unproductive.
But here's the good news: you can regain control of your workday and enhance your work habits, leading to better productivity. In this article, we'll explore the most significant time wasters that plague the modern workday and, more importantly, the solutions to avoid them.
What are time wasters?
Time wasters are all the hurdles that get in the way of our main objectives. Anything that diverts your attention from important tasks, disrupts your schedule, or prevents you from achieving your goals is a time waster.
Time, once gone, is irretrievable. Yet, we can’t stop ourselves from wasting time.
Reflect for a moment: how much time do you unknowingly waste on things that serve no purpose? Could it be an hour or two? Or even more?
What are some time wasters and how to avoid them
1. Email overload
We’re kicking things off with one of the most common time wasters: email overload.
Every time our smartphone dings, we rush to check our email inboxes. The constant urge to check our messages adds up, resulting in a copious amount of time lost and a never-ending cycle of interruptions. As many as 68% of employees claim email as their top workplace distraction.
Phil Strazzulla, Founder of SelectSoftware Reviews, shares the sentiment. But Phil has found a way to tackle this issue head-on.
Once I realized email checking was taking quite a huge chunk of my time, I implemented specific email management practices to reduce this time sink.
I’ve established dedicated email checking intervals, typically two to three times daily. This simple adjustment has allowed me to allocate more focused time to critical tasks, resulting in improved productivity.
Aside from establishing dedicated email checking intervals, here are some more tips to avoid constant email interruptions:
- Use labels and folders: Sort incoming emails into relevant labels, making it easier to locate and prioritize important messages. This reduces the time spent sifting through a cluttered inbox and minimizes interruptions.
- Unsubscribe and manage subscriptions: We unknowingly accumulate numerous subscriptions and newsletters. Make sure to unsubscribe from those you no longer find relevant, reducing the interruptions caused by unnecessary emails.
- Set clear boundaries: Communicate your designated email checking times to your colleagues and clients. This will help you reduce the pressure to respond immediately and maintain a work-life balance.
- Use tools for email management: Tools like Sunsama help you drag important emails into your task list, setting dedicated time for focused work on them.
2. Social media breaks
Social media becomes a tempting refuge during our work breaks. But what starts as a short respite often turns into a significant time waster, with the average internet user casually browsing through social media for a good 151 minutes per day.
It’s not like we’re learning anything profound, either. Since social media is designed and optimized for scrolling, we find ourselves mindlessly scrolling for hours, chuckling at random skits. Automatic suggestions and the auto-play feature keep the flow going, reducing the potential for interruptions. Before you know it, you end up squandering tons of time.
While taking brief breaks is crucial after working for extended periods, it’s equally important to find a way to avoid going down the social media rabbit hole of continuous scrolling.
To limit consumption, make a conscious effort to consume only one post or video at a time. If you don’t trust your self-control, set a reminder for when it's time to get back to work.
You can also use website blockers like Freedom to resist the allure of checking Reddit, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram every other second.
Better yet, find another alternative for your work breaks. For example, something more rejuvenating like short walks, nourishing the body and mind. Regular physical activity can improve brain health and your ability to do everyday activities. When you seek a refreshing, beneficial break, it may just lead you to better work habits.
3. Manual data entry
In a survey by Zapier involving 1,000 individuals working in or owning small and medium-sized businesses, 76% of the respondents revealed that they dedicate up to three hours a day to manual data entry.
That’s a lot of time spent typing numbers, updating databases, and transcribing information.
What’s surprising is that manual data entry is still a prevalent practice despite all the brouhaha around automation.
To tackle this manual data entry challenge, you can use automation tools like Zapier to create workflows that automatically transfer data between different apps.
While these automation workflows work in the background, you can use your valuable time on something more productive.
Here are some more ways to reduce time spent on manual data entry:
- Use data extraction tools: You can use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) or data extraction tools to scan and input data from sources like PDFs and images.
- Standardize data sources: Consistent data format or structure will make it easier to automate data entry while reducing the need for manual adjustments.
- Data validation and verification: Implement data validation rules and verification processes to catch and correct errors early to avoid time-consuming data cleanup.
- Outsourcing data entry: Hire professional data entry services or freelancers to outsource data entry tasks, so you can dedicate your time to something more strategic.
We’re all guilty of trying to do everything at once.
Sometimes, what we thought would be an organized, productive workday turns into a juggling act in a circus.
Before you feel guilty, know that you’re not alone. Attempting to take on everything at once leads to chaos for many people.
This struggle of bouncing between tasks is particularly common among individuals with ADHD. It's essential to recognize that being unable to focus with ADHD isn’t your fault. Rather, it's a matter of learning to work with your unique cognitive style.
A study by the American Psychological Association revealed that multitasking takes a toll on productivity, especially when it involves doing more than one complex task at a time. Additionally, 2021 Stanford research claims that while multitasking during remote meetings can enhance productivity, it may also decrease attention and increase fatigue.
Most of us perform best when we work more conventionally. That is, by mastering attention and focusing on one task at a time, prioritizing quality over quantity, and avoiding the hurried feeling of multitasking.
But if not through multitasking, how else do you tackle your list of never-ending tasks?
The answer is simple: Prioritize the tasks based on their urgency level and assign dedicated time to each task.
You can use day planners like Sunsama to organize your daily routine step by step, including tasks, meetings, and priorities.
It lets you assign specific time slots to each task, so you can solely focus on the task at hand. You can now navigate your day with a sense of calm, knowing that all your essential tasks have their designated place in the schedule for the day.
You can also drag and drop tasks within your daily to-do list to arrange them in order, providing a structured approach to task management.
Talk to friends and colleagues. Scroll through Twitter. Conduct a Google search.
You’ll come across many folks lamenting their lack of productivity due to procrastination.
A simple Google search will lead you to dozens of social media posts talking about procrastination.
Case in point:
We know it’s a serious problem. Now the question is, what can you do about it?
Here are some tips to help you fight procrastination and keep your workday on track:
- Identify the root cause: The first step of solving a problem is finding what exactly the problem is. Ask yourself what triggers your procrastination and what you can do to avoid it.
- Set realistic goals by breaking down tasks into smaller steps: One of the best ways to stay productive is by setting achievable and realistic goals. To do that, break down lengthy tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.
- Task batching: Group similar tasks together and complete them in a single sitting. This approach reduces decision fatigue and makes tasks feel more manageable.
- Use a productivity tool: Use productivity tools like Sunsama to stay organized, plan your day, focus on important tasks, and review your progress the next day.
- Visualization: Visualize the positive outcomes of completing a task to stay motivated.
- Accountability partner: Find someone with a similar problem and hold each other accountable for task completion. Sharing your goals and progress will push you to overcome procrastination.
6. Inadequate planning
Planning is the ultimate key to success.
Think about planning a road trip. A well-thought-out itinerary with the route you’ll take and potential challenges makes for a smooth travel experience. On the other hand, a lack of planning might lead to wrong turns and wasted time.
As Brian Tracy says, “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution.”
Without a clear plan, tasks become more daunting, deadlines slip through the cracks, and productivity takes a hit.
But there are ways to sidestep this issue.
One of the best ways to plan your day or week well is by using healthy productivity tools that help you set realistic goals and focus on work-life balance.
Take Sunsama, for example. Our planning and productivity tool helps you schedule your entire day, including your work-related and personal tasks.
Features like the focus mode, time boxing, time tracking, and the ability to prioritize specific tasks result in a well-planned and sustainable workday.
Reclaim your productivity: Say goodbye to time wasters
You’ll encounter these common time wasters on a typical workday, especially with so many social media platforms, constant emails, and unnecessary meetings.
However, there’s a solution for every time waster. If traditional methods don’t work, you’ve also got modern tools like Sunsama that focus on sustainable workday planning and time management.
The goal is to achieve a higher quality of work and enjoy time for yourself without cramming more tasks into your already busy schedule.
With the right strategies and tools, it’s time to reclaim your productivity and steer your workday toward success. You can take the first step with Sunsama to streamline your workday and get the most out of your time.