Whether you work alone at home, or manage a business team of a few thousand employees, you can be almost sure that some employees are wasting time during the work day – and you might be one of them!

Here are 10 major time wasters and how you can avoid them.

1. You don’t have operational procedures

If employees have to figure out how to handle each client interaction on a case-by-case basis, they are spending more time than necessary. Develop written job descriptions. Create a process for handling situations the same way every day, and make sure all employees are trained to use uniform procedures.

2. You put things off

That big report is due next Thursday, but you have a bunch of little tasks, too. It’s easy to put off the big stuff. Procrastination can cost your company money every day. Don’t think about it. Don’t focus on all the other work that needs to be done. Dive in, immerse yourself in the project, and get it off your desk. Stop procrastinating.

3. It’s easier to do it yourself than delegate

Teaching a new employee how to do a complex task takes time and practice. A little patience helps, too. However, once that employee learns how to do that chore, you can delegate it, freeing up more time for your work. Don’t do it all yourself. Delegate to trusted employees and focus on the work that only the business owner or department manager can do.

4. Time is wasted on social media

Social media sites can be an attractive online nuisance. Employees log on to Facebook® or Twitter® when they should be crunching the quarterly numbers. Ask your IT professional to lock employees out of social media sites to get more work done each day.

5. Chatting up co-workers can get out of hand

Sure, it looks like they’re working but, in fact, they’re talking about last night’s ball game. Saying good morning is good, but spreading office gossip wastes time. It can also create morale problems. Create work rules that allow co-workers to share time each day during lunch and breaks, but sticking your head in the door to tell the latest Internet joke is a time waster.

6. Personal business takes time away from your business

Balancing the checkbook, comparison shopping online, ordering holiday gifts on your time – it’s easy to waste time, and chances are, some of your under-performing employees are using part of the work day to get personal business out of the way. Consider installing key logger software on your office system to track how employees spend their work hours. Make sure everyone knows that you’re tracking their online activities. Just knowing they’re being watched will probably help them curb their bad habits. 

7. Longer breaks eat up work time

That 15-minute coffee break turns into a 30-minute fun fest in the break room. Explain to managers and employees the importance of staying focused and keeping work breaks short and sweet.

8. Meetings can be time wasters

Some meetings are necessary, but they can also waste time if you don't have an important reason for holding the meeting, and if you don't prepare properly beforehand. Write the points you want to make (the agenda), leave a little time for Q & A once the agenda items are over, then get back to work. If the meeting isn’t necessary, scrap it. Send an email. Call the stakeholders for a quick conference call. Keep meetings short, and limit the number of meetings.

9. A messy office makes it hard to find the one document you’re looking for

Organize and minimize paperwork. Tidy up desk space. Teach your staff to find information quickly. Again, office procedures can go a long way to cutting this time waster down to size – and get more work done.

10. You don't adopt time-saving technology

Give employees the tools to be more productive. Contact management software (CMS) gives you and your employees a simple screen-driven dashboard to track orders and keep up with the chores for that day. Using tablets or smart phones to keep connected and conduct business on the road can also increase efficiency.

When making any of these changes, make sure your employees understand that they aren’t being punished, and that these steps make the company more efficient and more likely to succeed in the long term. Once time is gone you can’t get it back. Use it wisely, and make sure the staff does the same.