The Most Common Ways You’re Stealing Time From Yourself

4 minute read

Have you ever made it to 2pm only to realise that you haven’t accomplished anything you planned to? Sure, you probably answered loads of emails, checked Twitter, caught up on the news, tidied up your desk, organised your desktop files and made at least four cups of coffee. But there’s still a mounting to-do list and very little time to get it done. So what happened? Where did all that time go?

It’s easy to get into a routine where you mindlessly waste your day away. That’s not to say you aren’t being productive; it’s just that you’re not focusing on the right things. You’re easily distracted. But when these unconscious habits slow us down, it can make it hard to catch up by the end of the day.

The good news? There are ways to overcome these bad habits. It’s just about changing little things throughout your day that can easily distract you. Let’s explore four bad habits that may be stealing your time.

The Most Common Ways You’re Stealing Time From Yourself

1. Having the firm believe you’re not a ‘morning person’

Are you the sort of person that hits the snooze three our four times before you finally peel yourself out of your warm, cosy bed? Or maybe you plan everything perfectly to get up with just enough time to run out the door and make it to the office by nine. While that extra bit of sleep sounds nice, there’s a lot to be gained from getting up an hour or two earlier and taking full advantage of that time before work.

Now, we know that’s easier said than done. But many studies have proven that early risers are not just more proactive and agreeable, they’re actually more prone to success. If you wake up an hour earlier, you have time to eat a healthy breakfast and catch up on the news at home rather than in the office. You can pack your lunch, take care of household tasks, exercise or just have a moment to yourself. That means you start your day out with less stress and more time for your self.

It also means that the first hour in the office isn’t spent eating breakfast and making cups of tea. Instead, you can dive straight in and start your day.


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2. Not knowing how to prioritise your time

Work can quickly pile up, especially during busy periods in the office. Maybe you’ve got a fundraising event coming up or maybe you’re starting to plan for Christmas campaigns. It’s important to get organised and stay on top of what needs to be done and when, otherwise it can be easy to lose the plot.

If you want control, you need to keep track of your time. Studies have shown that people perform better when they write tasks down, so make a list of tasks and deadlines then analyse the time you need. According to psychologist Dr David Cohen, to-do lists are effective becuause they give us structure, dampen anxiety and help us measure what we’ve achieved. So put it on your list, no matter how small, becuase the satisfaction of ticking it off can be just what you need to keep going.

But make sure you know which ones need to get done first. In Eat That Frog! author Brian Tracy explains a ‘frog’ is the most difficult item on your to-do list. If you deal with it first, you will then have more time and energy for your other tasks. If not, the ‘frog’ will be hanging over you while you do all the less important items on your list.

The Most Common Ways You’re Stealing Time From Yourself

3. Setting far too many meetings

When you work in a collaborative setting, meetings are inevitable. Whether that’s daily team catch-ups or brainstorms for the next big project, talking it out with a group can spark creative ideas you may not have thought of otherwise. But when you’re sitting through three or four meetings a day, it starts to take a toll on your workload.

So ask yourself, do I REALLY need to be in all of these meetings?

According to TED speakers David Grady and Jason Fried, almost 34% of all meetings end up as wasted time. Many businesses have a bad habit of setting a meeting when a quick chat would suffice. And more often than not, people throw attendees onto the roster even if they don’t need to be there.

So don’t be afraid to duck out if you have too much to do. If it’s a daily catch up, give your apologies and send a quick email to the team to let them know what you’re up to. We often blindly accept meeting requests without thinking about it. But when a deadline is looming, it’s more important to prioritise the things that need to get done.



4. Being glued to your smartphone and social media

Did you know the average UK citizen checks their smartphone 28 times a day?

Modern life is full of distractions. There’s always something going on, and social media apps have been designed to be addicative, rewarding us when we check our feeds and engage. And its hard not to be tempted when our phones are always within reach.

But there are ways to cut down smartphone useage in the office. Of course, the most effective is to simply turn it off. But not everyone has the luxury of disconnecting, especially if you have family that might need to contact you in an emergency. Instead, put it in a drawer or in your bag so it’s out of sight but you can still hear it if someone needs to reach you.

You can also change your app settings so you don’t get banner notifications every time there’s a new tweet or someone comments on one of your posts.

And if you absolutely cannot avoid checking social media in the office, try to keep it professional and related to the topics you’re working on. Follow charity professionals on twitter, engage with users on CharityConnect or even search hashtags that are related to projects you’re working on. That way, you’re being inspired, not distracted.

The Most Common Ways You’re Stealing Time From Yourself

Change your habits, change your life

Making drastic changes to your habits may sound like a tall task, but it doesn’t have to all happen at once. Start small by getting up 20 minutes earlier or setting up alerts for daily screen time usage on your mobile. Then build on that, and see how it impacts your productivity.

Got any other tips on how to better manage your time in the office? Share them with us in the comment section below.


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