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Hannah Taylor

Time Management Statistics: Understand Where Your Workday Goes

Time always slipping through your fingers? We know that feeling. Get a better grasp of where it goes by checking out the latest time management statistics.

Picture this: you start the workday at 9am with a coffee, a prioritized to-do list, and a spring in your step. You open your email and get to work. Then you blink, and somehow it’s 2pm; you’ve barely scratched the surface of your to-do list, you’ve forgotten to eat lunch, and you’re five minutes late to a meeting!

Sound familiar?

Even if you haven’t experienced this exact sequence of events, we’d be willing to bet you regularly ask yourself, ‘Where does the time go?’ 

In this article, we’re hoping to answer that question by looking at the latest time management statistics. Keep reading to discover the data we’ve compiled on workplace distractions, the impact of implementing a successful time management technique, and more!

Time management and work: general time management statistics

The eight-hour workday is widely accepted as the norm in 2024. Yet, most workers aren’t completing eight hours of work a day. Or anywhere near that number.

In fact, the average worker is productive for less than three hours a day, according to one study. So, where do the other hours disappear to?

How do we spend our time?

Ever wondered how productive the average person is (and how you measure up)? Here’s how people spend and waste time during work hours:

Email. According to McKinsey, 28% of work time is spent reading or replying to emails. 

Social media. One study found that employees use social media for around 40–45 minutes a day for non-work-related reasons, roughly 10% of the working day.

Procrastination. We all procrastinate, especially when avoiding particularly boring or stress-inducing tasks. But did you know that, in the UK, the average employee spends two hours and 11 minutes procrastinating every day? And that 20% of adults are chronic procrastinators?

Personal activities. The Economist found the average US knowledge worker loses 151 hours of focus time per year to personal activities — a number that keeps increasing year on year.

Talking to colleagues. Distracting or irrelevant chat messages takes up around 40 minutes of the average workday, equating to 50% of the total time spent engaging with chat messages.

Meetings. A 2022 study found that meetings take up around 10% of an employee's workweek (4.48 hours), with the average worker attending between 11 and 25 meetings each week.

Admin. Asana reports that workers spend 60% of their day on coordination, leaving 13% for strategic planning and 27% for their skill-based work.

What time management trends are we seeing in workplaces?

Before we dive into the specifics, let’s explore the time management trends affecting modern workers.

Workload overwhelm. Firstly, many workers feel overwhelmed when it comes to workload management. Only 20% feel their workload is under control every day, and 21% feel their work is either never under control or under control just one day a week.

To-do or not to-do. As little as 18% of employees have proper time management systems in place, while the other 82% use a list or their email inbox to manage and complete tasks.

Everyone is wasting time. In one study, almost nine in 10 workers (89%) admitted to wasting time during working hours. 31% said they wasted 30 minutes a day, while 2% wasted five or more hours.

Distraction and time management statistics

U.S. office workers get interrupted up to 11 times an hour, according to Reuters. What’s causing these interruptions? And how do they impact individuals’ productivity and business performance?

What are the most common causes of distraction?

According to Statista, the most common distractions in the workplace are:

  • Chatty coworkers (80%)
  • Office noise (70%)
  • Feeling overwhelmed by work challenges (61%)
  • Meetings (60%)
  • Social media (56%)

This looks a little different for post-pandemic remote workers, who report being distracted by:

  • The need to respond to demands from others in the household (39%)
  • Browsing social media or consuming other media content (31%)
  • Feeling disconnected from colleagues (23%)
  • Technical difficulties with productivity tools (23%)
  • Reading/answering emails (19%)
  • Incoming chat messages (18%)
  • Household-related chores (cooking, cleaning, etc.) (16%)

Despite these distractions, 55% of full-time remote/hybrid workers say working remotely has improved the amount of time spent on deep or independent work, and 60% say it has improved the quality of their deep or independent work.

Context-switching has a significant impact on productivity

Frequent distractions have a huge impact on our productivity. And one of the biggest offenders is email.

  • Email is the primary form of communication for many businesses, with workers receiving around 121 emails a day in 2014.
  • The average worker checks their email around 11 times an hour.
  • Office workers spend around 2.5 hours each day on email-related tasks.

Email is a critical part of modern workplace communication, but frequently pausing work to read or reply to emails and instant messages results in productivity-tanking behavior.

Context-switching, or stopping work to complete another task before returning to the first task, is a huge drain on productivity, though exactly how much time it takes to find focus after switching tasks is up for debate. 

One study found that it takes around nine and a half minutes to return to a focused state after switching between apps, while UC Irvine found refocusing your efforts after just one interruption can take up to 23 minutes. 

When we consider that employees check their email or messages around every six minutes, this adds up to a lot of wasted time. According to The Economist, knowledge workers spend an average of 127 hours per year regaining focus after being interrupted by meetings and emails.

So, what are the consequences of distraction for businesses? Research shows that workplace distractions cost U.S. businesses $588 billion in lost productivity each year, while procrastination costs UK businesses over £21 billion annually.

Meetings and time management statistics

Meetings take up a huge chunk of our workweeks. They’re essential to healthy workplace communication, especially in hybrid environments, but do meetings harm employee productivity? Let’s see what the data says.

Meetings interrupt workflows. A survey by the University of North Carolina discovered that 65% of senior managers found meetings to interrupt their workflow, while 71% considered them unproductive and inefficient.

Meetings reduce impactful work. Kornferry revealed that two-thirds of professionals (67%) find spending too much time in meetings prevents them from making an impact.

Not all meetings are productive. Just 11% of workers feel all their meetings are productive, while 64% of meetings are between 30 minutes and two hours long.

This trend is reversing! On a more positive note, The Economist found that since 2020, time spent in unproductive meetings has reduced from 82 to 78 hours per year.

While it’s clear that meetings aren’t inherently bad, these reports suggest that they can be better managed.

Wellbeing and time management statistics

Would you be surprised to hear that poor time management can negatively impact physical and mental well-being? The effects of poor time management range from short-term issues like tiredness to long-term problems such as employee burnout

For example, 43% of respondents to one study said that regularly switching between tasks tires them out. But the effects don’t end there. 

When we put off completing work, we’re just kicking the can down the road. The work still needs to be done, and employees end up working overtime to keep on top of their workloads, causing a global overreliance on overtime.

In the UK, almost half of employees (49%) work unpaid overtime every week at an average of just over three hours of overtime. In the U.S.A., 52% work more than 40 hours a week, 39% work over 50 hours, and almost one in five work 60+ hours.

But why do so many people find themselves working overtime? A study by Ciphr found that the two most common reasons UK workers stayed late at the office were:

  • ‘I want to stay on top of my work’ (29%) 
  • ‘It just happens / it’s unplanned’ (29%)

While many factors, such as negative workplace cultures and poor resource management, can create conditions where employees are overworked, it’s clear workers can cut down on unnecessary overtime by developing better time management skills.

Technology and time management statistics

It’s time to dig into the good, the bad, and the ugly of time management and tech.

Digital tools are immensely valuable, supporting communication and helping streamline processes — but only when they’re used well. 

Using too many apps destroys productivity

Digital tools are designed to increase productivity, but they can have the opposite effect when workflows rely on too many disjointed solutions. The problem here is twofold.

Firstly, having files and data spread across multiple apps increases the time it takes for employees to find information relevant to their work:

  • Workers waste around 59 minutes every day looking for information in cloud storage systems, message channels, and tabs.
  • 69% say finding the information they need to complete their tasks is time-consuming.
  • Different departments using different apps exacerbate the issue. 55% of employees report that getting information from other departments that rely on unfamiliar apps is time-consuming.

Secondly, using too many apps encourages context-switching behavior, which we know is incredibly distracting.

As a result, 43% of workers say they spend too much time switching between their company’s varying tools and apps, and 45% feel this makes them less productive.

Downtime = wasted time

It isn’t just the number of tools we use that impacts productivity but also their quality. When systems are offline, known as downtime, employees cannot complete their jobs, disrupting workflows and wasting valuable time.

One study found the average office worker wastes at least 24 days of work time each year waiting on slow or outdated hardware or software, while another reported that businesses waste 104 working days a year because of outdated technology, including laptops and applications.

This all adds up: for small businesses, downtime costs between $137 and $427 a minute. These costs can get as high as $9,000 per unplanned outage for large enterprises.

Using technology for good

Thankfully, it’s not all bad news. 92% of employees acknowledge that technology that allows them to work more efficiently increases their job satisfaction.

That doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement, though. 69% of workers believe there are more efficient ways to use online applications in the workplace.

Using the data we’ve reviewed, we’ve compiled our top five tips for boosting time management with technology:

Support task prioritization. One in five (21%) workers want smarter tools that help prioritize their task load based on what’s most important.

Use all-in-one systems. Two-thirds (67%) of employees would find it easier to focus if information from their apps was centralized in one window.

Reduce the number of apps used. Using fewer apps and improving processes could save knowledge workers 4.9 hours each week and directors 5.6 hours.

Invest in collaboration tools. Communication and collaboration tools can impact organization-wide productivity levels. 46% of people feel communication technology will have a high or very high effect on their operations in 2024, while 34% feel the same about online collaboration technology.

Give automation a go. According to The Economist, using automation technology has significant returns for businesses, with 73% believing it has improved their quality of work and 79% saying it has improved their productivity.

How to increase productivity with good time management

Between meetings and water cooler chats, distractions and interruptions are inevitable. What matters is how you deal with them.

Tracking time spent is essential to effective time management

Understanding where our time goes is critical to improving productivity and business success. So, the smartest way to optimize your time management is to analyze where your time is going — which is made possible by automated time tracking tools.

According to PwC, a quarter of organizations valued at $5bn + track time at an hourly level, suggesting a correlation between project time tracking and business success.

However, a large percentage of businesses and individual workers don’t track their time, including a huge 49% of people who have never carried out a time audit and lack an understanding of their utilization as a result. 

Choosing a successful time management strategy

Understanding where your time goes is just one part of the puzzle. Next, you actually need to put plans into action with a proper time management system.

Over four in five people (82%) don’t have a dedicated time management system, increasing their risk of wasting time on low-value tasks. Here are the most common methods of time management:

  • To-do list (33%)
  • Whatever seems most important (25%)
  • Email inbox (24%)
  • Schedule everything in their diary, known as time blocking (12%)
  • Less than 5% use formal time management techniques, such as time boxing, Pomodoro technique, Eisenhower matrix, and Eat That Frog

Yet, not all time management techniques are made equal.

According to data, these are the most efficient time management strategies if you want to improve your time management skills (and we bet you do).

The most successful strategy: Eisenhower matrix. A hugely effective yet underutilized technique, 50% of people who use an Eisenhower matrix to manage their time feel their work is in control every day. This technique uses the four D’s of time management to help with prioritizing tasks and manage heavy workloads.

The runner-up: Pomodoro Technique. The next most effective technique is the Pomodoro Technique, which uses 25-minute bursts of deep work followed by 5-minute breaks to encourage focus. 60% of people who use this method feel their work is under control four to five days a week.

The least effective strategy: Dealing with whatever comes up! Unsurprisingly, failing to prioritize your tasks in any way leads to inefficient workflows.

Ready to find out where your time goes?

Long story short, these time management statistics prove how important it is to know where our workday goes, as understanding how we’re using our time can: 

  • Inform the adoption of time management strategies, helping improve productivity
  • Highlight — and mitigate — the risk of employee stress caused by poor work-life balance
  • Identify inefficiencies and opportunities to improve workflows

But you don’t have to figure this out on your own. Time tracking is a must for individuals or teams looking to master time management skills and is made possible by clever software.

With the support of resource planning software, you can automatically track your team’s working hours and produce insightful reports, helping everyone become more conscious of how they use their time. If you want to cut down on wasted time, improve work-life balances, and create a happier team, try Runn for free today.

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