Avoid These Sneaky Time Wasters at Work
Ask people what the biggest time wasters are that they face at work, and the top three answers are usually endless email, meandering meetings, and Facebookery (otherwise known as social media). Respondents in one survey reported that checking email wastes 50 percent of the workday. That seems high, but maybe not. And then there’s surfing the web, dealing with interruptions, and looking for the piece of paper that’s lost somewhere on your desk.
Of course, it’s tough to put in a full day of nonstop work. The typical employee works only about six hours of every eight-hour day. The remaining two hours are taken up with nonwork activities such as breaks, chatting with coworkers, and traveling to and from meetings.
But some of the contributors to wasted time are less than obvious. Among the top ten time wasters shown in an infographic from OfficeTime.net are procrastination and dealing with red tape.
And what about groupthink, a psychological phenomenon in which members of a group go along with a decision without considering alternative ideas or viewpoints? Even when some (or all) don’t support the decision, no one dares to say, “Wait a minute; this may not be such a good idea.” Groupthink happens often in the workplace, and the group may ultimately waste time facing the consequences of a bad decision.
Add to the list anything that interferes with productivity, such as intense conflict that remains unresolved, team members who need too much handholding, and incompetent bosses who (fill in the blank with your own experience). As an IT manager, I once had a boss who arrived each morning at 5 a.m. and spent much of the day creating unnecessary work for his direct reports. He wasted his time—and ours as well.
Let’s not forget multitasking, which wastes time even as it seems to be saving time. And, oh, yes, overtime—not just occasionally, but routinely and to the point that employees can’t keep their eyes open and their heads upright. These are both cases in which more is definitely not better. Actually, anything that demotivates employees or damages morale causes productivity to take a hit, and thus wastes time.
Given all these time wasters, it’s a miracle we accomplish anything at all. But just to be clear, watching cat videos is a source of relaxation, not a waste of time. Fair warning, though: As it says in this compilation of the top ten best cat videos, there are approximately 4.5 billion cat videos posted online. Now, that sounds like a purrfect waste of time.