How You Are Wasting Time at Work Without Realizing It

Robin Schwartz

How You Are Wasting Time at Work Without Realizing It

Most of us want to cut down the number of hours we spend in the office, not increase them. It may not be obvious at first, but there are often small habits and behaviors many of us are guilty of which result in wasted time.

To ensure you’re not getting stuck in the office or working over the weekend, make sure you are not falling victim to some of the most common time-wasters.

Commuting During Rush Hour

If you work for an organization that offers flexible work arrangements, ask if you can shift your schedule to avoid the majority of commuters.

This might only mean coming into the office one hour later each day and leaving an hour later as well or coming in early and leaving early. The less time you spend in the car, the more time you can spend checking off your to-do list.

Not Listening to Instruction

Imagine you spend two hours of your workday completing a task assigned to you. Now imagine you send it to your supervisor only to have him/her inform you that you did not do what was asked.

Whether you are taking instruction in person or reading it over email, be sure you fully understand what is being requested of you before you surge ahead. Take notes and ask clarifying questions should you need to. Failing to listen or follow directions will create more work for you.


Everyone occasionally has a day where they find it hard to get motivated to tackle the huge pile of filing on their desk, answer the 50+ flagged emails or start the new project they were assigned. Failing to do work because it’s not a task you like or it’s not something you are looking forward to completing is a big waste of time.

At some point (if you want to keep your job), you will need to do whatever it is you are avoiding. Procrastinating just leads to work piling up on your desk and increased levels of stress – both of which waste your time in the office.

Browsing Social Media

It takes only a few minutes of checking your Facebook feed for you to start clicking on articles, lists, or searching through some old friend’s photo stream.

Before you know it, you have jumped over to someone’s Twitter you don’t even know and over an hour has been lost. Social media can be a useful workplace tool but it can also become a black hole for those who don’t know how to limit it.

Set boundaries when it comes to your social media usage. Only allow yourself to log in to Facebook or Twitter during lunch or breaks and be sure to keep your phone notifications on silent. Your smartphone can trap you as well.


While you should not ignore your co-workers or refuse to engage in water cooler conversations, you also should avoid becoming too social in the office. It’s amazing how quickly grabbing a coffee in the break room can turn into a ten minute conversation about a popular TV show or a recent vacation.

Be social but set your limits. Being the person everyone feels comfortable talking to with will likely result in people stopping by your desk or office just to chat at inconvenient times.

Constantly Being On Email

There aren’t many distractions quite as big as email. Incoming emails often take our attention away from the task at hand. Depending on your email service, you might even see a small popup on the bottom of your screen that makes it almost impossible to ignore.

Map out times during the day when you check and respond to email. For most, that would include checking email upon arriving at your desk to ensure nothing urgent came through at the start of business.

Spend no more than an hour reviewing and answering emails before you close down the email application for a few hours. Don’t tempt yourself by leaving the email window up in the background.

That little notification box is sure to distract you away from achieving the productivity you are aiming for.

Not Delegating

If you are in a position of management or team leadership, delegating tasks is necessary to ensure you are not overworked and overwhelmed. While it may seem like it takes up time to explain the task to another employee and officially assign the work, it will save you effort in the long run.

You can’t hang on to extra work because you aren’t sure you want to make the time to train someone else or because you aren’t sure you can trust someone else to complete the work as you like it.

Always Being Available

Open door policies and a general willingness to drop what you are doing to help your colleagues might seem like good ways to encourage collaboration, but they can also prove to be a big waste of time.

If you are constantly being interrupted during your day, you fail to focus on the tasks you need to complete. You will add more hours to your day without even realizing you are doing so.

Being too available also extends to meetings. As helpful and productive as meetings can sometimes be, they can also take up a lot of time. Some employees feel as if there is a meeting for everything and very little time to get things done. You may be able to determine if you attendance is required.

If you are guilty of some (or all) of these habits, it’s not too late to change. Alter your day-to-day behaviors so you can be sure you are maximizing your time in and out of the office.

About The Author

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz has nearly a decade of experience providing HR expertise to employees and management in higher education. Her broad experience includes benefits, compensation, performance management, employee relations, payroll, talent acquisition and management. She received her masters degree from American Military University and maintains a PHR certification.

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