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20 Tips to Reduce Time Wasters

Time wasters are a frequent source of frustration for most of us. When we recognize them! Here are some tips to help you spot time wasters. Plus some quick actions to reduce time wasting activity, and its effect on your work.

Read our tips on reducing low value activities, so you can concentrate on the things that produce meaningful results!

Do you want to know how to reduce time wasters in a minute? This is one of our Manage in a Minute pages. These contain essential tips on fundamental management topics. No fuss or side-tracks, they get straight to the point.

Here, in a series of bullet points which can be read in a minute (ish!)., are some essentials ways to eliminate activities that waste you time.

5 Tips Before You Start!

Before you start, ask yourself five simple questions:

  • Why are we doing this? Only do something if it needs to be done, fits in with your objectives, and can be justified with clear outcomes which provide benefit.
  • Are our objectives SMART? Specific, measurable, achieveable, relevant, time-bounded.
  • Is it clear which activities deliver results? In relation to our objectives. Remember the 80/20 rule.
  • Is this activity reviewed regularly? Anything run by human beings will tend towards complexity. Reducing time wasters is an ongoing activity.
  • Are we confusing activity with productivity? Or allowing others to do so.

5 Ways to Reduce Your Time Wasters

Here are some simple steps to take to help reduce your own wasteful activity. It’s easy for busy managers to be distracted by low value activities and tasks. Things that don’t really produce optimum use of your valuable time. What should you do?

  • Time wastersAsk yourself: why am I doing this. The best and most effective way to deal with time wasters is not to do the task.
  • Get someone else to do it. If it has to be done then find someone else to do it. Work to your strengths and agenda.
  • Do it quickly! Low value activities can usually be done to acceptable standards quite quickly. Don’t waste precious time on things that don’t really matter.
  • Simplify then automate. If the activity needs to be done make it as easy as possible, then automate it. Develop and implement simple, standard procedures.
  • Do low value activities when your energy is low. Schedule your most meaningful work for times when you feel most productive.

5 Ways to Reduce Staff Time Wasters

Whether they phone you, come into your office, or stop you in the hall, make sure you watch out for time wasters when dealing with your people.

  • Watch the clock. Not theirs, yours! Remember, it’s your time they’re taking so stay conscious of time passing.
  • Allocate time. Whether the meeting is informal or formal, state how long you can give and stick to it!
  • Get to the point. As quickly as possible summarize the purpose of the discussion and decide if it requires immediate or deferred action. Preferably theirs!
  • Ask why? Nicely and often, especially if you are being asked to do something. Beware of “upward delegation”.
  • Say no! Nicely and often, as often as is needed to keep your time under control.

5 Ways to Reduce Your Boss Time Wasters

Firstly your boss will need your time and that is legitimate. What isn’t legitimate is an over loading, or wasting of your time.

So what things can you do, and what do you need to look out for?Tell your boss when you are reaching saturation point.

  • Make your boss aware of the consequences if she tries to overload you: “yes I could get that done by then, but that would delay this…”
  • Don’t say yes to everything your boss asks you to do, negotiate!
  • Ask your boss to prioritise when she gives you a list of tasks.
  • When asked to do something: find out details and, if possible, say you’ll get back to her, or take a look at it. Then:

Work out what the job involves;

Find out who else could be involved;

Go back with an answer – “here’s what I can do”.

If you do have the time to read more on this topic, follow the full discussion in our article: Manage your Boss. Or look at other detailed discussions on some of our related articles on time management.

Still pressed for time? Follow this link for the full list of Manage in a Minute pages.

Tools to reduce time wasters

Beating busyness …

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If you want some practical tips and tools to deal with time wasters, go to our guide Managing Time and Priority. The guide expands on the tips in this article and includes some excellent tools to help you eradicate time wasters. It will help you to:

  • Assess your time priorities and manage your actions.
  • Develop coping strategies to avoid the limitations of “busyness”.
  • Manage the impact of other people’s demands on your time.
  • Develop approaches to “getting things done”. Apply practical tools to managing priorities and time, to get the right things done.
  • Help others to manage their time.


  • Tool 1: Commitments summary
  • Tool 2: Time log
  • Tool 3:Time analysis
  • Tool 4: Time planning with task filters
  • Tool 5: Task priorities

Where to go from here:


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