3 ways professionals can be more efficient

People with multiple hobbies recognize there are many great ways to spend one’s time. But even people with plenty of ways to pass their time may find themselves wasting time each day, a phenomenon that seems to be growing.

In its 2014 “Wasting Time at Work” survey, Salary.com found that 89 percent of participants acknowledged wasting time at work each day. That marked a sharp increase from a year prior, when 69 percent of workers surveyed reported wasting time at work. Thirty-one percent of workers surveyed admitted wasting roughly 30 minutes per day, while another 31 percent estimated they waste around one hour each day. Perhaps the most surprising finding from the survey was that 4 percent of participants admitted they waste four or more hours, or at least half a typically eight-hour workday, at work each day.

Some people might be wasting time out of sheer boredom, but many may be able to trace all those squandered minutes and hours to inefficiency. For those who count themselves among the latter group, the following tips may help them become more efficient and stop wasting so much time.

1. Make better use of your commute.

Figures from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the average worker spent 26 minutes traveling to work, the most recent year for which the USCB has data. That marks a nearly 20 percent increase in average commute time since 1980. Things aren’t much better in Canada, where the National Household Survey found that the average commuter spends just over 25 minutes traveling to work each day. People who commute via public transportation can use the time they spend going to and from the office to answer emails, review schedules or even work on projects. Commuters who drive themselves to work can consider switching to public transportation or, if possible, move closer to their offices so they spend less time sitting in their vehicles, where they have no choice but to be unproductive.

2. Stop multitasking.

Information is now seemingly always at our fingertips thanks to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. While these devices may theoretically allow workers to become more productive, research suggests otherwise. Professor, researcher and author Gloria Mark with the University of California, Irvine says that activity switching and being frequently interrupted, including self-interruptions like checking social media and email, can lead people to develop short attention spans. That inability to focus for extended periods of time can adversely affect efficiency.

3. Embrace scheduling.

Schedules can help professionals in much the same way that grocery lists help consumers at the grocery store. When visiting a grocery store without a shopping list, shoppers are bound to forget items, necessitating follow-up visits to the store, and waste time wondering what they need. Without schedules in an office environment, workers may allow time to idle away because there are no deadlines motivating them to complete projects.

Taking steps to be more efficient at work can allow businesses and their employees to thrive while ensuring as little time as possible is wasted.