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Productive People Avoid These 9 Time-Wasters Like the Plague

How successful you are, both in your career and at home, is hugely dependent on how productive you are. It’s your productivity that will determine the results you get and what you achieve. This will determine how much and how quickly you keep moving forward in life. The achievement could be anything. Hitting targets at work or crossing something off your to-do list at home. As long as you are accomplishing something, life will progress. If you’re not achieving anything, you risk becoming stagnant – which ultimately can only ever result in feeling stuck, purposeless and unfulfilled.

The benefits of productivity are many. It could lead to greater promotional or career opportunities at work, or a higher salary. It might give you more free time to do the things you enjoy, like spending time quality time with the kids or friends. Or more time to focus on your health. Not only that but the sense of direction and purpose can be great for confidence and self-esteem. And the pleasure experienced once those goals have been achieved can be exhilarating for many.

Staying as productive as possible is by no easy feat. Particularly with modern technology seemingly giving you nowhere to hide so you can focus on your tasks.

Really productive people are focused on their goals and refuse to entertain anything that could stand in their way. They know how to maximise their time and avoid time-wasters like the plague.

If you know you’re not as productive as you could be, it’s time to take a brutally honest look at how you’re currently spending your day. What time-wasters are you entertaining that are preventing you from being a lean, (mean) productive machine?

1) Answering emails (or social media messages) as soon as you receive them

Whether it’s first thing in the morning, continuously throughout the day or last thing at night. This is a sure-fire way to be distracted from your goals. Set up an autoresponder if you can and then only check and respond to your emails / messages twice or three times a day e.g. at 11am and 4pm. Spend the earlier hours of the morning planning and focusing on getting your important tasks accomplished. And unless you want insomnia, don’t answer emails at least two hours before bed.

2) Looping

This is where you go from one website or social media site to the next. And then the next. And then the next. Until you come back to the first site and repeat the same loop all over again. This is textbook procrastination. Normally driven by a desire to avoid the pain associated with the task at hand (e.g. boredom or fear of not knowing how to do it properly). Once you recognise why you’re avoiding the task, you can start to think of solutions that will make that task less painful (e.g. playing some music or asking someone for help).

3) Going to meetings with no agreed objectives

Pointless meetings that go on for longer than an hour can be the bane of any professional trying to optimise their productivity. Always see if the problem can be solved by a quick phone call first. If not, ask for the meeting organiser to set clear objectives for the meeting and send them out in advance so you can prepare and make the best use of the time required – which should be no longer than 30 minutes.

4) Writing long emails

Spending 10 – 15 minutes filling an email with as much detail as possible is not just a waste of your time but also the recipient’s. People simply don’t have time to read an essay. Either pick up the phone or write an email about 5 sentences long, focusing on the most crucial elements to save time.

5) Helping people with their work to avoid yours

I actively encourage people to help others in the workplace. It’s great for bonding and for your reputation within the company as a team player. However, helping others to avoid your own work is just another form of procrastination. Figure out what you are trying to avoid and take the necessary steps to fix it.

6) Not prioritising

Procrastination and/or low productivity can sometimes be a result of overwhelm. By writing a to-do list first thing in the morning, and then prioritising your tasks, you can help reduce that feeling of being pulled in all directions. Focus on the important stuff first, and work out what can be left until later.

7) Being attached to your phone

Whether it’s taking every single call at all times of the day, or using it to check emails, WhatsApp and social media – being attached to your phone 24/7 will not only destroy your productivity but also your relationships. Leave your phone in your office when you take a break or go into a meeting. And definitely take time to disconnect in the evenings and on weekends. Your sanity will depend on it.

8) Not blocking your time

Doing something for as long as it takes is not the best strategy for optimising productivity. By blocking your time for each task e.g. 20 minutes to write a report or 5 minutes to reply to emails makes most effective use of your time. And the added deadline also helps you to stay focused.

9) Being a control freak

You think nobody else will be able to do the task up to your standards and don’t delegate. Or you do, but then spend most of your time micromanaging the person you delegated it to. This perfectionist mentality is not sustainable and will eventually blow up in your face. Not only will you burn out, trying to do everything to an impossible standard, but you will also alienate those around you. Either through your constant criticism or by not giving them the opportunity to learn. If you want to be productive and happy – delegation is the key.

If you’re not being productive – ask yourself what is really stopping you? Is it simply a time management issue? Or is it a bigger challenge such as being demotivated in a job you no longer enjoy? If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to make a change….

How do you ensure you’re being productive throughout the day? Please feel free to comment and share your tips below.

If you liked this article you might also enjoy:

8 Tips for Staying Motivated When You’re Not Enjoying Your Job

The Workplace Habits Stopping Your Career in its Tracks

For further advice on how to build the career you really want, please visit or email me at

About the Author

Zeta Yarwood is recognised as a leading Career Coach and NLP Life Coach in Dubai, helping individuals across the world to achieve success in all areas of their lives. With a degree in Psychology and over 10 years’ experience in coaching, management and recruitment – working for multinational companies and award-winning recruitment firms – Zeta is an expert in unlocking human potential. Passionate about helping people discover their strengths, talents and motivation, Zeta lives to inspire others to dream big and create the life and career they really want.

For further information and inspiration, please visit or follow on Twitter @zetayarwoodLinkedin or Facebook