The Biggest Time Wasters and How to Overcome Them

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There are not enough hours in the day. I grew up hearing my mom say that A LOT.  There was always so much to get done and never enough time to accomplish it. It’s something I consistently hear from people whether they have kids or not, work full-time or not, have a full social life or not.  And while you can’t add more time to the day you can identify the biggest time wasters and figure out how to overcome them.

Biggest Time Wasters

We are all guilty of wasting time.  And truthfully, using time wasters on an occasional basis isn’t a bad thing.  The problem is when the time wasters completely take over our time and become our habits.  

If you want to take control of your time and your life, then you need to get real with yourself about your time wasting habits.  

Examples of Time Wasters

Biggest time waster - woman on smartphone1.) TV time

No matter which study you look at, Americans are watching a lot of TV – anywhere from 2.8 hours to 5+ hours a DAY!  Add in all the other forms of video – YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, etc. and that number climbs to six hours or more.

2.) Social Media Usage

There is a definite love-hate relationship with social media.  Everyone loves to scroll and then complain about how much time they waste on social media.  You get sucked in and it’s easy to lose track of how much time you’ve spent scrolling.  

3.) Gaming (on phones and game consoles)

It used to be that gamers were mainly teenage boys and young men.  But with the availability of smartphones and gaming apps, the number of people playing games has skyrocketed and so has the time spent playing.  

4.) Checking Email

Checking email seems like it’s such a quick thing to do that it wouldn’t really be a time waster.  But as with most time wasters, you get sucked in. You end up spending countless minutes reading, responding and filing.  

5.) Online Shopping

Who doesn’t love to shop online?  It’s convenient, easy and should save you time because you don’t need to drive to a store.  But it’s also super easy to get sucked into price and product comparison and that can be a major time suck.  

So how much time do you spend on time wasters?  Nope, don’t just skip over this question. How much time do you spend each day or week on time wasters?  

Got your answer?  Then let’s move on to how to overcome these time wasters.  

How to Overcome Time Wasters

Time Limits

How honest were you about how much time you waste?  You may not even realize that you weren’t being honest.  We tend to underestimate how much time we spend on more enjoyable activities and overestimate how much time we spend doing dreaded tasks.  

For example, I used to seriously hate doing dishes, even with a dishwasher. For some reason, I had it in my head that it took forever to load or unload the dishwasher.  And forget about handwashing stuff because that really took too much time…or so I thought.

But then I started timing out my chores and I realized that it really takes less than 5 minutes to unload the dishwasher and about the same amount to load it.  And with the proper tools, even handwashing isn’t so time-consuming.  My entire perspective changed just because I hard facts to overcome my mental block.

If you knew that you were watching TV for 20 hours a week, would that change your perspective?  20 hours = a part-time job!

This may seem tedious but spend one week keeping track of your time.  Don’t change how you normally go about your day. Just keep a tally of top-line categories, like work, commute, personal hygiene, socializing, TV time, phone time, etc.  At the end of the week, add up how much time you spend on each category.

Are you spending time in the areas that are important to you?  Are you spending time in the areas that are helping you achieve your goals?  

Solution 1: Being aware of how much time you are wasting is half the battle.  Keep track of how you are spending your time.

Too Busy

Biggest time wasters - Multiple people using digital devices

I feel like whenever you ask someone how they are doing, the answer is “I’m good, just so busy.”   And I’m not going to lie, I’ve been guilty of giving that exact answer. 

Everyone is so busy these days.  Life typically is busy. But I feel there is an extra societal pressure to constantly put up the image of being busy, whether or you or not.  

And what’s the best way to always appear busy?  With time-wasting activities, of course. Again, the smartphone has made it so easy to project that image of busyness.  

This quote sums it up perfectly:

The best way to fill time is to waste it.
-Marguerite Duras

Solution 2: Are you just filling time because you think you need to?  Let go of any guilt about having true downtime and take real advantage of that downtime with activities that you actually enjoy.  Time wasters are just like empty calories – they may look good but they don’t fill you up.

Lack of Planning

The biggest reason why I think time wasters take over our lives is because we don’t plan our day efficiently.  A lack of effective planning causes us to:

  • Jam our day full of work and then have a desperate need to unwind with hours of mindless activities (aka time wasters) that never leave us satisfied
  • Not know what we should be doing so we slide into bad habits or what’s easy  
  • Not set time limits so a few minutes spiral into hours
  • Have no accountability for our day or progress

You may already feel that there aren’t enough hours in the day and you don’t want to take on one more task.  But planning out your day will actually save you time. You’ll know what you need to focus on and be less tempted to be sucked into time-wasting activities.  

Solution 3: Plan out your day and schedule in short breaks so you don’t feel compelled to overcompensate later with time wasters.  

Related: Creating a Schedule and Master Your To-do List


I want to end by saying that time wasters aren’t 100% bad.  We need downtime and mental breaks. The problem with so many time wasters is that they become time sucks and don’t satisfy our need for downtime.  You get caught up scrolling, playing, or watching but you never really feel like you’ve relaxed or enjoyed yourself. They actually make you feel worse because of all the time you wasted on them.  

Figure out how much time you’re wasting and if you’re filling up your time just to stay busy.  Plan out your day and schedule in breaks. Don’t feel guilty about having downtime, just make sure your free time is put to good use!   

How to eliminate time wasters & get more done each day. woman writing in planner

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