What is a time waster?

3 minute read •

April 15, 2019


There’s much debate as to what actually is a time waster and it really varies depending on the job role and the industry. For example, in creative industries, scrolling on Youtube for 2 hours is often part of the task, if you try this out in an accounting firm it’s unlikely to produce an outcome. 

We now know from a tonne of academic research that our offices are full of distractions. A study by UC Irvine shows that on average office workers are interrupted every 11 minutes, and it takes around 25 minutes to get back on track. A lot of these distractions come from our ever-connected devices. Last year, in an average minute on the internet 4.3 million Youtube videos were viewed and 174,000 people scrolled Instagram. In that same minute, not a lot of work was done. 

national trends survey in 2016 found the four main time wasters at work were texting (55%), scrolling the internet (41%), gossiping (39%) and social media use (37%).

While these in many ways seem like natural parts of our workday, and often necessary, there are arguments for trying to reduce these time wasters.

When we tackle time-wasting habits we can:

  • Get more done in less time
  • Improve our Work/life balance
  • Have more presence in our work relationships

So how do we tackle time-wasting habits?

1. Key Triggers

The first thing to do is to analyse your daily work habits, trying to identify key triggers. A trigger is a noise, action or thought that leads to you being distracted. Take a pen and paper and write down every time you encounter a trigger throughout your workday. More likely than not you’ll start to notice patterns in those triggers, perhaps it’s a friend or loved one on their break reaching out, or a colleague who comes to your desk for a catch-up.

2. Phone Notifications

It’s a really simple one, three out of four of the top time wasters are accessible at all times via our mobile phones. If you don’t need your phone for work, turn it on silent and shove it in a drawer for prolonged periods of time. If your phone is essential to communicating at work then spend some time with your notification settings. Science shows us that we are all now addicted to the pings and swipes of our smartphones so turn off notifications on those apps that are not essential to your workday.

3. Dedicated Downtime

You’re aware of your environment and the things likely to distract you but it’s often not realistic to cull these from your every day. Instead, block out an hour a day of complete concentration, tell your colleagues, when the pink post-it is on your desk DO NOT DISTURB. This tactic will give you the freedom and mind space to focus.



Lauren Crystal

Scottish digital entrepreneur in Melbourne. Proud MD of Your Creative Agency, co-founder of Hassl. Contributor to The Startup.

  • It's 100% free.

    Work collaboratively and get more done.