Find those sneaky time-wasters and productivity thieves

How are we wasting our precious time?

Recently I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t matter how productive I try to be during the day, I always feel like there are a couple of tasks that just exist to waste my time. The problem is, after a busy day completing task after task, it’s hard to actually sit down and have a proper reflection about my productivity.

I understand that there are normal distractions and somewhat time-wasters during my day. I mean conversations happen, you need to have lunch or a snack, and not mention that much necessary coffee break. However, that’s not what I mean when I talk about “wasting time”. I’m talking about tasks, those bullet points that are on your to-do list, that quite frankly, shouldn’t be there. In fact, I believe that the biggest time-wasters we have are scheduled and planned.

We live in a society that rewards looking busy, rather than actually being busy. We fill our days with tasks to show how important we are for the company. But at the end of the day, the results simply aren’t there. Now, although it’s true that one can not be productive 100% of the time, every single day (we need our breaks); I feel that we can still make the effort to organize our time better and avoid useless tasks. In other words, work smarter and not harder.

From my own workflow, I’ve tried to identify the tasks that were affecting my productivity, in order to try to minimize them or make small changes to get more done. Use this list as an inspiration. I would encourage you to reevaluate these following tasks in your own workflow to see if you’re wasting time and energy.

1. Unnecessary Meetings

While meetings have a very important role for a business to run, companies nowadays tend to over-use them. For example, a couple of days ago, I had a meeting to discuss a future meeting. Now, if that doesn’t scream time-wasted I don’t know what does. Planning a meeting requires preparation, before and after. It should be a conversation that leads to somewhere new, whether is new work or information. You should have a goal in mind when going to a meeting; some type of agenda should exist in order to keep everyone on track.

Meetings should happen only if necessary, and everyone involved should contribute in some way shape or form. If you find yourself in a meeting that you don’t have anything to contribute or even learn from, you probably shouldn’t be there.

2. Unimportant Reports and Data

Now this one can hurt because we like to look at data, even if we don’t quite understand what is going on. The moment a spreadsheet appears, we feel more wise and important with this new knowledge. And with so many analytics tools at our disposal, we have quick and easy access to an unlimited amount of data on almost every area of business.

You have access to this large amount of data, and you feel like you simply need to collect it. It’s there, a table of numbers that looks important, so mind as well put it in a pretty spreadsheet. But there’s a possibility that the report is taking you months to compel, it’s really not that important for the overall business to run. Making a good report takes time, so it’s essential to determine which reports actually bring value to you and your company.

3. Outdated Processes

Businesses still waste so much time doing certain things the exact same way they did a couple of years ago. Even if you work for a start-up or a super technologic-advanced company, I guarantee that there’s someone with a couple of more years of experience that has implemented an outdated process. It doesn’t matter how technology is involving, innovation is hard and humans tend to gravitate towards what they know and feel comfortable with.

Take a look at how your company works, and at some point, you’ll probably start questioning certain processes. Think about how you can improve that process, either with automatization or a more updated one. Implementing a new process will definitely take its time, to work or produce any type of improvement, but eventually, you’ll see its effects on the company and your productivity.

4. Not having a (proper) to-do list

Well, since this is kinda oppositive of having a task, it can be consider cheating, but let me explain. When I talk about having a to-do list, I don’t mean keeping a mental list of things you have to do. This is such an inefficient process since eventually, you’ll forget some tasks, an important task. This bad planning can lead to procrastination and most importantly to time wasted. Having an actual to-do list can make all the difference. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a complicated process, just writing down on a piece of paper what you have to do for the day can be a huge improvement. Planning in advance will help you not waste time trying to remember what you have to do next.

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Filipa Amado

Filipa Amado

Designer that likes to write about Product Management and Productivity.