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15 Best Examples Of Time Wasters (And What To Do Instead)

This is a tricky one because it feels like you’re working—but if there’s a better way to spend your time and another employee who can easily take over this work, this work qualifies as a time waster. Part of being an effective manager is knowing how to delegate responsibilities.

Surreal 3D illustration of a person wearing headphones plugged into a digital tablet, sitting in an underwater garden, surrounded by air bubbles, fish, kelp, coral and a cat

Do you ever feel like you don’t have enough time? You rush from one meeting to another, finish one task and have another to do. Don’t you have enough time for yourself and your loved ones? Or maybe you feel that time flows through your fingers and you just waste it?

For example: distractions caused by e-mail notifications; reading almost all the messages that affect your inbox; conducting long discussions by email instead of using another communication channel; spending time editing and sending responses; responding to emails while you’re halfway through another task.

Control your mailbox

Unsubscribe from all subscriptions, newsletters that do not add value to your life and that absorb your attention. Before you send a message to someone, think about whether this is the best way to contact them.

There is a good chance that you will receive a reply to your email and you will have to spend time reading and reacting to it. Instead of exchanging emails, it may be better to call and in a short conversation discuss the subject and establish the details.

Make decisions faster

It is said that every day we make about 35,000 decisions, which makes 1458 decisions per hour, 24.3 decisions per minute. These are all kinds of decisions. What to wear? What to eat? Should I take a car or a tram? Which studies should I enrol in? What kind of product should I sell? Who to meet? etc.

When we make choices, we must not only analyze our motives, but also predict their effects. Most of these decisions are not so important. But among all these decisions, there are also the key ones that can change our lives.

Be more decisive.

Maybe you have been having an internal debate about what you should do, whether to choose option A or B, whether to meet at one hour or another, whether to start the task now, whether to wait until tomorrow, and so on.

Common time wasters for everyone

Time waster #7 – Constant notifications

Push notifications are interruptions, and interruptions are time wasters. It takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the original task after an interruption, according to Gloria Mark, a professor of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine, in an interview with Fast Company.

What’s worse is that push notifications are not just any interruptions; they’re appealing interruptions, and it’s not difficult to imagine why. Research shows that humans are “hard-wired to follow the path of least resistance.”

Tech leaders like former Google ethicist Tristan Harris and Nir Eyal, author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products have argued that these notifications are designed to be addictive. Push notifications are strongly linked to smartphone addiction.

Time waster #8 – Busywork

Busywork, according to Merriam-Webster, is work that seems productive but only serves to keep you busy. Maybe you’re trying to show that you’re a hard worker and end up doing something that is of little value to the company but keeps you occupied. Maybe your manager has assigned you a task that also fits the bill.

Time waster #9 – Multitasking

Multitasking might sound impressive, but as many have argued, it’s a myth. Nobody can truly do two things simultaneously and well. According to neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin, multitasking makes us slower and less efficient. This is because what we think of as multitasking is often just really fast toggling between one task and another. And ultimately, all we end up doing is wasting time.

Identify your top time wasters

3D illustration of stopwatch with a Toggl Track icon

What is not a time waster?

Trying to avoid time wasters doesn’t mean optimizing every single second of your life. Attempting to do that can lead to burnout and poor performance. It’s important to remember while trying to use your time wisely that you don’t deprive yourself of important activities that may not count as work, but aren’t time wasters either.

1. Rest

According to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, resting can actually boost productivity. It’s not for nothing that popular time management techniques like the Pomodoro Technique have breaks built into them.

2. Socialization

Socializing frequently appears on lists of time wasters, and it’s true that excessive socializing can distract employees from doing their job at work. But it would be unfair to write off socializing entirely as a waste of time. A certain amount of socializing can be important for building trust and strengthening bonds between team members.

3. Sleep

How to identify the time wasters in your own life

It’s important to keep in mind that time wasters are also subjective to some extent. For example, playing video games every day when you should be working might be a waste of time for you. At the same time, for your neighbor, a professional video gamer, video gaming might represent training and professional development.

But although time wasters differ depending on the situation, there is a way to identify the time wasters in your own life. The following guide will show you how to recognize your personal time wasters and what you can do about them.

1. Set goals

Not knowing what you’re working towards makes you an easy target for time wasters. You might find yourself spending half the day on busywork without recognizing that you haven’t done anything that matters—for you, or for anyone else.

2. Assess what you need to do to achieve these goals

Maybe you have a big, broad goal and it’s hard to know how your actions contribute to that goal. For example, if your goal is to succeed at your job as a product manager, it’s hard to see how that relates to answering a few emails. That’s why it helps to break down your goals into smaller goals or tasks.

3. Track time to identify patterns

Knowing what your goals are and what you have to do to reach them is an important step in identifying time wasters. But rather than pause before every email, meeting, and request to evaluate whether the work is worth your time—which can be exhausting—try tracking your time for a full day’s worth of activities.

Ask yourself how much of your day was devoted to accomplishing your goals and how you spent the remainder. Did a five-minute break on Instagram turn into 25? Did you spend an unusual amount of time trying to pick out a new chair for work?

Equipping yourself with ergonomic furniture is not inherently a time waster—but that’s exactly what this exercise is for. By reviewing how much time you spent on certain activities against the larger backdrop of your day and your goals, you’ll be able to judge whether it counts as a time waster or whether it was time well spent.

Time tracking can give you a greater awareness of your own habits, and how some of these habits may be time wasters—activities that drain you of energy and leave you with little time to do what truly matters for you.

5 Healthy Uses Of Time

1. Spending Time With Those You Love

2. Enjoying Nature

It’s as easy as a short walk outside, or a campfire in your backyard. How about going for a drive in the country? That one is our favorite. My husband and I grew up in a rural area, so after spending months in the city we often go for country drives to get closer to nature. There is something peaceful about seeing the wind flow over the fields or being able to see the stars at night.

3. Giving Yourself a Time Out

Yep! A mom’s time-out! I started this when the kids were small. I was finding myself yelling too much and when I dug deep, I realized that I was still overwhelmed and stressed about other stuff. It had very little to do with the kids. By giving myself a time-out I was able to work through that stress release and then help the kids with whatever was happening at the moment.

4. Valuing Your Time and Others

When you are going through your day, value your time enough to stay on task. Show up for those meetings or events on time to respect your time and others. If you find yourself being distracted do what is necessary to keep the distractions at a minimum. Put the phone in another room or locked away. Use a scheduling routine that works for you so you can stay on task and achieve your goals.

5. Setting and Tracking Your Life Goals

I mentioned life goals a few times earlier on, but I can’t stress this enough. Goals are not just for your career. Your life doesn’t stop at work. They can include health goals, relationship goals, home organization goals, vacation goals and so much more. It’s your life and you can create the life you want.

I’ve listed 12 common time-wasters that affect many people, so you aren’t alone. Some of these are problems for me too. The good news is there are ways to overcome them and manage your time effectively. You also don’t have to give up everything fun and entertaining. Life doesn’t have to be centered around your career goals. Spend some time setting some life goals and finally create the life you want.

Time wasters

Have you ever saved an invite without giving an answer? Or put off replying to someone’s text? The time it takes you to close a "task loop" is called the holding pattern and this is definitely a waste of time.

Coaching Package Template

Unnecessary meetings

Why not try what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson are reportedly doing. Ditch the traditional sit-down version by conducting walking meetings instead. Make sure you also set boundaries in terms of scope and length of time.

Remember procrastinating on a term paper due the following week but somehow being able to turn it in (and ace it!)? That’s because most times, we’re able to complete a task much faster than the time we’ve allocated to do it.

Instead, try setting a timer or implementing the Pomodoro technique wherein you break up your tasks into 25-minute blocks and take 5 minutes of rest after. If it takes you more than 25 minutes to get it done, evaluate your task and your process, then adjust for the next 25.

The Biggest Time Wasters at Work

1. Email

Time Wasters

Why is it a time waster?

Each time an email is checked, it takes said employee approximately 16 minutes to refocus on the task at hand. Let’s do the math. It takes 16 minutes to refocus on 36 different occasions. Keep in mind that it’s 36 times an hour.

There are only slightly under four “refocus moments” (four 16-minute sessions) each hour. So after checking your email four times, you’ve essentially wasted an entire hour. That 40% of actual work is starting to make sense, isn’t it? No wonder email is often dubbed the biggest daily time waster.

How do you overcome it?

Instead of wasting time typing, sending, and checking your email, try sending a video message using ScreenRec. You can quickly and easily speak your mind and address all of your points without having to type a 2-page letter. Learn more about how to send video emails .

ScreenRec will save your time because you don’t have to upload the video when you’re ready to send it. As soon as you’ve recorded your video a shareable link is automatically copied to your clipboard. Paste this link in a text, a DM, or an email and you’re good to go. Download ScreenRec for free here .

2. Excessive Meetings

Daily Time Waster

Why is it a time waster?

The truth is, meetings are not efficient when people don’t pay attention when the subjects under discussion don’t affect them. Because of this, employees often miss important information delivered during the meeting.

How do you overcome it?

Yet another issue that can be solved with ScreenRec. Instead of wasting time planning and holding meetings, record pertinent information in a video and send it across the office. This way employees get the info they need, while also being able to watch the videos in their own time. Everyone can be more productive!

3. Decision Fatigue

Time Waster Examples

Why is it a time waster?

Decision fatigue is something we often face at work. The gist of it is that we need to make a lot of decisions in a single day. Eventually, we grow weary and we tend to make thoughtless and poor decisions. You waste time when you attempt to correct the errors made while you were fatigued.

How do you overcome it?

Try to avoid making small, unnecessary decisions. This could be as simple as deciding where to go for lunch or which color pen to use. Not only does avoiding these decisions cut down on non-working time, but it’ll also help you battle decision fatigue.

Organize your workday and simplify your life so you have time for important tasks. If you think about this for a moment, you’ll be able to identify the decisions that are wasting your time. If it’s the color of a pen to use, choose a color for each day of the week. If it’s where you’ll go for lunch, use 10 minutes on Monday to set a schedule for the week.

4. Social Networks and Online Distractions

Time Wasting Activities In The Workplace

Why is it a time waster?

It’s no secret. Social networks and other online activities may quite frankly be our main source of distraction, at work or anywhere else. Time seems to fly by as we scroll through someone’s Facebook posts, Instagram messages, or trending YouTube videos. Before you know it, 30 minutes is gone in the blink of an eye.

How do you overcome it?

You have several options here. You could simply turn off the notifications on your devices, or you could go even further and turn off the app. Besides trying to keep these sites and apps from reaching you, you’ll need to also refrain from reaching them.

5. Multitasking

What Are Time Wasters

Why is it a time waster?

This article identifies multitasking as a ploy we use against ourselves. We con ourselves into thinking that, since we’re working on more than one task, it means we’re more productive. However, this is far from the truth.

Think of it as a buffet. There are many delicious foods available, and you want to try all of them in a short amount of time. You then pile multiple dishes onto your plate, believing that you’ll finish them sooner, simply because they are directly in front of you.

But this doesn’t make sense. Piling all these different foods onto one plate won’t help you to eat any faster. You’ve only given yourself more to eat in one sitting without the ability to enjoy any of it. Eating all that food will take more time than choosing a few to enjoy first and then try other dishes.

Putting It All Together

The effects of wasting time won’t only be damaging to organizations, but to us, the individual employee as well. Unproductivity and disorganization at work tend to seep into our personal lives when we’re more stressed out and tired.

References and Further Reading?


9 Time Management Tool and Technique Combos You Should Be Using In 2022

Top Project Management Tools To Save Time [Comparison]

10 Project Management Challenges Youll Face + How to Overcome Them

⏲The Only 7 Time Management Techniques You Need Today

9 Best Free Task Management Software For Busy Teams

Top 12 Collaboration Tools For Business (Worth Trying)

The 12 Best Productivity Apps To Make You 2x More Effective


If you have similar habits of wasting time, don’t kick yourself. We all have our time management flaws and that’s OK. But, if you are wasting time under these 5 areas but refusing to accept your mistakes, you’re losing out on an opportunity to free up more time for yourself.

You don’t need a reward to join the Productive Club, do you?

Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.

He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.

Time wasters

This is exactly how it seems. You go to this website, click a big button then get redirected to a generally useless website. It might kill a few minutes of time, however, with the sheer oddness on display from some of the sites. Sometimes you’ll get a simple game to pay, other times you’ll see a man get slapped with an eel.

Checking Emails Like a Twitch

200 billion emails are sent a day, but not all emails are equal and require our immediate attention. In fact most could do without ever being opened and we would still be fine. One of the most distracting and concentration destructive sounds in adult life has got to be the notification sound or symbol you get when an email lands in your inbox.

What is most astounding is that despite the security that every waking email will arrive with a Ding we still habitually check our email on average 36 times an hour. That’s more than once every 2 minutes. It’s a wonder anyone gets anything…………sorry I was just checking my emails quick, I thought I heard a ding.

Anyway, you get the point. Answering emails immediately isn’t so urgent that you have to be checking them like a nervous twitch. Turn off the notifications, do your work and reply in a reasonable time frame.


Not Delegating

Aren’t you proud of yourself that you went to college, pushed yourself for extra marks and did all that work experience just so that you can spend your valuable professional career comparing printers? Well if this is you then you are wasting your life and skills because you have failed at the biggest test of success: delegating.

You can’t expect your earnings to be in the millions if you’re doing the menial work that you can outsource to a remote PA for $5. It’s time to outsource so that you can spend your time doing tasks that matter. Failing to delegate disempowers and frustrates lower level team members who feel like you don’t value their skill. Plus it’s robbing you and the company of billing for your professional skills.

It’s time you write a To Do list and are honest about what you really need to supervise and what could be delegated. Anything that doesn’t cost more per hour to outsource as how much you bill for your time should be delegated to someone earning a lot less.


1. r/eyebleach

You never know what kind of view you

This site is kind of mundane, but fascinating nonetheless. Window Swap is exactly what it sounds like. You get transported to a random view out someone else’s window. (It is not live, so you’re not being that creepy.) It’s kind of cool to see the view and imagine living whatever life (and window) you’re dealt. Also, the ambient sounds that accompany the view are oddly soothing.

A random view of Vancouver.

The most common time wasters

Throughout your day you have different chores and responsibilities to attend to. For example, you have to wake up, take a shower, eat breakfast, get ready, and go about business. You have no choice but to spend time on such activities. But, are you spending an appropriate amount on your daily routines?

1. Waking up to getting started

Time taken for first task

Do a few hours pass before you pick up a meaningful task? Be honest to yourself. After all, you don’t have to send an activity report to anyone. Knowing how you spend your time will only help you cut off any loose ends.

If you need a few hours to finish all your usual morning chores, ask yourself, “Do I genuinely need that long or am I slacking off?” Sometimes you have a valid reason, but more often, you’re not mindful of how you spend your morning time.

How to fix it:

Observe your own actions from the time the alarm rings to the time you begin the first important task of the day. If you’re mindful enough, you’ll notice where you’re going slow. You have an opportunity to make more time for yourself if you:

That said, do not aim to optimize every single minute of your routine. You’re not a machine, so allow yourself breathing space. But whenever you find a window of opportunity that can free up a block of time for you, grab it with both hands.

2. Time taken to begin a task

time taken to begin a task

Here’s how Marcus begins his work routine. Every day, he begins his job at 9:15 AM. As soon as he logs into his computer, he opens FoxSports to quench his thirst for sports updates around the world. Side by side, he opens his to-do list and picks a task to work on.

But he decides to watch a Youtube video first. 7 more minutes whiz by as Marcus laughs his guts out at a standup comedian’s new gig. When the video comes close to a finish, his phone beeps. A good friend just sent him a text. The back and forth messages take a few more minutes.

Does Marcus’ morning routing routine sound like your story? Spending time on irrelevant activities before beginning a task is another major time waster. Each person squanders time before commencing a task in various ways:

What you spend your time on is beside the point. A better question to ask yourself is “How long?” Spending 5-10 minutes on such activities isn’t a time management sin. But if you need over 30 minutes to pick up your first task from the time you begin your workday, you have a scope for improvement.

How to fix it:

3. Short breaks turning long

long breaks

As a designer, John works on a task for a stretch for 60-90 minutes. As soon as he’s done, his body craves caffeine. “Let me find a coworker to grab coffee with,” and off he goes hunting for his friends, Luke and Barbara. Luke has just come out of a meeting while Barbara is right in the middle of a task.

How to solve it:

Spending time socializing to develop your network and cultivate relationships works as a different argument. But taking long breaks with the same set of people doing the same thing serves as an opportunity to save time.

4. Break after every little task

frequent breaks

Meet Paul who works as a programmer on various tasks throughout the day. A portion of his work involves developing large modules that span over hours. At the same time, he has to fix errors on his previous work which hardly takes 5-10 minutes each.

Every time Paul fixes a bug, he takes a break. So every 10 minutes, he allows himself to lean back on his chair and pull a few potato chips from the bag on his desk. At times, he walks around, chit chats or picks up coffee from the vending machine.

How to fix it:

Pomodoro technique strikes the right balance between getting things done and taking breaks. The technique involves working interrupted for a span of time followed by a short time-out. The traditional method uses a 25-minute work window followed by a 5-minute break. After repeating the cycle 4 times, you allow yourself a longer break of 20-30 minutes.

5. Checking email

checking email

Meet Marie, who works as a manager at a top organization. Every morning, as soon as she wakes up, before even getting out of bed, she scans her phone for any urgent emails that need her attention. Once she’s at work, her computer keeps buzzing with email notifications. Even when her mind is deep in thought trying to complete a task, she makes it a point to glance at the email to check if it needs attention.


If you have similar habits of wasting time, don’t kick yourself. We all have our time management flaws and that’s OK. But, if you are wasting time under these 5 areas but refusing to accept your mistakes, you’re losing out on an opportunity to free up more time for yourself.

You don’t need a reward to join the Productive Club, do you?

Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.

He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.