Do you regularly leave work with a sense of niggling dissatisfaction that you haven’t got everything done that you’d hoped to do? You’re not alone. Social media, your phone, even colleagues chatting to you over the water cooler – these are all ‘time thieves’ that steal the working day from us. Try this free time management test to see how much time you waste on these distractions!

If you want to stay on schedule and ensure that deadlines are met, you need to eliminate those time thieves from your life – but don’t worry, you don’t need to throw your phone out, ban yourself from Twitter, and work in complete silence! You simply need to learn how to manage distractions.

With some effort and commitment, you can maintain focus on work and get things done at a steady pace. The first step is to understand what these time thieves are, how they can impact productivity and compromise your career.

Here’s a list of time thieves and how to cope with them:

  1. Disorganisation

Being organised comes naturally to some people – but not at all to others! When you’re organised, it’s easier to determine which task needs to be focused on next, how it needs to be done and how much time it will take. If you don’t plan things well, it will lead to uncertainty, and most of your time and energy will be spent making task and schedule-related decisions.

How to deal with it: Create a schedule and work from to-do lists. You could use a planning app like Workflowy or even a good old planner book to organise your day. Take a look at the amount of work that you need to complete each day and schedule the most complex and time-consuming tasks for the morning (or whenever you are most productive) and the easy ones for the end of the day when you’re tired. That should help you stay on top of your work. 

  1. Lack of clear goals

You need goals to keep you on track and ensure you’re getting your work done. Lack of goals will lead to conflicts, lack of focus, mistakes, and delays. In contrast, when you have a clear goal in mind, it’s easier to create a path leading to it. That reduces the amount of time and effort needed to get the job done and helps you remain productive.

How to deal with it: Make note of everything you want to achieve with your work or project and identify the end goals. Divide them into three clear categories: short-term goals, medium-term goals, and long-term goals, before creating a plan for them. Review these goals regularly and revise them if needed. 

  1. Hesitance to delegate

With so much competition in the workplace, and the fear of redundancy ever-present, some people become stared of delegating tasks assigned to them. In an attempt to go the extra mile in order to prove their worth in the office, they end up adding to their workload and stress. Not only can this cause problems in your schedule, but it can also compromise the quality of your work.

How to deal with it: Identify what can be delegated and delegate it! Your superiors will actually see it as a waste of your time if you’re doing work that could be delegated to a junior colleague instead of working to your own full potential. This will free you up to work on more important jobs that will further your career.

  1. Lack of focus and concentration

If you’re working late and not getting enough sleep, or perhaps not sleeping because you’re stressed about work, you’re stuck in a negative cycle that will see you struggling more at work as a consequence of being over-tired. Personal and professional stress can have a big impact on productivity and focus, which is why it’s necessary to address stress-related issues as soon as you notice them instead of trying to work your way through it.

How to deal with it: If you’re unable to focus consistently, take a step back from work and identify the root cause of the problem. Ask yourself why you’re unable to focus and look at the different kinds of stresses that surface in your daily life. Once you’ve identified the problem, you can tackle it using whatever method seems most suitable, from seeing a counsellor to exercising more to reducing your hours at work. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re struggling. Try Mind in the UK or Mental Health America. 

  1. Procrastination

If you’ve got a lengthy, difficult, or boring task ahead of you, and find yourself doing the dishes or browsing Twitter instead of doing it, you’ve fallen victim to this most common of time thieves! The more challenging you find the thought of working on a particular project, the more you’re more likely to put it off as much as possible. 

How to deal with it: Dealing with procrastination requires commitment and effort. You need to organise the day’s schedule, identify habits that result in procrastination and work towards eliminating them. Schedule tasks you’re most likely to procrastinate over first and the more interesting projects for later. That will motivate you to work on the tedious task first and get it done quickly so you can get to the good stuff!


  1. The Internet/communications technology

The internet can be an incredibly useful professional tool – but it’s also the biggest cause of distractions in the modern world! Social media, phone calls, emails, messages, etc are all part-and-parcel of everyday life, but you have to be incredibly strict not to let them mess with your work schedule – and millions of workers are failing at this!

How to deal with it: The best way to deal with the problem is to place your phone on silent, disable all social media alerts, and ask friends and family not to call or send messages during work hours unless absolutely necessary. Schedule small intervals in your daily plans where you check your messages and catch up with the news. That will help you focus better.

Eliminating these time thieves from your life won’t be easy – you’ll have to work at it! But making a conscious effort to keep distractions at bay will improve your productivity and quality of work so much that you’ll reap the rewards in no time. Praise from your boss, less stress, better sleep, maybe even a pay rise or promotion – all this could be yours! So don’t delay – start attacking those time thieves now!

Ashley Andrews is an Inbound Marketing Strategist at Activia Training, a UK-based training provider specialising in improving delegates’ workplace performance in business skills, management development and IT applications. Ashley is passionate about sales and management issues, and regularly blogs about these – and many other topics – on the Activia blog.



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