Business Productivity: The Top Eight Time-Wasters You Must Avoid at Work!

“If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality.” — Benjamin Franklin

Ben Franklin had it right. Of all the resources available to us, time is certainly the most precious. Unlike office supplies or even money, it’s impossible to get more; there’s no box marked “Time” in the supply closet where you can grab a spare minute or two. Once time is spent, it’s gone, and there’s no getting it back

And yet, we invariably waste it.

Look: you can’t afford to waste time at work. A firm grasp of time management is absolutely crucial if you want to succeed…although the truth is, when you manage time, you’re really managing yourself. You need to buckle down and control you.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the eight biggest self-inflicted time-wasters in modern business, so you can know what you need to avoid the most.

Time Waster #1: The Internet The Internet has to be the single worst productivity thief in the modern business era. Like many technological advances, the Internet is a two-edged sword. It’s useful, and it can and has built fortunes—but it’s also a siren that lures workers to waste time. In recent surveys, workers admitted to spending an average of two hours per workday online. Close that browser!

Time Waster #2: Socializing We all want a workplace where people get along and enjoy spending time together. However, too often we’re chatting when we should be working. That’s fine for lunchtime and breaks, but otherwise you should be at your desk. You should especially avoid chattering outside someone’s office or cubicle, because then you’re not just wasting your time, you’re distracting someone else.

Time Waster #3: Personal Communications These days, there are so many ways of getting interrupted by personal messages: IMs, texting, email, telephone. You know the remedy: turn off your cell phone, don’t check your personal email, and end any personal calls on the company line as quickly as possible.

Time Waster #4: Personal Business This time waster ties in with the above, but goes much farther. I’ve known people to balance their checkbooks or sort out their mortgage applications while at work. I think that people do these things at work because they can’t find any other time to do them: we’re working so long and hard these days that by the time we’re home, we’re exhausted. That doesn’t make it kosher, however. Keep personal business at home.

Time Waster #5: Smoking Some workers have a ready-made excuse for wasting time: they’re smokers. This is fine if you smoke only during your breaks or at lunch; but dedicated smokers often take a few minutes here and there to nurse their addiction. Given the fact that most employers don’t make this easy anymore, it can take 10 minutes or more to get to the designated smoking area, smoke a cigarette, and get back to work. That can add up to half an hour of wasted time per workday. The solution? Learn to control that habit.

Time Waster #6: Arriving Late/Leaving Early This one’s self-explanatory. Many of us pare a few minutes off the day here and there, and some of us make a habit of it. It may not seem like much, but get this: if you’re late or leave early an average of ten minutes a day, that adds up to a week’s paid vacation over the course of a year. Yow! Better start setting that alarm earlier.

Time Waster #7: Job-hunting There are jobs in which it’s necessary to spend company time maintaining your resume, but in most circumstances, it’s a big no-no. Yet many of us spend appreciable amounts of work-time keeping our CVs up-to-date, drafting cover letters, and even emailing resumes to prospective employers. Again, this is something better done at home.

Time Waster #8: Spacing Out It’s easy to sit at your desk, stare at your computer, and pretend to work. Many employees spend an appreciable portion of the day spacing out, either because they’re bored, lack challenges, or dislike their jobs. Snap out of it.

The Bottom Line The solution to all of these time-wasters is simply stated: “Stop it!” Of course, that’s easier said than done, and may require considerable discipline. If you identify one of more of these time-wasters in your daily routine, here’s my recommendation: choose the worst one, research how to fix it, and put what you’ve learned in play. Once you have a handle on that time-waster, move to another. I think you’ll be surprised at how much productive time you’ll free up over the long run.



  1. This column reminds me why as a home-based business owner I need to have “business hours”. I should not have to be doing my checkbook at midnight because I was working on my customers need until 10 or 11p.m.
    Thanks for these thoughts Laura–my BIG assignment is to set my hours.


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