Everyone’s granted the same 24 hours, but for some of us, it never feels like enough time. When you wake up in the morning, you may feel optimistic. Fueled by coffee, you’re ready to face all of the challenges that the day brings. But before you know it, it’s 3pm and half of the day is missing. Where did it go? What did you do? And why do you feel mentally drained with nothing to show for it?

It’s not that you’ve done nothing with your day. After all, you’ve watched the latest videos from your favorite YouTubers, scrolled through your Facebook newsfeed, replied to text messages, deleted spam from your inbox, and spent some time around the water cooler catching up with your co-workers.

But, by the end of the day, you still haven’t made a dent in your work. Whenever you make eye contact with your boss, he has angry eyebrows. And if you’re the boss, it’s even more difficult to justify your lack of productivity.

The bottom line is that you must get it together. You’ve got to identify what’s killing your productivity and then avoid doing those things so that you can recover your time. Let’s discuss the most common time wasters and how to avoid them.

Time Waster #1: Checking and Updating Social Media

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We’re in a social era. We have the ability to see, contact, and share with others in milliseconds, no matter the location. Distance doesn’t exist. We’re among the first generations in history to have instant connection. It’s a great time to be alive.

Yet, on the flip side, social media is a huge time suck. If you tally up your time, you may spend hours each week on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and more. Catching up on your friends’ latest posts, uploading and captioning your photos, and replying to comments takes away valuable time. Multiply that by the amount of times you refresh the page or app, and you can see why this is one of the biggest time wasters.

If productivity is an issue for you, consider severely limiting your social media activity to once a day during the week.

For those who must use social media for work, consider automating your social updates. Devote a few hours each week to filling a social media calendar with your updates. Then, using a service like Buffer or Hootsuite to automatically schedule posts to your different pages.


Time Waster #2: Checking Your Email

Checking email sounds productive. After all, you’re catching up on relevant information, such as the latest news, office memos, urgent projects, and more. You need to check emails.

While you can’t escape emails, you also shouldn’t keep your inbox open constantly. Everytime you get a new email, it will distract you away from what you’re doing.

Instead, consider setting two times each day for checking your inbox. No matter how urgent the email, it can always wait a few hours. The world won’t come to a grinding halt if you answer an email within 12 hours instead of within 2.


Time Waster #3: Not Scheduling Your Time Carefully

You need a schedule for your day. Lack of productivity can often be tied to not having a daily schedule. If you’re the type to wing it, you could be mismanaging your day. Instead of letting the day take you whenever it will, implement a simple schedule, focused on your top three priorities.

Studies show that we’re only productive for about three hours out of the day. Ouch.

Armed with this knowledge, make your daily schedule work for you– specifically when you’re more productive. To do this, study yourself for a two week period to determine when you’re most productive and for how long. So-called morning larks are extremely productive in the wee hours, often before the sun rises. Night owls get their best work done at night. Of course, if you don’t have the luxury of working whenever you’d like, and are stuck to a 9 to 5, consider shifting your most important tasks to a block of time when you’re most alert and ready to tackle challenges.


Time Waster #4: Over-Planning

Scheduling is beneficial because it can help us prioritize our day. However, there’s a danger in over-planning. If you’re not careful, you may think that you can squeeze even more “stuff” into your to-do list.

This can backfire because every day has surprises and things you can’t account for. A meeting may be rescheduled, a project may take longer than you initially calculated, you may get an unexpected phone call that completely shifts your entire day around. So, keep your schedule focused on priorities, but leave room for the unexpected. Otherwise, you’ll waste a lot of time trying to accomplish everything on your to-do list, when some of those tasks can be put off until another time.


Time Waster #5: Not Sleeping Long Enough

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Have you ever heard the phrase, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”? How can you not admire someone who seems so productive? Such people must be able to do a lot with their lives because they’re actually harnessing more hours out of the day.  

Not so fast. Studies show that sleep deprivation (not getting enough sleep on a consistent basis) leads to reduced cognitive performance, impaired decision making, and poor memory. Instead of trying to get more work done in the day, consider getting more sleep so when you are awake, your time is better spent.


Time Waster #6: Not Doing the Hardest Thing First

Everyone has a task that they don’t want to do. When faced with a boring, overwhelming, or [insert adjective here] task, it’s so tempting to push it off until some vague time in the future. But, in the process of delaying that task, you’ll waste valuable time. Often, completing a hard task gives you the renewed energy to complete smaller tasks, too. Once the biggest task is out of the way, you’re free to do everything else.


Time Waster #7: Not Scheduling Meetings Properly

Love ’em or hate ’em, meetings are a necessary part of doing business. Unfortunately, many people waste a lot of time with meetings, specifically in two areas:

  1. Coordinating a meeting time – Let’s be honest, it can be a painful experience to set up a meeting. The emailing back and forth to come up with the perfect time is excruciating. However, if you use Vyte, you’ll never have to worry about endless emails and counter-emails. You can offer a long list of meeting time suggestions that work with your schedule and wait for the other party to confirm. This eliminates the time-wasting inbox relay.
  2. Scheduling the meeting time for peak productivity – Instead of spreading meeting throughout the day or, worse, at the end of the day, consider suggesting a meet time at the start of the day. This will improve your productivity. Why?

Up to 30 minutes prior to a meeting is usually wasted time. You’re either gathering relevant material, going over what you’d like to discuss, or trying to kill the time until you’re meeting. You usually don’t want to get involved with another project because it’ll be interrupted prematurely.

To avoid this time waste, scheduling meetings at the beginning of the day. This strategy will also free up the rest of your day to implement the things discussed in the meeting.


Time Waster #8: Multitasking

Multitasking is dangerous. It gives off the appearance that you’re able to do so much, but in actuality, you’re not increasing your productivity, you’re limiting it. Your brain can only focus on one task at a time. Multitasking isn’t doing multiple things at once– because the human brain wasn’t designed to do that. Instead, multitasking is constantly switching from one activity to the other. And in the shift, you lose time while waiting for your brain to re-acclimate to the new task. Sometimes, it can take as much as five minutes to completely switch into gear.

Avoid multitasking, and block out your time instead. Do similar tasks together to ease the transition for your brain. Before shifting to a different task set, take a break to reset your brain.


Final Thoughts

Improving your productivity is all about reducing time wasters and finding ways to hack your work life. Start implementing these above tips to find more time in your day.