Five Common Time-Wasters and How to Avoid Them

Health Writer

According to an article "Average Worker Wasting 2 Hours a Day" [2005, July 12, Associated Press], the average worker wastes more than two hours each day, not including their lunch hour. Supposing that you waste only one hour each day, rather than two, including weekends. This comes out to 365 hours, or 45 eight-hour days. Imagine how much you could accomplish in just one year by reducing the number of wasted hours each week.

Below are five of common time wasters and some tips on how to overcome them and find more time to accomplish your goals and enjoy yourself.

Not Setting Priorities or Planning Effectively

Whether at home or at work, setting goals and having priorities can help you to complete more in less time. Creating a list of "things to do" with checks next to the most important items is one way of completing what needs to be done. Other methods may include color-coding tasks and projects in the order of the most important.

Writing down goals can also help. Each morning, decide on one important task or goal to be completed that day. Becoming overwhelmed with trying to accomplish too many things is a common problem for people with ADHD. By limiting yourself to one goal at a time, you eliminate the overwhelm you may feel trying to accomplish an entire list of "things to do."

In addition to writing down goals, breaking projects down into smaller tasks can work well. Imagining a complete project without determining the steps needed to complete it often create overwhelm and creates undone or unfinished projects. Instead, break a project down into small tasks and set a goal to complete one task at a time.

Drop in Visitors or Interruptions

It happens all the time at work, a co-worker stops to talk "for just a minute" and ends up chatting, or the phone rings and you take too long talking about things that have no relevance to the tasks you are completing. It is important to say "no" when unexpected things come up and will disrupt your schedule or ability to complete your tasks. If the person interrupting needs to be addressed, begin the conversation with "I only have five minutes" to discuss this and then stick to the time limit.

If it is the phone that continuously interrupts you, turn off the ringer until it is convenient for you to answer the phone. If you are working on a task, complete the task and then listen to messages and return calls at that time.

Other tips to help curtail time spent with unexpected visitors: stand up to speak with them, this will help keep you aware of the time rather than sitting comfortably or rearrange your office so that you are not looking outward and will not see co-workers as they pass by and be tempted to talk with them.

For phone calls: keep a timer on your desk and set it for a certain amount of time each time you are on the phone to help limit the amount of time you spend talking, ask callers if you can email them instead of taking the time to explain, schedule time each day to return calls and at other times during the day, ignore the phone ringing.


Putting off tasks or making decisions can waste time. You may spend entirely too long thinking about the different options or become overwhelmed with choices, therefore stopping yourself from making a decision. Instead, make a choice and keep your options open in case the first option does not work out the way you hoped.

For more information: Procrastination in Adults with ADHD

Inability to Say "No"

Completing tasks we did not want to do or completing tasks for other people because of the inability to say "no" wastes so much time. You may take on extra work at work or in your personal life. Saying "no" may be one of the best things you can do to give yourself extra time each day to do those things you enjoy and to spend more time with people you want to be with.

For more information: Tips to Saying No


How much time to you spend looking for misplaced items or sorting through paperwork to find something you need. Disorganization is one of the most complained about weaknesses for adults with ADHD. There are numerous ideas and tips to help keep you organized. If all else fails, consider hiring a coach or a professional organizer to help. Another option is to hire a high school student to come over after school and work on keeping paperwork in your home or office filed and organized to eliminate hours of wasted time.

You might also be interested in: Ten Tips for Improving Work Performance


"Average Worker Wasting 2 Hours a Day," 2005, July 12, Associated Press

"Common Time Wasters", 2008, April 7, Bill Fitzpatrick,

'Some Common Time-Wasters", 2008, City of Denver