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Beware Time Suck

Wasting Time: Clock in Trash CanEvery day, I have a plan to come home from work and get in two or three solid hours studying for my CPA exam. I always leave work with good intentions. I tell myself that I will head straight home, fire up my laptop, avoid any unnecessary internet surfing, and immediately open my CPA study software.

Sometimes I do just that. Other times, however, I fall victim to the latest phenomenon in productivity (or the lack thereof) commonly referred to as time suck.

What Is Time Suck?

Time sucks are just what they sound like: unproductive activities that suck away at your time, leaving you with little time to accomplish what you actually want to get done.

Sound familiar? That’s because, at some point or another, everyone suffers from time suck. Everyone has their own vices that waste precious hours of the day. Whether it’s browsing Facebook, surfing funny videos on YouTube, watching Office reruns that you’ve seen so many times you can recite every word, or otherwise aimlessly wandering through your day.

Time suck activities themselves aren’t necessarily the problem; it’s the amount of time we spend on these activities on a daily basis. Time suck activities are so devilish because they appear innocent at first, seducing you with seemingly harmless fun. You convince yourself that you’ll just briefly check your e-mail or check Twitter for new replies. When you find yourself in the same place 30 minutes later, however, time suck has you.

But time sucks isn’t just a productivity issue; time is money. If worthless activities waste too much of your valuable time, in the long run these activities will waste your money, too. Because instead of powering through your DVR on a nightly basis, you might be able to use some of that time to work on freelance work, plan ahead for birthday or wedding gifts, or start organizing your life. Or, instead of working non-stop all day, you could replace all your time-sucked hours with activities that you actually enjoy and thrive on (think reading, writing, crafts, sports, fitness etc.).

Fighting Time Suck

Before you can battle the time suck monster, you’ve got to identify your personal time sucks. One person’s time suck might be surfing Websites, another’s TV channel surfing, a third’s Facebook and Twitter.

Once you know what your personal time suckers are, take some steps to try to avoid getting sucked in so you can get more out of your day. Try some of these steps to take control of your time:

  • Avoid your time suck all together. Addicted to texting? Turn off your phone. Addicted to napping? Walk away from the bed.
  • Allow for time sucks later in the day. Like I mentioned earlier, activities that can become time sucks aren’t inherently bad. So if browsing through Facebook helps you wind down at night, allow yourself some time to do just that. Just don’t jump on Facebook right when you get home – log on towards the end of the evening instead.
  • Detach from time sucks slowly. Habits are hard to break. If you’re accustomed to watching TV for hours every night, start removing it from your nightly schedule slowly or your plan may backfire. It’s also important to replace this activity with something else that you enjoy, just one that isn’t one of those time suck offenders.

You may still be asking yourself why time suck is really all that bad; I’ve often asked myself.

I think the best way to tell if a time suck is truly a bad thing is to focus on how you feel afterwards. At the end of those nights that I spend wasting time watching reality TV, I feel irritated, stressed-out, and angry with myself. However, at the end of those nights that I accomplish all the CPA studying that I set out to do, I feel accomplished, at ease, and happy with myself. That’s how I know that time sucks are bad for me.

Time sucks are hard to beat. If you struggle with them from time to time, you’re only human. The first step to time suck recovery is recognizing the problem, and once you’ve done that, you’re well on your way to more productive and prosperous days.

Do you suffer from time suck? What are your biggest time suck offenders?

Published or updated on April 20, 2010

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About Amber Gilstrap

Amber is a twenty-something CPA from Kansas City, Missouri who loves writing, working out, and---of course---finding fresh ideas for saving money. Follow her on twitter @amberinks.


We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30.

  1. RoTimi Waddy says:

    Wow. I enjoyed this article greatly and am stuck in a Time Suck with internet browsing!!!! I got it bad, real bad! I also have enjoyed reading all of the follow up comments as well! It makes me feel better knowing that there are others with this issue as well! Thanks again for this fun, & all too important article! Off to bed to avoid more Time suck, lol. cheers.


  2. Stephan says:

    my biggest time suck is definitely facebook, but I think its important to not say that being on facebook for 30 minutes is really time suck. As long as everything else gets done in your day that needs to get done, it doesnt matter how long or when you are on facebook or engaging in other time suck activities. I am very good at time management and have never really had a problem with getting things done, even if i change my schedule and go on facebook before i do anyhting else. Its all about budgeting your limited time each day.
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  3. Cat says:

    Awesome article! I’ve been losing the after-work time suck battle for awhile now and it’s getting frustrating. It’s easier to fight against it when I have a specific goal or project in mind. If I don’t have specific tasks to complete, I don’t usually end up completing much of anything and it’s easier for me to get stuck in a time suck because I wasn’t focusing real well in the first place.

  4. My biggest time suck is google reader. I love it. But I have to be careful that I’m not on the computer too close to bedtime, otherwise I won’t ever get off and will go to sleep too late!

  5. Honey says:

    My biggest time suck right now is a video game that lets you be a character and go on long quests. It is not even worth starting to play unless you have 4 hours or so. But then again, the entire reason I *have* a job is so I can do those kinds of things!

  6. David Weliver says:

    I definitely have a huge Time Suck issue with mindless Web surfing…blogs, newspaper sites, even Wikipedia! I would love to just unplug to get more done, but 90% of my work is 100% on the Web. Definitely a catch-22 I’ll be struggling with for a while.

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