The 5 biggest timewasters

There’s never enough time in the day. There’s always something important which we are unable to do. Like connecting with our kids or spouse. Or exercising. Or pursuing a hobby. We spend eight hours sleeping, an hour and a half in meals and an hour for our ablutions. We have around 14 hours left. That’s 840 minutes or 50,400 seconds. Just for comparison, reading this article will take you 250 seconds. Something which gives you good value takes 250 seconds. You’ve still got more than 50,000 seconds left. Every day! So, how do we find ourselves so starved of time? By getting sucked into ‘timewasters’. This article looks at the big timewaster culprits. And gives you a simple solution to each timewaster.

Timewaster #1: Mobile phones

Well, this is a superset of the others. Studies show that an average mobile phone user spent 3 hours and 15 minutes on the phone every day in 2019. A top 20% user spends 4.5 hours a day on the phone. We check our phones 58 times a day! Also known as ‘pickups’, checking our phones is the entry point to more involved usage. Checking the time or looking at a notification morphs into a long social media session.


  1. Install a usage tracking app on your phone.  On Android, the best free app I’m aware of is ScreenTime.  There are several others.  On iOS, there’s a native Screen Time application.  You can even set limits on app usage.  You’ll get a nudge once you exceed usage. 
  2. Turn off all app notifications.  Those dings and pings are all designed to entice you to pick up your phone.
  3. Spend at least a couple of hours daily with your phone out of your sight.  Bonus points if the phone is in a completely different room.  Sleeping hours don’t count!
  4. Try to break your record of not touching your phone.  Research says that most people can’t go beyond 1 hour 43 minutes without touching their phones.  It’s a fun record to try to break. 

Timewaster #2: Infinity pools

Real infinity pools can be breath-taking. Virtual infinity pools, not so much. A John Zeratsky construct, these virtual worlds serve you an endless supply of entertainment, news or a peek into other people’s worlds. There’s always more water to swim in.

The biggest infinity pool? Social Media. An almost infinite scroll. And once that’s over, there’s always ‘pull to refresh’. There is no limit to the amount of time you can spend here. Yet, everything (almost) on social media falls under the category of ‘good to know but doesn’t make any difference to my life’. Does a husband wishing his wife a happy anniversary on Facebook make a difference to your life? Or to theirs? Does liking a photo of someone accepting yet another vanity award going to make a difference to their success? Granted, there are some nuggets which you find on social media. But scrolling endlessly through social media isn’t an efficient way to get to them. 

The other big infinity pool is news. We seem to be better informed than at any other time. Everything is breaking news. Our hunger for news is so strong, that fake news outlets do better business than real news outlets. If more information leads you to economic success, journalists would be rich people. They typically aren’t.

Another emerging infinity pool are YouTube videos, TED Talks and podcasts. An infinite pool of information. Also, infinitely addictive.


  1. Delete all social media mobile apps.  Too difficult?  It’s just one moment of strength you need.  It’s easier than exercising willpower every day to get off social media.    
  2. Assign a fixed period to access social media.  Access using a computer.  And be an active ‘unfollower’.  That means you need to keep a keen lookout for people who aren’t providing you value by their updates.  And are using it solely for self-promotion.   
  3. Delete all news mobile apps.  Install the Feedly app.  Add all the sources and topics you want news from.  It’s a more structured way of getting news and opinions.  And you have full control over how much you want access to.  Unlike social media, it doesn’t have an algorithm which gets you into ‘noise bubbles’.  Where you are constantly fed what the algorithm thinks you like. 

Timewaster #3: Email

Email can be another infinity pool.  Batch processing helps.  Schedule 2 or 3 times during the day.  Leave it alone the rest of the time.  Yes, you’ll miss a few ‘urgent’ emails.  But you’ll get way more efficient at sorting and responding to email. 

Timewaster #4: Multitasking

Multitasking wastes time.  Various studies show that we spend 25% more time on a single task, when we’re multi-tasking.  That’s because our brain takes time to re-adjust to a new task.  Multitasking can make you feel like Superman.  People often quote it as their strength.  Yet, doing one task well before moving to another can save you a lot of time. 

Solution: Stop multi-tasking!

Timewaster #5: Worrying

We spend a lot of time worrying.  Worrying about the meeting we’re going to have next week.  Worrying about whether that big customer is going to buy from us.  A little worry is good.  It helps us to prepare well.  Anything more than that leads us into a worry cloud.  Where we start thinking, “What if I mess up my speech?”.  Just that thought can consume your time.  Even while not actively thinking about it. 

Solution: Start living the moment.  Get to know yourself better.  Try meditation.  The Headspace way (book, app) is quick and simple.  Yuval Noah Harari recommends Vipassana.  It needs a much higher investment of time but apparently works wonders.        

Closing thoughts

We have time to do pretty much whatever we want.  It just needs a little focused effort.  And the willingness to say ‘No’ to things that waste your time.  What are you going to do with the time you free up? 

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