Many of us always have lots of things to do and never enough time to do them in. We’re always looking for ways to create more hours in the day, manage our time, increase our productivity and be more efficient. Yet, there are a few things we do, even without realising, that can really waste our time. Check out my list of 20 things that waste time during the day to see if you recognise any of them!
20 things that waste time during the day (and what you can do about them)
1. Not planning your meals in advance
Get into the habit of planning your meals and snacks in advance, maybe a week ahead at a time. Without regular meal-planning you’re more than likely to spend precious time each day deciding on what to eat, shopping for it and that’s before you’ve even started the cooking! Meal planning in advance also gives you the chance to do some meal prep whilst you’re doing something else, so you can get a head start on making dinner and save yourself some time.
Check out my post on meal-planning made simple where there’s more ways you can save time by batch cooking, making the most of your freezer and much more!
2. Watching TV out of habit
TV is a great way of relaxing for many of us and if you’re intentional about watching TV for that reason and you keep track of the time you spend watching it, then that’s fine. But, what about plonking down on the sofa in the evening and then still finding you’re on the sofa a few hours later, maybe having dropped off to sleep in front of the TV? Or, do you find yourself watching TV just for the sake of it, because you don’t know what else to do? Or is it just out of habit?
Consider whether this might be a waste of your time and if there’s anything more productive you could do instead. (Don’t forget that relaxing is productive, so I’m definitely not suggesting you shouldn’t relax!).
3. Mindless scrolling through social media
Keeping up with social media is important to many of us but losing track of time and not being intentional about why and what you’re looking at, can be a massive waste of time. Especially if it’s time that you were meant to be using to get other things done!
Keep a check on how much time you spend on social media and perhaps find ways to limit this time during the day if you feel you need to.
4. Not having a visual To Do list
Keeping a mental list of things you have to do means you’re much more likely to forget things. Seeing them written down on paper, however, will jog your memory and help you spot which are the most urgent or important things. There might be some things that need doing but not necessarily today, and others that you just need to remember, rather than do.
Trying to remember everything but forgetting things or doing things that don’t actually need to be done yet are all a waste of your time. Keep a To Do list handy, either on paper or better still on your phone, and you’ll have it with you most (if not all) of the time to refer and add to.
5. Not planning in advance
Planning allows you to have an overview of what needs to be done and when, because you can see the bigger picture. You’ll have an idea of what and where you need to spend your time and it stops you wasting time by being disorganised and unfocused.
For example, it’ll help you avoid forgetting birthdays, so you have to go out specially to buy last-minute birthday cards and presents, or making sure your kids have everything they need for their costume for the school play later in the week etc.
Instead of putting off the things you really don’t want to do for another time, try getting them done today and see how much lighter you feel. Procrastinating just wastes your time so instead, either decide to get it done today or don’t do it all.
7. Not being organised
Running around like a headless chicken or not being efficient and organised can waste your time. You don’t know what needs to be done, when to do it and you just end up chasing your tail or winging it and hoping for the best.
Be organised so you can plan ahead, prepare and give yourself some wiggle room in case of any problems or emergencies.
8. Overloading your calendar or To Do list
Give yourself too many things to do and you run the risk of not getting many, if any, done. Your mind will be all over the place and you’ll be rushing from A to Z with no time for C and completely forgetting D.
You’ll waste your time and energy because you can’t work out what to do first and won’t have any time free to just go with the flow or in case things go wrong or appointments overrun.
9. Being tempted by distractions
One of the biggest ways to waste your time is by allowing yourself to get distracted or side-tracked from what you’re doing. Try to keep focused and complete one task before you move onto the next.
I know it’s not always possible when you’ve got little kids around who need you or won’t take no for an answer but try the best you can and you’ll definitely save yourself some time.
10. Not allocating or blocking out chunks of time
Trying to squeeze too many things into too short a space of time usually means you either don’t get everything done or you overrun and eat into time that’s meant for other things.
Allocate chunks of time for specific tasks, allowing a bit more time for each task than you think you’ll need. This way you’ll give yourself a bit of leeway and flexibility in your schedule in case things come up or go a bit wrong and you’re much more likely to get everything done and not waste the time you have available.
11. Checking emails when you’re not able to action them
Imagine checking your emails and seeing one (or more) that need a response or require you to take some form of action. Then, say, you don’t have time to do what you need to do there and then, so you mark it as unread and come back to it later. That means that when you do go back to dealing with it, you’ll have read the email twice.
Save yourself some time and only check your emails when you’re able to action them. You’ll only need to read them once.
12. Relationships that don’t add value
We all have friends who take a bit more than they give or aren’t really true friends that you could rely on, anywhere, anytime. Ask yourself whether what you gain from the friendship justifies the time you put into it. If the answer is no, then maybe this kind of relationship is more a waste of time than a source of support.
13. Multi-tasking and not doing any task properly
If you have too much on your plate, it’s very possible that you’re not actually doing anything on your list very well. It’s not possible to do loads of things 100%, there’s a compromise or sacrifice somewhere. If you’re not doing things as well as they should be done, then there may come a point when doing them badly is as good as not doing them at all. You’re just wasting your time.
So, instead, take some of the pressure of yourself, make a point of doing less, but make sure you do it properly.
14. Not being intentional
Whatever you do in life, make sure you know why you’re doing it. What’s the reason? Is it because you want to, does it help somebody, is it important to you or your family, is the right thing to do? Ask yourself whether it adds value to your life and what’s the purpose?
If you can’t come up with some good answers to these questions, then maybe you’re not being intentional enough. Not being intentional about what you’re doing and doing something just because you hadn’t really given it any thought, or it’s just a habit, can be a waste of your time.
15. Having too much clutter in your home
Everything in your home is there at a price, usually on your time. All your stuff needs tidying, clearing away, looking after, cleaning. Make sure that your home is filled with stuff that you love, need or want. Random clutter that meet none of these criteria will just waste your time (and energy!).
16. Not batching work/errands
This applies whether you’re at home or at work. If you batch similar tasks together then you’re much more likely to stay productive. Skipping from one type of work to another means your brain has to adjust to the different requirements of each task. So, for example, get all your emails read and replied to in one go, do all your errands in town in one trip or make all your phone calls in one sitting.
Don’t flit between tasks as you’ll lose concentration along the way, forget where you got up to and it’ll waste your time.
17. Not keeping an ongoing shopping list
Do you come back from a shopping trip only to find you’ve forgotten an item, so you have to go back or go without? Are you sure you’ll remember that you used up that last bag of flour? Or will you forget by the time you come to place your online food shop or you’re in the actual shops?
Keep an ongoing shopping list in the Notes section on your phone which you update regularly. It will stop you forgetting what you need to buy and it’s much more likely that you’ll have your phone to hand when you’re in the shops rather than a little bit of paper.
Check your shopping list when you do your weekly online shop too. Which leads us on to…
18. Not doing an online weekly shop
How many times have you had to pop to the shops several times in the week because you haven’t been organised or disciplined enough to stick to a regular weekly shop and you’ve run out of food or nappies? This just wastes time.
Instead, try sticking to a regular weekly online shop so you can easily calculate if you’re going to run out of something during the week and you know exactly when your next delivery is due. You can sit and plan what you need for the week ahead and at the click of a button, have it delivered to the comfort of your own home.
It saves time on multiple trips to the shops for the odd item or two, finding car parking spaces, tickets for the car park, not to mention the faff of taking little kids out shopping!
19. Losing things
When you’re disorganised, with no clear systems and strategies to help you get and stay organised, then it’s easy to lose things and you waste time looking for them.
20. Prioritising the wrong things
When you don’t have an action plan, a To Do list, a set of goals or some direction in life, it’s easy to give importance to the wrong things. You spend your time and energy pursuing these things when actually they might not be so important in the long run.
HOW DO YOU WASTE YOUR TIME?
These are just some of the things that can waste your time. Of course, they’ll probably look a little different for everyone, but they may start you thinking about how you can be more productive, organised and in control of how and where you spend your time.
Everybody needs down time, free and unstructured time where we don’t actually have to do anything. Relaxing and unwinding is vital, so this isn’t about filling up every hour of every day, or never wasting a minute. We all have times when we need to just BE, rather than DO. But, if you struggle with being productive and managing your time, maybe this post will give you some helpful pointers.
Other posts which might be helpful
YOUR NEXT STEP…
If you’d like to learn more about how to be intentional with your time, be more productive and carve out more time in your day for the things which are important to YOU, then check out my FREE 1-week email course, Simplify Your Time. It’s a time management course that encourages you to think intentionally and practically about your precious time and what you do with it. Find out more here.