8 Habits That May Be Costing You Time

8 Habits That May Be Costing You Time

People are unique. We have different beliefs, likes, dislikes, ways of doing things, etc. But one thing we all share is how much time we have available. We all get the same amount of time every day: 24 hours or 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds. Are you using your time wisely? Or are you wasting it?

According to an American time-use survey and a Gallup poll about sleep, the average American’s day is split up something like this:

Average American Day

Average American Day

After doing the all things you have to do, sleeping, working, chores, you have approximately 5 hours left over. Are you using them to do what you want and love? Or are you wasting these precious hours? 

Let’s explore areas where you might be wasting some time…

Wasting Time #1 - Spending too much time on social media

Let’s start with the most obvious: social media. How much time are you spending on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat…..and the list goes on?

Social media is fun. It’s great to stay in contact and see what others are up to, celebrate their good news and commiserate when things are not going so great. However, there is a dark side to social media and Internet-usage in general:  it is addictive. And because it’s addictive you can go through a withdrawal with symptoms similar to sedative or opioid withdrawal

This addictive quality may explain why the average person will spend 5 years and 4 months on social media in their lifetime. That’s a lot of time and even Facebook has begun to realize that spending too much time on social media is not healthy. Facebook claims that they now less focused on how much time people spend on Facebook and are more interested in ensuring that the time is well spent. As a result they have made changes to their algorithms to display “more meaningful social interactions” in user’s feeds.  

Average time spent on social media

Average time spent on social media


As well as using up a lot of our time, the more you use Facebook, the less satisfied you are with your life and it could also lead to depression.

To reduce your social media usage, you could consider a few options:

  • Deactivate your accounts
  • If that is too much, then take an extended break by temporarily removing the apps from your phone, PC, or laptop.
  • If you have no willpower, or only want to block out social media for some of the day then there are plenty of apps and add-ons to help you.  

Unsure if you want to take a break from social media? Perhaps reading about someone else's experience may help? Rahul Rangnekar has written a great article on his experience since giving up his social media accounts.


Wasting Time #2 - Watching too much TV

If you were surprised at how much time the average person spends on social media during their lifetime, then prepared to be shocked at how much time we spend watching TV: 7 years and 8 months!

Now I’m not suggesting that watching TV is necessarily a waste of time. It can be great to unwind at the end of the day; watching your favorite program, and then chatting about it the next day with friends. However, if you are mindlessly watching TV then you may want to rethink your viewing habits. What else could you be doing that you would enjoy more? Catching up with friends, taking a walk, learning a new hobby? You could use this time to work towards a more long-term goal or dream. The possibilities are almost endless!

Wasting Time #3 - Not sleeping enough

I'm sure we've all experienced this scenario: we don't get enough sleep so the next day we feel sluggish and sleepy. As a result our productivity suffers. A 2011 study supports this and showed that insomnia reduced the productivity of the average US worker by 11.3 days per year.  

Honey: a champion sleeper!

Honey: a champion sleeper!

Basically, not getting enough sleep means that the stuff we have to do, like work, takes us longer. Which means that we may be losing some of our precious leisure time. Therefore a getting 7 - 9 hours of sleep a night will help you to utilize your time much more effectively.


Wasting Time #4 - Checking email too often

Productivity gurus all seem to agree that we should be checking email no more than 3 times a day. Hmm, I struggle to limit checking email to only 3 times an hour! However, they are correct that checking email is a big time suck. I know I spend about 5-10 minutes each time I check my email, so that wasted time adds up fast over an entire day.  So checking email less often would save me a lot of time and reduce interruptions. Now do any of you have any tips to help me only check 3 times a day?


Wasting Time #5 - Getting interrupted by alerts and notifications

You’re in the zone, focused on what you are doing and then “ping!”, you get an alert and your concentration is broken. Or you look at your cell phone and see that little orange number on the Facebook icon letting you know you have a notification. Can you resist opening Facebook to check what it is? Probably not, I know I can’t. 

These alerts and notifications may seem short, but they can waste a lot of time. Research shows that every time you get an alert, even if you just look at it and don’t respond, it’s as distracting as actually answering a call or replying to a text. 

Want less distractions like this? The simple solution is to turn off alerts and notifications on all your apps and email.

Wasting Time #6 - Multitasking

Think you can be on the phone while surfing the web, instant messaging a friend and working on the report that is due by the end of the day? Think again!

According to Clifford Nass, a psychology professor at Stanford University:

“We, so far, have not found people who are successful at multitasking. There's some evidence that there's a very, very, very, very small group of people who can do two tasks at one time but there's actually no evidence that anyone can do even three.”

Not only is it almost impossible to multitask, Clifford Nass also warns about the side effects: 

“The research is almost unanimous, which is very rare in social science, and it says that people who chronically multitask show an enormous range of deficits. They're basically terrible at all sorts of cognitive tasks, including multitasking. So in our research, the people who say they're the best at multitasking because they do it all the time. It's a little like smoking, you know, saying, I smoke all the time, so smoking can't be bad for me. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way…. People who multitask all the time can't filter out irrelevancy. They can't manage a working memory. They're chronically distracted.”

Unfortunately, our brains can only handle one thing at a time. When we think we are multitasking we are really “multi-switching”. Our brain is moving backwards and forwards among the tasks you are working on. Splitting your attention among multiple tasks is why multitasking is more ineffective and takes longer overall than working on one thing at a time.

If you do still want to multitask then choose your tasks wisely. It is possible to successfully multitask if one task is mechanical/non-cognitive and the other uses your brain. For example, chatting on the phone while ironing, or washing-up as you listen to a podcast. Be warned: driving and chatting on the phone does not qualify here - both are cognitive activities!

Overall it is more effective to work on one task at a time. The general advice for single-tasking is as follows:

  1. Make a list and prioritize it.
  2. Set a timer and focus on one thing from the list until the timer goes off.  You can set the timer for 5 minutes, 15 minutes or 25 minutes. The 25 minute option has become famous as the Pomodoro technique
  3. Take breaks. Get up, walk around, get outside. A 5-15 minute break gives your brain some downtime and refreshes it so that you’ll be more productive.


Wasting Time #7 - Always saying Yes

There are many reasons we end up saying yes to requests, even when we really don’t want to:

  • We don’t think we can say no to some people, like our boss
  • We want to please people
  • We feel guilty if we say no
  • We don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings
  • We are not expecting the request
  • We feel we should do it

But once you’ve said yes, you then have to follow through and actually do it – which requires you to spend some of your valuable time. 

So next time you are asked if you can do something, here are some questions for you to ask yourself before you respond:

  • Am I the best person to do this? If not, then suggest someone who is better suited.
  • Do I have the time to do it? If not, then explain why you have to say no.
  • What else could I do with this time?
  • Why am I afraid to say no?
  • Do I want to do it? If it’s something you really don’t want to do, then consider how you can politely decline?


Wasting Time #8 - Doing unnecessary tasks

Think about the tasks and chores that you do. Are all of them really necessary? Do they bring value to you? Sometimes we continue to do tasks because we think we should do them, or it’s become such a habit because you’ve always done it. Someone I know irons their jeans before wearing them and admitted that they weren’t sure why they did this. If you have tasks like this, then you could save yourself some valuable time by asking yourself:

  • Can I eliminate it?
  • Can I reduce the amount of time it takes?
  • Can I reduce the frequency I do it?
  • Can I automate it?
  • Can I delegate it?

So there you have 8 different ways that many of us squander this priceless, limited resource. If you can recognize yourself in some of these examples, maybe you can start to save more time for the things that you really care about.

Where else do you think you are wasting your time? And are you using the time you have to do what you want to do? Share below!

Want to know if you are wasting your money too? Check out these 10 habits that may be costing you money.

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