The alarm sounds, you grab your phone and you immediately check your notifications.
Email, Facebook, text messages, the news – you name it, in a matter of minutes you've started your day feeding your urges.
With what seems like just a few minutes to spare, you quickly find yourself scrambling for more time as you get ready just to rush to work. Perhaps you left your coffee behind and forgot the proposal sitting on the desk in your office.
Frazzled and possibly disheveled, as you drive frantically to work, you say to yourself-
There is simply not enough time in the day.”
… or is there and you're just not avoiding time wasters that are stealing your time?
Successful people don't waste their time.
We all have 24 hours in a day. In each hour there are exactly 60 minutes and within each minute is 60 seconds for a total of 86,400 seconds per day.
And while a few seconds here and a few seconds there might not seem like a big deal in the moment, over time, it all adds up. For example:
- The person who spends 5 minutes a day looking for stuff will spend over a day per year in totality… looking for stuff
- 25 minutes a day on social media equates to almost one week per year looking at social media
- Checking your email every hour takes time, but also distracts you, and can be detrimental to your train of thought/focus
All this to say that contrary to popular belief, what separates most people from achieving their goals vs not isn't talent or intellect. No, the solution is more simple than that…
Super successful people simply avoid wasting their time. They can persevere through boring tasks and thus, they are efficient and productive.
It's why when you hear excuses such as “I don't have time to read,” yet the average CEO reads 60 books per year. So perhaps it is actually time to figure out how to stop making excuses for last time, and identify the time wasters eating up your time!
Here is a list of 11 time wasters to give up this year and some life hacks to help you with each so you can get back some valuable time in your life!
11 Time Wasters to Avoid This Year
Real quick, before you keep reading, if you're on your phone and it has a screen time feature, open it up. Look at your screen use yesterday.
Ok, now keep reading…
1. Social Media
Social media is a way to connect with friends, grow followers for your brand/company and kill some time when you're bored at the DMV or doctor's office.
However, what many common users don't know about social media is that social media channels are not competing with each other… they're competing with YOUR TIME.
Think about the recent Facebook commercials promoting their unique groups. The more you're on their platform the more ad spaces they can sell, and the more ad revenue they are able to generate.
That being said, perhaps the biggest time waster out there is now social media!
According to Statista, in 2018 the average social media user worldwide spent 136 minutes per day on social media. Up 46 minutes from 2012.
- Almost 16 hours per week
- 64 hours per month
- 34 full days per year
In other words, if you spend 2+ hours per day on social media you will spend an entire month per year on social media. So instead of spending a month on your cell phone looking at other people's lives, try this instead:
Ideas to avoid social media time-wasting:
- Set limits on your phone for social media apps
- Delete all apps from phone
- Get web browser plugins and set limits for websites (I get 10 minutes on Facebook and Twitter combined)
- Move your social media icons around on your phone to avoid subconscious boredom habit
Another tip, that is more extreme but worth it, create an accountability system with yourself and a friend/spouse/family member. Delete apps from the phone, log out of websites and have our accountability partner hold you accountable (and you do the same).
Take it up a notch – have them change your password for you!
While social media use isn't bad, too much is – making it the biggest time waster on the list to be aware of.
What is scarier, with the rise of cell phone use and social media – television and video screen time hasn't dropped, it has actually increased!
2. Television & Video Streaming Time Wasters
In 2018, according to Tech Crunch, the average adult in the U.S. was spending a whopping six hours per day watching something!
In other words, in a given year, the average adult is watching three months' worth of videos and television!
While the majority of watching as shifted to streaming, and adults can certainly spend time watching TV while on social media – the facts are downright scary:
“Watching too much TV can triple our hunger for more possessions, while reducing our personal contentment by about 5 percent for every hour a day we watch.”— David Niven
So what should you do to avoid spending too much time behind a screen?
Here are some ideas:
- Use TV time as a reward for doing something productive
- OR, only watch TV when you're doing cardiovascular exercise
- Set screen time limits on your Netflix or YouTube apps
- Read instead of watching television
- Limit yourself to six hours per week
- Don't compromise with yourself
3. E-Mail Time Wasting
At home, people waste their time watching TV. Adults use social media at work and at home, but they also waste time on something else:
Studies show that 33% of the time at work is spent on email and for those who complete work outside of work hours, 50% of their time is using email.
In other words, if you work at home or in an office, a lot of your time is spent sitting behind a computer screen on email. And yes some of this time spent on email is necessary, but on the other hand, some of it also super wasteful.
Problems with wasting time on email:
Issue #1 with email – it distracts you from getting more important work done!
Issue #2 with email – an email can greatly hinder your mood or how you feel (more on this later)
Issue #3 with email – Email is a to-do list simply put. If you can't get it done, don't check it.
So how do we fix each of these? Here are a few practical tips to help you stop wasting time on email (at work and at home):
- Schedule time to check email and stick to it. As Tim Ferriss says, even include it in your signature that you only check your email at certain times of the day. Limit yourself to 2-3 email checks per day so you can focus attention on more important tasks.
- Don't check emails that will upset you. If you get an email from someone who you know might have some not so kind words or news, don't read it! Especially on Friday or over the weekend. Implement a no email policy Friday at lunch until Monday morning. A bad email can do more harm and very little good, especially to your mood and productivity!
- When you check it, do it! Called the one-touch policy, if you read an email, take care of it right then and there. “But what if I can't take care of it then?” Don't read it. Save it until you know you can handle the email. Think of your email as a meeting. Every time you check it you're agreeing to “meet” that email's demands. If you can't meet them, don't check it and treat your inbox like a to-do list!
4. Misplacing stuff & looking for it.
Every day when I get home I follow this routine:
- Keys go on hook
- Sunglasses go on the table in the foyer
- Empty lunchbox in the sink
- Lunchbox goes on top of the fridge
- Backpack goes under a specific end table
But why is my routine when I get home important? Because the next morning when I am going to work, everything is exactly where I placed it!
In other words – I spend minimal time getting out the door and I waste zero time looking for things. Here is why this matters:
Depending on studies, the average adult spends 1-2 days per year looking for misplaced items such as:
- Remotes to TV (See #2)
- Cell Phones
- Car Keys
- Purse or Wallet
However, it really isn't hard to fix misplacing items, it just starts with a routine!
How to stop misplacing things:
- Identify what you misplace the most.
- Figure out a place to keep your commonly misplaced items you waste time looking for
- Develop routines around your belongings and before you go to bed rehearse it in your head
- Have designated places at work and at home to keep things such as a hook, a drawer, a space on a counter etc.
For example, at work, I have a drawer where I place my cell phone, sunglasses, and keys each morning when I get there. When I leave, I grab all three.
Depending on where you live and where you work, commuting can be a huge time waster! If you happen to be someone who has to commute into the city, on a bus or train – you're wasting a lot of your precious time.
However, there are options and we can only control what we can control. Here are your choices when it comes to cutting back on commuting:
- You can find a job with a shorter commute
- You can figure out how to be super productive when you do commute
Let's look at both.
Change Your Job to Save Time.
While this might not sound simple, but changing your job is the best way to cut back on wasting your time sitting in a car.
If you spend more than one hour per day commuting, whether you want to believe it or not – it might be time to figure something out.
- One hour a day commuting is = 20 hours per month
- Two hours commuting per day is = 40 hours or 1 additional workweek per month
If you commute two hours or more per day for a year straight, that is like working an additional 12 weeks (or 3 months) for free. So instead consider this:
- EHR – Effective Hourly Rate. Figure out your effective hourly rate with commuting factored in. Essentially, total up the hours you work/commute each month and how much you bring home. Use this number and consider new jobs or positions based on the fact you're saving time!
- See if you can work from home. Working from home one or two days a week can save you so much time!
Be Productive During Your Commute
If changing your job just isn't in the fold and commuting is just the nature of the beast, figure out ways to be productive instead of wasting your time commuting.
Here are some ideas:
- Listen to audiobooks on your drive
- Carpool so you can do work on your way to work
- Bus or Train? Do your email on the way to work so you can spend less time doing email at work
- Make business calls on the way if you're in sales or need to call others
[Similar Article: 16 Time Management Tips to Manage Priorities]
6. Being Sick
Getting sick is one thing – you can't always control that.
Being sick and staying sick can become a total time waster if you're not careful. Before you shut me out, keep reading this.
When you're sick, you can't do as much and you end up wasting time (though not as intentional as wasting time social media browsing), but being sick is still a total time waster.
Here are some tips to help avoid getting sick, thus wasting time:
- Workout 3-4x per week
- Take your vitamins (helps combat inadequate diet)
- When people are sick at work, eat more fruits and vegetables
- Get vitamin C
- Keep yourself mentally healthy (see below)
Side Note: You don't decide when you get sick, but mentally you can control how long you “Stay Sick” based on what you tell yourself. If you repeatedly keep reminding yourself you're sick, you don't feel good, and “You always get sick”… well, there is a high likelihood you will continue to get sick more often.
7. The Gym
Wait, the gym can be a time waster?
Yes – the gym is a total time waster if you're not careful. It is really easy to lose track of time at the gym when you don't have a plan, you're on your cell phone, or you show up and take two minutes between each set.
While most people struggle to get to the gym, congrats to you for going, now it is time to make sure you don't waste time at the gym. Here are some tips to help you!
How to not waste time at the gym:
- Have a workout plan or at least a plan for your trip
- Limit yourself to one hour tops at the gym
- If your gym offers classes, use them
- Use a stopwatch in between sets for higher intensity workouts that are quick and efficient
- Avoid checking your phone in between exercises (use Bluetooth headphones- they're really cheap here) by placing your phone in a locker.
While wasting time at the gym might not seem like a big deal, here is why you need to be mindful of it.
As you start/grow your family, get more entrenched in your career, gym time can be hard to come by. So it's best to create efficient gym habits now that way you don't feel like you “Don't have any time for the gym.”
8. Web Browsing – “Surfing the Net”
Personal note – this 100% is my biggest issue when it comes to time-wasting.
I will be working on a project at work, a blog post, you name it – and all of a sudden I am on a social media channel. Or I am reading the same darn ESPN article I already read.
Either way, it got to a point where I was just frustrated with myself for not only wasting time but also getting distracted.
Tips to Avoid Wasting Time on the Internet:
- Use the ‘Waste No Time' browser extension
- Set limits for your common time-wasting websites (for me it's ESPN, Facebook, Twitter)
- Unfavorite websites you waste time on
- When you can, turn off WiFi to get work done
- See #3, but avoid email because that can lead to internet surfing
Yes, we got to clean up after ourselves.
But no, we don't have to spend several hours a week doing it (We includes me in this scenario).
Starting and stopping the dishes, halfway vacuuming the living room- all of this is a complete time waster. Why?
Because I can't get it all done. Instead of halfway cleaning and thus wasting valuable time where I could spend time with family and friends, there are tips to clean your house efficiently. Here is how:
- Schedule time to clean
- Create routines aroudn your cleaning. Such as dusting, counters, then vacuuming from the top down.
- Split tasks with spouse/partner/roommates
- Don't get overconsumed with everything being perfect (see #10 below).
Sometimes some of our habits (for good or for bad) can become slightly obsessive. Like obsessively checking our phone when we are at a social event. Or me reading ESPN over and over again.
Some of our obsessions can turn into complete and total time wasters. I can't stand clutter so I constantly find myself decluttering things but not really accomplishing anything.
If you're someone who has some obsessions like Netflix, video games, or even cleaning – see how you can limit yourself!
At the end of the day, everything listed above can be one of two things:
- Something you do here and there
- Something that can become a total time waster
Checking your Facebook feed isn't always a waste of time, but looking at your Facebook when you should be working on a proposal – well that is a time waster, but really it's a distraction.
And the whole reason you want to avoid these common time wasters is that they ultimately DISTRACT YOU from important things you should be doing.
Anything can be a time waster if it distracts you. Listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos, or getting up to go to the bathroom (me) every 10 minutes can be very distracting.
And the entire point of minimizing time wasters is to avoid distractions. Period dot. Stop wasting time to mitigate distractions so you can get things done and enjoy the things you truly love doing!
[Stop saying you're too busy, you're probably just not efficent]
Final Take on Time Wasters:
Here is the craziest, most eye-opening stat I ever read when it comes to time:
The average person lives to be 75, and they will spend 25 of those years sleeping.
On one hand, I said “Well duh,” but on the other, I was shocked.
If I was going to sleep for one-third of the years on this planet (assuming 8 hours a night average) than I better make sure I use my time wisely. That meant cutting out time-wasters and always being sure to make time for priorities!
Whether you have heard the story about big rocks, pebbles, and sand in the jar or not – here is what the biggest take away is:
Your big rocks in life are the most important and should always come first.
So if you value your health and family the most, then you will figure out how to prioritize those, and stop wasting time on silly things like social media, email, and distractions!
To avoid common time wasters, identify your priorities and you will be all set!
~Josh, Productivity & Life Hacks – As Seen on Money Life Wax
Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $300,000 in student loans with his wife in less than five years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and many more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their newborn son, their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, being outside, traveling, and helping others with their finances! In case you were wondering, Josh uses Personal Capital to track his net worth and his first investment account ever was an Acorns account 😎