The 7 Biggest Workplace Time-Wasters and How to Avoid Them

Your employees work hard. You’re positive of this, because every time you stroll through the office, they are toiling along. So why is productivity so low? What’s holding up progress? Here are the biggest time-wasters in the workplace, and how to axe them for good.

1. Irrelevant Meetings and Presentations

If the meeting can’t be eliminated, but perhaps only a few workers actually need to attend.

Meetings have spiraled out of control. We now hold meetings with the sole agenda of planning where, when, and how to hold other meetings! Presentations are the same — nobody needs someone to read every slide of a PowerPoint, just distribute the file and let workers read at their own pace. Eliminate meetings and opt for another means of discussion and collaboration, or restrict meetings to instances when nothing else will work.

2. Replace the “To Do” List With a “Stop Doing” List

The “to do” list has been as misused and abused as the old meeting. Workers get so focused on completing the menial tasks on the list, that they neglect more pressing matters. Work toward creating “stop doing” lists, which help workers give up time-wasters and focus on the tasks at hand.

3. Doing Other People’s Work

Are managers or other workers trying to take up the slack for workers who either don’t know what they’re doing or simply need a hand with everything? If so, it’s time to start letting the swimmers swim and, well, let the others sink. Holding up dead weight drags everyone’s productivity down.

4. Constant Interruptions (Business or Personal)

Give employees the right tools to control interruptions and increase their productivity.

A worker delves into a task. Then the phone rings. Then an email message pops up. After that, the worker’s mom sends her a text message, and then a coworker stops by for a question (or two or five). Designate specific times of the day to handle calls and messages and leave the rest available for productive work.

5. Over-Multitasking

Multitasking makes many workers feel like they’re accomplishing a lot, but are they really? Taking on too much at once can mean that 100 different projects are 1 percent complete at the end of the day. It’s usually more efficient to undertake a single project and work to its completion (or at least a realistic stopping point) before taking on the next.

6. A Disorganized Work Environment

Creative types love to tout their clutter as an organizational system only they understand. But studies show that clutter and disorganization lead to significant wasted time over the long run. Insist on tidy workspaces, viable filing systems, and practical processes and workflows throughout the organization.

7. Excessive Breaks

It’s a good idea to get the mind (and the eyes) off the computer for brief times during the workday. It helps reestablish focus and reduce stress. But visiting the coffee machine or smoking area every 15-20 minute is not productive; it simply wastes a lot of time. Designate specific break times (two to three per day) and restrict trips to the break room to those times. It’s okay for employees to stand up, stretch, or take a brief walk in between those times, but an extended coffee or smoking break can easily waste 1-2 hours in a given workday, plus regularly scheduled breaks and lunches. It adds up.

Finding yourself distracted from your real work or fighting constant interruptions? Read more in How Do You Solve a Problem Like EmailĀ .