What do you do when you’re at work? I’m sure you spend time completing your assigned tasks and responsibilities. But I bet that you also spend a lot of time on one or both of these activities:

  • Attending meetings
  • Sending and responding to emails

Now certainly, it’s important to hold meetings and email people sometimes. Good communication is essential to any well-run organization! But organizations can also go overboard on these activities. And that’s when they turn into a huge waste of time.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, it’s not unusual for people to spend hours each week attending meetings that they don’t really need to attend, and reading and answering unnecessary emails. This drastically cuts down on the amount of time that people have to do actual work.

So what are the biggest time-wasting mistakes that organizations make? Here’s a list of the worst offenses:


  1. Inviting too many people to meetings
  2. Holding meetings that are more than 90 minutes long (since people are often less able to focus and make good decisions after 90 minutes)
  3. Having a vague agenda (or no agenda at all), which is frustrating and often causes people to go off on time-wasting tangents


  1. CC-ing a bunch of people on emails when those people don’t really need to see those emails
  2. Using a vague subject line (like “Planning Meeting”) that confuses people
  3. Sending an item to be reviewed to too many people (since this can result in overwhelming amounts of feedback that can be both confusing and contradictory)
  4. Including unclear instructions in the email that leave people feeling unsure about exactly what they’re supposed to do, or how they’re supposed to respond

Can you think of any other time-wasting mistakes? Please feel free to share them in the Comments section below. Identifying time-wasting mistakes is the only way to avoid making them!


Shellenbarger, S. (2014, December 3). Stop wasting everyone’s time. The Wall Street Journal, pp. D1, D3.