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5 Ways To Finally Stop Wasting Your Time

No, you don't have to give up Facebook forever. Here's how to find out what's eating your time and put a stop to it.

We’ve all had days like this: After running late to work, we get caught by that chatty co-worker for a half-hour only to return to our desks to do some online research and end up down the YouTube rabbit hole. The morning’s shot. It’s going to be another late night to make up for the lost time.

It doesn’t have to be that way, says Gilbert, Arizona, time management expert and life coach Steve Chandler, author of Time Warrior—and you don’t even have to swear off social media to gain back control. Mastering the hours in your day comes from a deeper level of understanding and confidence. Here are five ways to take back your time.

1. Get some data.

Track your time for a few days, noting how you’re spending your hours and on what tasks, Chandler says. And don’t fudge the numbers. The only person to whom you’re accountable is you. As you begin to see how your days typically shape up, observe what really has to be done during the course of your day and what you’re doing because it’s a habit or because someone asked you to take on a task, but it wasn’t really necessary. Then, you have the insight to break patterns, he says.

2. Get the information you need.

Contrary to popular belief, Candy Crush isn’t the biggest time-waster out there. The biggest issue is not being clear about what you have to do, says Maura Thomas, creator of and author of Personal Productivity Secrets. When we don’t have clear direction or information, we waste hours trying to figure out what we’re supposed to be doing during our day.

When you find yourself pausing, you’re more likely to procrastinate or avoid the task, while finding ways to distract yourself. Instead, when you find yourself stuck, get information from your manager, colleagues or other essential resources for greater clarity. If a task is so large it’s hard to see where to begin, break it down into smaller steps that make more sense, she adds.

3. Prioritize like it’s the day before vacation.

Think about your day as if you leave tomorrow on a long cruise with no Internet connection. What do you do? What do you delegate? What do you ditch? Suddenly, you’re hyper-aware and more efficient because the stakes are higher, Chandler says. You’re not spending time on things that don’t need to get done.

4. Honor the habits that work.

If your morning ritual is to grab a cup of coffee, sit down, and answer email and check in on Facebook, that may be what you need to do to "warm up" and ease into each day, Chandler says. Social media and other online activities are only problems if they’re getting in the way of getting things done, he says. Be honest with yourself about how much time you’re spending there and whether it’s a tool or a time-suck.

5. Stop people-pleasing.

Chandler says the biggest time waster of all is trying to please people at the expense of your own productivity. Attending meetings you don’t need to attend, taking phone calls you don’t need to take, and fielding tasks that don’t need to be done all in an effort to get people to like you can eat hours out of every day, he says. Learn how to say "no" graciously without worrying that someone won’t like you, and you’ll reclaim large blocks of time.

"Most of our time-wasters result from a courage problem, not a time problem," he says.

[Image: Flickr user BA_Banks]

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  • Randeep Kaur

    Thank you, I especially liked "Candy Crush isn’t the biggest time-waster out there. The biggest issue is not being clear about what you have to do". It makes sense. Even after I deleted all the games from my phone, I still end up wasting tons of time.

  • This is so helpful - thank you, Gwen. One thing that jumps out at me from this piece is this:

    "When we don’t have clear direction or information, we waste hours trying to figure out what we’re supposed to be doing during our day."

    I know the things that have to get done - I just don't have a clear understanding of the time involved or how to get them done, without all the other stuff getting in the way. I feel like my day is one big mass of putting out fires or tending to inbox items, etc.

    I'll start keeping a time log and see where it all gets flittered away.

  • "Get some data"... so easy to say, but so difficult to do. The hard part of tracking how you work is that you're busy working. Fortunately, there's CreativeWorx TimeTracker -- the world's first automated solution for capturing time that integrates directly with the Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and more. The free Adobe extension is available at, so creative professionals can get accurate data...and save time in the process!

  • Rudi Petry

    I'm so glad to see an article on this subject that actually provides practical, useable solutions that are more than just common sense. Thank you!

  • Digna Mejia

    Great article... Double spell check next time "manger". Please keep the good work...

  • Oh I do like point 3, the day pre-holiday is always manic. But rather stressful, not sure I could handle that every day! Nicola