5 time wasters draining team productivity that you could be automating

by Katy Beloof

As initiatives get bigger and headcounts get smaller at large organizations, business leaders are challenged to do more with less. Despite their best efforts, it’s easy for productivity to tank when time-wasting workplace conventions and habits continue.

Common unproductive tasks can lead workers to spend less than half of their time on their main jobs, and research suggests that in an eight-hour day, the average worker is only productive for around three hours a day, according to Thrive Global.

Here’s a look at five time-wasters that are draining your team’s productivity and taking time away from creative and innovative work, and what you can do to help them get more high-value work done.

1. Constantly checking email

Is your team spending more time than you think on email? Harvard Business Review reports that the average professional spends 28% of their workday reading and answering email, with the average full-time worker spending 2.6 hours and receiving 120 messages per day.

Still, email doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. According to the State of Enterprise Collaboration report, despite the rapid adoption of collaboration tools, 58% of IT decision makers have seen increased email usage at their companies.


messages and emails

It’s unlikely your team is trying to waste their time in email. Maybe they’re worried that someone might need something from them and they don’t want to leave anyone in the lurch. Or they are waiting for information from someone else, so they keep checking back. Or perhaps you’ve set the expectation that you can immediately get a hold of them through email.

Collaborative work management (CWM) platforms can help reduce the reliance on email to manage projects by giving teams a space to organize and manage their work outside of their inbox. According to The Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Collaborative Work Management Tools For The Enterprise, Q4 2018, CWM platforms “enable organizations to build workspaces that plan and track progress for both repeatable process-driven activities and artifact driven workstreams,” helping teams to “tailor planning and collaboration capabilities that work for them.”

2. Attending status update meetings

How much time does your team spend in ineffective status update meetings? You know the kind. Everyone gets into a room to discuss what they’ve been working on, where they are on a project, and what they’re going to work on next — while taking time away from actually doing the work.

If you’re having your team spend an hour getting updates on things that may or may not be relevant to the work they’re doing, it’s time to reconsider your approach. A work execution platform like Smartsheet can help show the status of every element of the project in one place, without gathering everyone for a standup.

Not only that, but with Smartsheet you can also easily automate status update requests, so stakeholders immediately know what information you’re looking for and where to put it. You can also create a status report that’s automatically sent out to key stakeholders each week to show them that your projects are on track.

3. Reminding people of deadlines

Are you or your team members spending time reminding people of upcoming deadlines and checking in to make sure work is on track? Not only does this contribute to the volume of unproductive email, but it’s also not a very productive use of your time.



There is a way to help your team and cross-functional collaborators stay on top of their deadlines. You can create automated reminders in Smartsheet based on the milestones or due dates laid out in your project plan and schedule, content marketing calendar, product launch plan, etc. For example, you can have Smartsheet automatically send a reminder to those responsible and accountable for a task three days before it’s due, and another on the day it’s due.

4. Searching for information

Searching for the information they need to get their work done can be a significant time-waster for your team. Workers on average spend 36% of their day looking for and consolidating information, according to CMS Wire. But 44% of the time, they can't find the information.

There is a way to get all of the information everyone needs to complete a project or manage a process in one place.  The Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Collaborative Work Management Tools For The Enterprise, Q4 2018, CWM platforms “serve as the work system of record for teams, especially those that contribute to the creation of digital content.” CWM platforms also integrate with content management solutions such as Box, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive for Business, so updated content is associated with the designated workspace or task and easily available to the entire team. This further helps to reduce time wasted searching for attachments in email.

5. Reacting to interruptions

According to the American Psychological Association, “even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40% of someone's productive time.” Some of these interruptions might be of a more social nature, but they often take place in the form of a search for information, project status update request, or an attempt to track down approvals to keep a project moving forward.

By automating repetitive, manual tasks such as approvals, status updates, and reminders, your team can help cut down on those interruptions. People can respond when they have a moment, without being actively interrupted. You may also want to establish and communicate “interruption-free” blocks of time with your team so they can have some time that’s free from interruptions for deep work.

Create more time for high-value work.

Take a look at the time wasters your team is facing, and see what solutions you can implement to help them take back the time for high-value work. Not only will your team be happier, they’ll also be more impactful.