The clock strikes 3 p.m, and you’re nowhere near done with the work you need to finish by the end of the day.
You get frustrated and anxious as you try to find the willpower to grind it out for the last few hours.
No matter where you work or what you do, there will always be things that take you away from what needs to be accomplished.
This can be anything from spending too much time on your phone, surrounding yourself with people who don’t take their jobs as seriously as you want to, or poor project management skills.
Sometimes, you may not want to admit to the distractions – and you don’t need to cut out every counterproductive aspect in your life. Most of the time, simply limiting your time-wasting habits is enough to get you back on track and focused on the job.
How to stop wasting time at work
Learn how to limit wasted time throughout your workday with these five tips:
1. Avoid distractions
For many people, distractions may consist of spending too much time on their cellphone doing non-work related activities. For others, a distraction could be chatting with the new recruits in the break room. Although they’re different for everyone, distractions are a key factor that contribute to wasted time at work.
Find out what distracts you. Where do you find yourself most when you’re not getting real work done? What are you doing? How much time are you spending doing that activity? After answering these questions truthfully, you’ll know exactly what distracts you.
The next question is: Would you be getting more work done if you spent less time doing whatever distracts you? In almost every case, the answer is yes.
Let’s use the cellphone example. You may be the type of person to have their phone right next to them, facing up – so every time you get a message or notification, you pick it up and tap away for a few minutes.
This may not seem like a huge deal. However, when adding up all those minutes at the end of the day, it’s a significant amount of wasted time. Instead, try giving yourself an allocated time to be on your phone.
For some, 15 minutes right after lunch is a perfect amount of time to satisfy the urge and get on with their day. Keep in mind that in order for this to work, you need to limit yourself to the strictly allocated time you come up with.
Cellphone usage is one example among many, but most can be limited in the same way – by allocating certain amounts of times for distractions throughout the day, allowing more time to focus on the task at hand.
2. Stick to the schedule
You have a multitude of planning resources at your disposal – use them! Even if you remember everything you need to do in your head, you can eliminate tons of stress and wasted time by simply making a schedule.
This allows you to allocate appropriate time for each task throughout your day. Similar to the earlier point about distractions, time allocation for activities is key in decreasing wasted time and increasing overall time management.
In most cases, you’ll be working on multiple projects at once or have multiple tasks to do within a project. Use your schedule to map out what tasks require more time than others, then stick to it. It will give you the discipline you need and prevent you from wasting time.
3. Make time for fun
Yes, there are people out there who work for 12 hours a day and let their jobs completely take over their lives. This may be a testament to these peoples' work ethic, but can the average person say that this lifestyle is what keeps them happy? Most likely not.
Prioritize at work and plan time for leisure activities. Whether it’s taking your dog on a run or going out for a drink with friends – make time for what you enjoy doing outside of work.
This may not seem relevant to wasting time at work, but these activities give you happiness and a way to unwind that you may not find while on the job. Instead of wasting time thinking about how you haven’t seen your buddies in weeks, go see them.
The recurring theme here is time management. You can be at the highest peak of productivity, eliminate wasted time, and have more time for everything you want to do in your day. It just takes some allocation and discipline.
4. Gravitate to those you wish to emulate
We all have someone we look up to. Most of the time, it’s someone we haven’t even met. Think about who you look up to in your workplace. Maybe it’s your boss or a colleague who is always one step ahead of the game.
Take an objective look at your work environment and ask yourself: Who am I most impressed with? Think about what makes that person stand out, then gravitate to them.
This doesn’t mean copy every move they make. Take notice of their habits, routine, and what makes them so good at what they do. You can always learn from others. Odds are, whoever you choose to emulate was once in your shoes doing the same thing.
You can tell pretty quickly who is putting in the most effort versus who is just meeting the requirements of the job. Don’t waste your time hanging around those who just slide by; be proactive in choosing your role model.
You’ll see an increase in your productivity if you surround yourself with people who have similar values, goals, and initiatives.
5. Always look out for opportunities
Some days are slower than others at work. A slow day may entice you to sit around and work as minimally as possible. While this is the easier option, it will get you nowhere and lead to poor work habits down the line.
Be proactive by always looking for new opportunities. It can be jumping on to or starting new projects, taking extra time to check in with your clients, or reaching out to your superiors, asking them if you could learn more about what they do.
By always looking for opportunities, you automatically avoid wasted time. Less time wasted means more time put toward your tasks and goals.
People notice this sort of thing. When your boss is looking at you and your colleagues, and you’re the only one who has been reaching out to start new projects or gain new responsibilities, they’ll see highly of you.
However, be careful. There is a fine line between taking on opportunities and overloading yourself. Don’t take on anything you can’t handle. This just makes you look unprofessional and ill-equipped.
We all waste time at work
We all waste time at work. It’s human nature. The key is to minimize wasted time as much as possible so you can achieve your goals without unnecessary obstacles. Time management is everything.
You can accomplish anything you want with the proper planning and the right amount of discipline. Keep these five points in mind next time you’re on the job, and start minimizing your wasted time!
For additional help on becoming more productive at work, check out the best project management software tools in 2018.