Inside: Are you guilty of any of these habits that waste your time? Once you become aware of them, you can work to reduce them to become more productive.
Many of us view habits in a positive light. They’re actions that help us maintain consistency in our routines, improve our health and well-being, and better our lives.
At least, some of them are.
While habits can be a powerful tool for improving our lives, not all habits are beneficial. In fact, some habits are weighing us down, holding us back, and wasting our time.
And many of those not-so-great habits are so ingrained in our routines that it’s difficult to see them for what they are – a detriment.
Fortunately, like all habits, the ones that aren’t serving us can be broken.
By acknowledging the fact that they’re happening and making the conscious decision to break them – or better yet, replace them with actions that do benefit you – you can free yourself from habits that are holding you back and give yourself more time to focus on the things that really matter.
8 Habits That Waste Your Time
Not sure what time-wasting habits you might be guilty of?
I’ve got you covered. Here are a few of the most common habits that waste your time and limit your productivity.
For years, people have praised the ability to multitask. We’ve listed it as a skill on our resumes and talked up our ability to do a million things at once.
It’s a habit that has historically been praised and considered a strength, especially when it comes to work. By being able to focus your attention on more than one thing at a time, you’re certainly being more productive and getting more done… right?
Actually, that’s a myth.
Research has shown that we aren’t really good at multitasking – even when we think we are. Multitasking raises our stress levels, which affects our overall well-being.
When we multitask, we’re more distracted, more likely to mess up and make errors, and more quick to exhaust ourselves. And when we’re exhausted, we can’t do our best work.
When you think about it, it makes sense. Your brain literally cannot focus on two things at once, so you’re constantly forcing it to shift your attention from one thing to the next. It takes a lot of effort to do this – even if you don’t feel like it does. And ultimately, your outcomes are worse off for it.
Instead of trying to multitask, focus your attention on a single task to completion. You might be surprised to see just how much quicker you can get it done when you aren’t bouncing between several things.
2. Procrastinating on Important Tasks
Procrastination – the act of putting things off for later – is another all too common habit that’s wasting your time in a big way. And it’s one that many of us are guilty of on a regular basis.
It’s all too easy to tell yourself you’ll circle back and deal with that undesirable task later, especially when you’re ultimately the person holding yourself accountable.
Unlike multitasking, there’s no way to construe procrastination as a positive. And yet, so many of us find ourselves guilty of procrastination in our everyday lives.
We procrastinate for all kinds of reasons. Maybe you’re facing a task that’s particularly tedious and unexciting – like decluttering your closet.
You might be putting off something that’s particularly unpleasant, like a doctor’s appointment, or filing your taxes, or going out to dinner with your overbearing in-laws. Maybe it’s something you just don’t enjoy – monthly reporting for your job, or shopping for a new pair of jeans.
But the problem with procrastination is that whatever task you are avoiding will ultimately need to be addressed. You aren’t saving yourself any effort or time. In fact, you’re wasting time by continuing to postpone the inevitable and are creating more stress for yourself in the process.
By forcing yourself to stop procrastinating and focusing on getting those not-so-pleasant tasks out of the way quickly and efficiently, you’ll make them less painful and get them off of your plate so you can channel your time and energy elsewhere.
3. Spending Excessive Amounts of Time on Social Media
Not only do we use social media as a way to stay connected and share a glimpse of our own lives, but it’s also a window into the world – and a seemingly endless source of entertaining content.
And above all else?
It can become a habit that wastes a lot of time.
You can scroll endlessly through your Instagram feed and new content will continue to populate. Watching a video on TikTok? The app will seamlessly transition to the next one as soon as it’s over.
You don’t even have to think about it. It’s easy to get sucked in, look up, and find you’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time scrolling or watching.
And while it was entertaining, it certainly wasn’t productive.
By being intentional with your time on social media and setting self-imposed limits – you’ll be surprised to see just how much more time you have to pursue other, more beneficial things.
And if you replace your social media habit with a positive one – like reading a book, spending time with friends, taking a walk, or learning a new skill – you’ll be better off for it.
4. Constantly Checking Texts and Emails
Do you compulsively reach for your phone the moment you get a notification for a new text message? Are you endlessly checking your email to make sure you don’t miss anything important?
You’re wasting your time.
Many of us have fallen victim to this habit – and it’s easy to see why. With our devices constantly in our possession, we’ve made ourselves reachable 24/7.
And instead of telling ourselves that this doesn’t actually mean you have to respond immediately any time someone reaches out, we often feel compelled to reply right away.
When we’re focused on other tasks, it’s disruptive. When we’re spending time with friends or family, it’s rude. And we aren’t doing ourselves any favors by setting the expectation that we are constantly reachable.
Break the habit by putting some distance between yourself and your device. Leave your phone in another room and check it intentionally once in a while – instead of all the time.
Alternately, disable those notifications, or set your phone on silent mode so you aren’t constantly interrupted by every single text or email that lands in your inbox.
By curbing how often you’re checking in on text messages and emails, you’ll be more present, more mindful, and more intentional.
5. Getting Distracted
There are always going to be various things vying for your time and attention. If you struggle with ADD or ADHD you may find those bright shiny objects to be nearly impossible to avoid.
It takes discipline (and in some cases therapy and meds) to help keep your mind focused on the task at hand.
Consider the ways you can limit distractions in your workspace. By keeping your desk orderly and limiting the tabs and windows you have open, you’ll create an environment that helps to set you up for success rather than creating additional distractions.
Notice what types of things tend to distract you when you’re working. Then consider what options you have to limit them. Sometimes it may mean handling certain tasks at a different time of day when you have fewer things going on around you.
By developing productive habits you can get more done and limit the number of things that are pulling for your attention.
6. Not Planning
Another one of the habits that wastes your time? Not taking the time to plan ahead.
If you jump into a project without gathering the necessary tools or information first, you will waste time and potentially find yourself quite frustrated.
When you take even just a few minutes to plan ahead and make sure you have what you need you’ll be more efficient with your time and help the task to go more smoothly.
Likewise, when you set aside the time to plan for the week ahead, you will save yourself time in the long run. Planning out your errands can help you pair tasks together so that you save yourself time and gas money by being more efficient.
Planning your meals in advance will save you time and stress when it’s time to get dinner ready.
As Brian Tracy said, “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000 percent Return on Energy!”. Planning will help you to waste less time.
7. Overthinking and Second-Guessing
Are you an overthinker? If you’re having to think pretty hard about what your answer is, that is your answer.
Overthinking and constantly second-guessing yourself are habits that waste your time and don’t benefit you in any way.
Some people are naturally more decisive than others, but there’s hope if you’re an overthinker. There are ways to work on making decisions more quickly.
Here are three tactics for making decisions more quickly.
- Practice. As you practice making a lot of decisions, you gain experience and confidence in your ability to make decisions.
- Be clear on your priorities and goals. When your priorities and goals are crystal clear, it becomes easier to identify if a decision helps support them or isn’t aligned with them.
- Get perspective. When you step outside of the situation and gain perspective you can often see that the decision one way or the other won’t significantly impact your life in the long run.
When you have big decisions to make, it is a good idea to give them careful consideration. Talk to close friends or family members that you trust and get feedback.
But with a lot of the decisions you make in everyday life? Don’t waste too much time overthinking every single little thing. Better yet, set yourself up for success by limiting your options in the first place. We’ll address that one next.
8. Having Clutter in Your Home & Life
When your home and life are cluttered you inadvertently end up wasting more time. When it’s hard to find what you’re looking for or you experience decision fatigue due to the number of options you have on hand, you waste precious time and energy.
Having a cluttered home also takes more time to clean and tidy as well as making moving a bigger challenge (& expense!).
By decluttering your home and working to be more intentional with the items you bring into your home, you can save yourself time and stress.
It’s important to also remember that clutter can show up in other places – like your schedule. When you have too much on your plate you’re more likely to miss appointments or find yourself overbooked.
Decluttering your schedule can help you create more margin in your life. When you are clear on your priorities and your schedule reflects them, you can achieve a greater sense of balance in your life.
Time is a commodity you can’t get more of. Spend it on things that matter.
Which of the habits that waste your time is hurting your productivity? Leave a comment and let me know!
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