The holidays are over and it’s back to work, and we all know how difficult it is to get your momentum back.

In the first few weeks of January, we will likely feel that there are not enough hours in a day for us to finish our tasks. As part of our new year’s resolution, we are also motivated to be more productive this year. But let’s be frank here. All of us procrastinate as some point, doing unnecessary work and pretty much nothing productive. Despite being clearly aware that we are wasting precious time, we often ignore the nagging voice in our head.

Here are some of the most common time wasters in the office that all of us are guilty of, and how to get out of the rut.

5 most popular procrastination activities

social media wastes time
social media wastes time

1. scrolling through social media

In this digital age, it is no surprise that the use of social media is likely one of the biggest time wasters in the office.

Social media has made us into dopamine-hungry creatures that constantly refresh our Instagram or Facebook feeds with the hopes of experiencing that fleeting but pleasurable sensation. When we received a notification of someone liking or leaving a positive comment on our most recent photo, it releases a ‘feel good’ chemical in our brain which is responsible for that feeling of satisfaction we so desire.

It is impossible to completely abstain from social media, but reducing time spent on these apps is crucial to achieving higher levels of productivity. Unless you work in digital or brand marketing, mindless scrolling will likely not help you meet your KPIs.

Many smartphones have built-in functions to limit your time spent on social media, which will send you ‘warnings’ if you are spending too much time scrolling through your feeds. Apps such as ‘Forest’ or ‘Space’ temporarily block social media apps to help you stay focussed at work. Alternatively, you can turn off your notifications, as those little buzzes are drawing your attention away from the work you know you need to do.

2. watching a video

We all want to be one of the first to watch the latest season of Emmy-winning television shows and cute animal videos. However, that could send you down a black hole of never-ending videos on Youtube and TikTok. And the next thing you know, it has been 30 minutes since you’ve last done some work.

Besides being a distraction, watching videos at work is also a huge productivity killer. It’s impossible to focus on work when there is a video playing in the background. Some companies might also take a strict stance with regards to employees abusing the privilege of internet use at work.

If you want to watch a video that your friend has shared with you, it’s best to wait until lunchtime or after office hours. It also helps build the anticipation and gives you something to look forward to after a long day at work.

3. gossiping

If you don’t plan on watching ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ at work, make sure you’re not keeping up with office gossip either.

It could be tempting to engage in office gossip, as you may feel like you are part of an inner circle with access to privileged information. However, we all have a part to play in not creating an unhealthy and toxic environment that thrives on gossip. Avoiding water cooler talk altogether may not be feasible, but you can limit your conversations to topics that do not cross professional boundaries. Instead of commenting on someone else’s looks or personal dating life, you can share more about your weekend plans or recipes and cool new hangouts with your colleagues.

4. thinking about what to eat

If you are an indecisive person, or surrounded by equally-hesitant people, deliberating your lunch options might just be one of the biggest time wasters in the office.

Scrolling on food delivery apps for 10 minutes every day adds up in the long run, and even more so if you have regular brainstorming sessions about what to eat for lunch. So if you do not want your lunch hour to overrun because you’re spoilt for choice, pass the buck to someone else who is more decisive.

5. doing nothing at all

It’s true - there are moments that we sit in front of our laptops and do absolutely nothing at all. While this can be easily brushed off as procrastination or a symptom of fatigue, it could also be a red flag indicating a loss of interest for your job.

If you would rather do nothing at all and wait for 6pm so you can leave office than clear your to-do list, than you might have lost the passion and excitement that you initially had when you first joined the company. Perhaps it’s time to consider a new employer that can offer you a new purpose and reignite your passion.

‘time is precious, waste it wisely’

Although commonly seen as the enemy of productivity, distractions may very well be a good thing sometimes. Our brains have a limited ability to focus, and we can’t pay attention to everything that is happening around us all the time. Taking short breaks can help you refocus and may actually help improve your productivity, allowing your brain some rest.

However, if you do not feel like you are being productive at work anymore and can’t seem to find the drive and passion to get back in to it, perhaps it’s time for a new environment.

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