We all want to be productive and make better use of our time, focused. And yet, there would be days when it seems we can’t finish any of our tasks and they just pile on. We often hear people say, “I don’t have enough time to get this done.” While it may be true, most of the time the reason why we can’t finish our tasks is that we lack focus. And when we lack focus, we lose precious minutes in our day. Often, we lose them to unnecessary activities or what we call time-wasters.

There are a lot of time-wasters that we encounter daily. Awareness of these time-wasters will help keep our guard up to avoid decreasing our productivity. Some of these are obvious while others may be disguised to think you’re being productive. Let’s explore the 5 common time-wasters at work.

Social Media

While social media isn’t necessarily bad, too much of it is. When your gadgets are within reach and your social media notifications keep dinging, you’re not setting up your environment for optimal productivity. Responding to these notifications in real-time can be one of your biggest time-wasters.

If you aren’t convinced that social media is taking time away from you, there are time tracking apps for both desktop and mobile that will let you know how much time you spend on these social media sites. If you use a time tracking app, pay attention to which sites and apps you spend most of your time on. Don’t only focus on social media apps. Text messages, emails, and even mobile gaming, if you’re into that, can be to blame as well. Once you audit yourself, you will have a better idea of where your time goes.

Ways to stay focused: Turn off your notification alerts and tackle your social media life at certain times of the day. This way, you can maintain your focus during your work hours.


Checking your emails constantly throughout the day is a big time-waster at work. If you think you’re being productive answering work emails as they come, you’re mistaken. Studies show that employees spend about two-and-a-half hours reading and replying to emails in a day. Most of these emails are fluff, meaning they are unimportant. If you work in an office, you’ve probably been copied on emails that don’t require your attention. But since you’re playing email cop, you scan and go through each message in your inbox until you zero them out. That’s a lot of time wasted if you ask me.

Ways to stay focused: Get an app that can help you manage your inbox so you don’t get distracted when mail gets in. Then set a schedule to check emails at specific times of the day. Another tip would be to opt for personal conversations instead. Time spent on 10 emails back and forth could have been resolved in a 10-minute chat with your colleague. Skip the inbox and go face-to-face or on the phone instead.

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Unnecessary Meetings

How many meetings have you attended and thought “What am I doing here?” When meetings involve people that aren’t supposed to be there, it’s a time-waster. When meetings go side-tracked and extend to discuss topics that aren’t in the initial agenda, it’s a time-waster. If you audit your workweek, you might be surprised at how much of your time is spent on meetings.

Ways to stay focused: Skip meetings that don’t require your participation. If you’re the one facilitating the meeting, ensure that you only invite people who need to attend. Avoid side-tracking from your agenda and do your best to finish within the agreed time-frame.

Being a “Yes Man”

Saying “yes” to everything and anything means spreading yourself too thin and doing favors for everyone else but yourself. You end up spending time tasks that you have not planned for.

Ways to stay focused: Be honest and say you can’t do the task at this time. Offer to take it on once you have more availability. If it’s your boss who’s asking you to do something, discuss what your priorities are and if there’s a need to make adjustments. If you take on a new task, some of your current ones got to give. Treat time as a scarce resource and you will be forced to prioritize and focus on things that matter most to you.

Postponing tasks

There are some tasks that we keep putting off. It can be that task we find most challenging or boring. We tend to reschedule it until we don’t get something done. And when we actually do, it’s when time is no longer on our side and we end up procrastinating. Procrastination is not only a time-waster but a big stressor.

Ways to stay focused: Eat your ugliest frogs first before anything else. That frog is the task that you find most challenging or boring. Once you tick that off your list, you’ll find that it’s easier to devour other tasks throughout the day.

Manage your focus to manage your time

Becoming aware of the time-wasters that we get trapped in is a good starting point to improve productivity. By managing how we deal with these time-wasters, we can ensure we maintain focused on our work and deliver things faster. When you turn your lack of focus to laser focus, you’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish. What are your biggest time-wasters at work and how do you plan to deal with them? We’d love to hear about it.

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About the Author: Lena Boiser

Lena Boiser is an Agile enthusiast. Starting off her career as a Software Business Analyst in 2010, she eventually performed other roles including Project Manager and IT Business Manager. When she was immersed in Agile methodologies in 2014, Lena found her way through honing her craft and eventually became a Certified Scrum Product Owner. In 2017, after 7 years of working in the corporate world, Lena started her own remote consulting practice. Today, she provides project management and Scrum Product Ownership services to various businesses including software development companies, e-Commerce business owners, and small to medium sized companies. She believes that even teams working remotely can harness the benefits of Agile in order to deliver results for their companies. In her free time she likes to write. One day she could be writing about Agile, the next she could be writing anything about fashion or travel.