12 Little Ways You're Wasting Time Every Day Without Even Realizing It

Do you ever feel like you have no free time at all? Despite your best efforts you can’t seem to get ahead at work or at home. The ways you’re wasting time every day might not be very obvious to you, but it could be that you’re unknowingly chopping back at the amount of free hours you have in a given day by doing some of these small, seemingly meaningless things. Let’s address some of them here, and consider whether nixing these habits can open up some time in your day.

My parents are going to a 100th birthday party this weekend, and it got me really thinking about life. I have 71 years until my 100th birthday, but even those 71 years don’t seem like enough to do all of the things I want to do and accomplish. It made me realize that I don’t want to waste a single minute of the time I have — and as of right now — I waste time constantly. Just last night I spent far too much time staring blankly at episodes of Friends that I’ve seen multiple times. I don’t even think my brain was processing them, I was just… looking. I could have been reading that book I’ve been meaning to finish, or going to visit my grandma, or working on my latest personal essay. Instead, I did that. If you can relate to this and believe you might be wasting your time in other ways too, read on, my friend. Here are 12 ways you (and I) are wasting time every day.

1. Constantly Checking Email

In the age of technology, many of us have become accustomed to checking our email at all times of the day. While it’s great to be responsive, regularly having your email on can actually be detrimental to your productivity at work, and in turn, increase the amount of wasted time in your day. Author, speaker, and sales strategist Jill Konrath wrote about this on her website, agreeing that email addiction can have a negative impact. Aside from the impact on productivity, Konrath also cited a study that found constantly checking email and texts reduced women’s IQ by 5 percent — yikes.

Unfortunately, for certain jobs, there is no way around having to be on constant email watch. However, if your line of work allows, Konrath suggested setting aside specific times of the day where you’ll check email. For example, try 9 a.m., noon, and 4 p.m. This will allow you to fully focus on other projects throughout the day instead of having to switch gears back and forth.

2. Mindlessly Watching Episode After Episode

I love marathoning TV shows as much as the next girl, but I also realize how much time I’ve wasted in my life so far on episodes and series. Once I get started I genuinely feel like I can’t stop. I know I’m not the only one who falls into the trap. In fact, a survey showed 61-percent of Netflix users binge-watch shows on the streaming service at least every few weeks. Want to know how many hours Netflix users collectively watch per day? 100 million, according to Netflix. If you want to give yourself a real shock into how many hours you’re wasting, check out this site which let you enter a series and how many season of it you’ve watched to give your total time spent on it. For example, I’ve watched How I Met You Mother at least two full times, which means I’ve spent at minimum nearly seven days of my life just watching that show alone. Terrifying. Of course, watching TV is amazing and can be a fun, educational, and relaxing experience. But if you spend all your free time staring at a screen, it may be time to reevaluate.

3. Trying To Accomplish Too Much At Once

Multitasking. It’s great in theory, but horrible in practicality. Why? Rather than making us more productive throughout the day, it actually makes us less productive, according to a study out of Stanford University that showed multitasking makes it harder for people to remember information, and harder for them to pay attention. If you’re thinking, “No way this is true. I’m a great multitasker,” check out this stat: A study out of the University of Utah showed a mere 2 percent of people can successfully multitask. Perhaps you’re among that percent, but likely you are not. If you don’t want to waste precious time, get things done quicker by nixing the multitasking and focusing on one task at a time.

4. Saying The Same Things Again & Again

It seems like once a day a client or customer is emailing or calling you with the same question. Every time, you find yourself repeating the same answer over and over.. and over. According to Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future, if you’re regularly having to answer the same question for different people, you’re wasting your time. Instead try developing an email template with the answer to the question so that every time the issue comes up, you can send one response, instead of taking time out of your day to reinvent the wheel. If the questions comes over the phone, ask for the person’s email address and send them the same response.

5. Complaining

You hate your job. You hate your apartment. You hate your friends. It seems like lately all you’ve been doing is complaining — you barely have time for anything else. Stop in your tracks and think about ways to quash the behavior, because no matter how you slice it, it’s just not going to do you any good. Career website Glassdoor.com spoke in length about why people should nix complaining, and the outlet noted a major pitfall is that it lowers productivity (and happiness, too). Instead of complaining, try being more positive and making changes to the things you feel aren’t going right in your life. Slowly might find you no longer have anything to complain about.

6. Aimlessly Browsing The Internet

You all know exactly what I mean. You open a window to check a Yelp review for the restaurant you’re going to tonight, and an hour later you’re still mindlessly clicking around and reading an article about how a dog and baby bonded over a mutually-loved stuffed animal. While that article may be so, so sweet (who doesn’t like dogs and babies?), you’ve likely just completely wasted a whole lot of time that you could have spent doing something else far more productive. Same goes for time spent on social media — before you know it you could have spent hours browsing through profiles of people you don’t even know. Waste. Of. Time.

My personal trick here is to limit time spent online. My job requires online research, but when I’m not online for work, I limit myself to an hour a day of browsing. This includes any online shopping, watching YouTube videos, scanning Instagram, etc. It frees up a ton of time for getting out and actually doing things.

7. Procrastinating

Procrastination is one of the biggest time-wasting offenders, according to business coach, strategist, and speaker Wendy Hearn. Hearn noted on her website that when we push things off, we end up spending a lot of extra time and energy worrying about doing those same tasks. We end up stressing ourselves out and beating ourselves up over not doing them. Hearn said what’s more is that once we see ourselves as a procrastinator, we can seal as fate as such and it spirals into an endless cycle. What that in mind, kill procrastination ASAP by completing assignments or daily tasks as soon as you have the time to do them, instead of waiting until later. Think of how great you’ll feel being able to cross it off your list sooner rather than later.

8. Micromanaging Others

According to Jason Jennings, author of The Reinventors - How Extraordinary Companies Pursue Radical Continuous Change, a lot of workers need micromanaging throughout a given workday. That said, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to you if you find you always have to hold the hand of your subordinates as they complete tasks. Isn’t this taking away from time you should spend doing your own work? Yes. Rather than wasting time micromanaging, try speaking to the employee(s) about how they can be more self-sufficient and independent. If the problem does not seem to go away, Jennings suggested what might then be a necessary tactic — letting him or her go.

9. Neglecting To Follow Directions

I mean this in a very literal sense — as in you won’t look at your phone’s map for directions on how to get somewhere. Rather, you use the, “No worries, I can figure it out” method, which often lands you circling around in fields when you should have been in a city. It’s a cliché that men are often too stubborn to ask for directions, but women do it, too. According to a study by British car insurance company, Sheila’s Wheels, women drive an extra 256 miles each year as a result of getting lost (men came in at 276 miles). That’s a lot of wasted mileage and time. Next time you’re going somewhere, use that handy GPS of yours. That’s what it’s there for.

10. Doing The Rush Hour Commute

At one time I was commuting more than two hours each way to work because my drive aligned directly with rush hour. By the time I got to my office in the morning, I was cranky and already wiped. Americans as a whole are wasting a ton of time doing the same thing. In fact, according to a report cited in The Atlantic, in 2014 rush hour commuters spent 6.9 billion hours in traffic — equaling about 42 hours per year per commuter. If your commute is long due to traffic, consider asking your supervisor if you can alter your schedule a bit to avoid some of the traffic. Perhaps he or she will let you do a 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedule to help reduce wasted time. The worst they can say is no, right?

11. Searching For Your Keys

I wonder how much time my mom spends looking for her keys and cell phone every day, because I think it’s safe to say at least an hour collectively. I’d feel bad for her that it sucks up her time, except this is something that can absolutely be prevented with better organization. Hearn said lack of organization can be a direct path to wasting time, as it causes you to have to sort through unnecessary piles and clutter. To fight the unwarranted distraction in your day, keep things orderly. Rather than constantly being on the hunt for your items, set up areas where you always keep the possessions you tend to lose, whether that’s your keys, phone, iPad, laptop, shoes, jacket, or whatever else. Organization is key to fighting against lost items.

12. Being Indecisive

I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again — I’m the most indecisive human on the planet. It takes me hours sometimes just to decide what I want to eat for dinner. Recently I started to consider just how much time I’m actually wasting by being this indecisive, and it’s a lot. Not only that, I tend to waste other people’s time, too, by not being able to make up my mind. I learned a trick from a friend (one who was likely getting fed up with me) and I’ve been practicing it. What I try to do is give myself a set time to make the decision at hand — if it’s picking a meal at a restaurant, 5 minutes. If it’s making a work-related decision, 20 minutes. If it’s picking an outfit in the morning, 10 minutes. I try not to waiver. So far, so good for me, so try it out for you as well if you think indecisiveness has become a problem on your end.

If you find you’ve been doing any of the things discussed here, consider making some of the small changes we’ve discussed. You might quickly find you have a lot more free time to be more productive at work and in your personal life.

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