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7 Ways You Could Be Unintentionally Wasting Time Each Day


Most people know know efficiency matters. Whether you’re an Auckland based accountant or a Chicago SEO expert, the less time you waste, the more productive you are. Likewise, the more productive you are, the more opportunities there are to make sales, finish projects and succeed in business.

If that’s the case, why do so many people still waste precious time during the day? Here’s one theory: they don’t know they’re doing it. Even when you want to work efficiently, you could be unintentionally sabotaging your time management.

Here are seven things you might be doing that are killing your productivity in the workplace. Do any of these describe you?

1. Not running a tight ship

According to at least one organization professional, the average worker wastes close to two weeks each year looking for misplaced items. Two weeks! That time could be better spent getting work done — at least if everything had a designated place, items were clearly labelled and work followed a predictable process flow. 

Take a look around – what does your desk look like now? Pens loosely tossed into drawers, documents and loose paper piled high around you? What about your tech; is your desktop awash with random files and screenshots?

Luckily this is the easiest “bad habit” to fix when it comes to your personal productivity! A simple system can help sort out the messiest of workstations. All you need to do is remember to put items in one place (and back after using them) and scheduling a regular 5 minute tidy up sessions into your day. Even using a system like WorkflowMax’s Collaboration Manager, can help you make sure all job-related files are saved in one place.

2. Jumping on whatever project comes up

Back in agency-land we used to call this “the lure of the shiny brief”. A new project always sounds more exciting than the one you’re in the middle of at the moment with all it’s complications and bottlenecks.

When a new brief or project comes in, we tend to drop everything to start it, until of course it reaches the same sticky point and we promptly abandon it as well...building a backlog of unfinished projects. 

The best way to tackle this is to plan your projects in advance (allowing a bit of wiggle room), set milestones and deadlines, and most importantly get an accountability partner to hold you to them!  

Knowing what to prioritise helps you knock out the vital work first, rather than wasting time on smaller projects that can wait. Try Eisenhower’s importance/urgent matrix as a start.

3. Having Zero boundaries for distractions

According to a survey of hiring managers and HR professionals, 24 percent of workers admit to spending at least an hour every day on personal emails, texts or phone calls. It’s not just technology that’s a distraction, however. Whether you’re interrupted by phone calls, chatty co-workers, an open inbox or some other factor, you’re still being interrupted. 

Distractions can be a good thing, if they’re managed. So we’re not suggesting you need to go cold turkey the minute you walk into the office, turn your phone off and shut yourself in a room to get work done – but rather, plan in the time for distraction. For example, allow yourself a few 5 minute mini breaks throughout the day so you have a chance to reset, and use this time to reply to that facebook invite or talk to your coworker about her weekend. 

4. Doing what you could be delegating 

There’s no prize for doing everything solo. When you delegate some daily tasks to your team, you spread the workload, reap the benefits of collaboration and help them grow in their own roles. you buy yourself more time to tackle work that only you can do. Determine which tasks you can delegate and which you must handle on your own, and simplify your schedule accordingly.

5. Holding meetings without clear agendas 

There’s a good reason meetings are notorious for wasting time: They often do. Getting together with your team to catch up — or worse yet, to simply see what comes of a meeting — is a recipe for inefficiency. When you schedule a meeting, is there a clear-cut purpose? 

To make meetings useful rather than frustrating, set clear goals. Open with the agenda and finish with action points. You’ll be surprised to learn when you clarify a meeting’s agenda, you’ll often realize the items can be covered in a short email or memo instead.

6. Endless emailing

Emails get a bad rep for a reason – they KILL your productivity but make it seem like you’re getting work done. Here’s an idea, close your inbox altogether and only open it periodically. Don’t worry about getting to a “Zero inbox” – even Slack, the so called killer of emails has become a major time-suck. Just as you can drag out an in-person conversation with small talk or by sharing unnecessary information, you can drag out an email chain, too. 

Some quick email etiquette that will save you hours:

  • Don’t “reply-all” if you don’t need to
  • Stop sharing paragraphs of information when a few sentences would suffice
  • Save relevant emails in one place with a software like WorkflowMax


Everyone is guilty of wasting time without knowing it at one point or another. The key is to check in with yourself regularly and stay vigilant against the sneaky little choices that kill efficiency, and in doing so, make yourself leaner, more effective and more productive.

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Shanna Mallon is a copywriter for Straight North, a Chicago-based Internet marketing agency that specializes in B2B SEO, PPC, email marketing and web design. A freelance writer, Shanna has been creating online content professionally since 2007.

Shanna Mallon