Are These Habits Killing Your Productivity?

Identify and Avoid the Biggest Time Wasters

Time is money, as the saying goes. And in standards, time can mean the difference between an effective, well-reasoned standard, and a dud. In 2020, ‘time constraints’ was identified by standards developers as the biggest deterrent keeping individuals from participating in standards. [1]

While standards developers continue to seek out ways to modify and streamline processes, the time needed to develop a standard start to finish still averages about 3 years. [2] Standards developers are also seeking ways to maximize the time they have with members, minimize disruptions, and cut time wasting practices.

However, there are small changes individual participants can make as well to help speed up the process and save time. As an example, meetings can drag out far longer than necessary due to off topic discussions and frequent interruptions. Time spent preparing for meetings or reviewing documents can be equally time consuming due to distractions and other time wasters.

In the below we’ll review a few of the most common time wasters that keep participants from finishing quickly and maximizing their time.


Email has become a main channel of communication for many and through the day, new and interesting emails are hitting the inbox. While it can be hard to ignore that ‘ping’ of a new email being delivered, a study from University of California-Irvine reports that you can lose up to 20 minutes of productivity each time you divert your attention from a current work item to read a few quick emails. [3] When working on a project, it’s recommended that you turn off or silence your email to prevent discussions. You could also limit reading your emails to specific times of day such as first in the morning and an hour in the afternoon.

Graphic of overworked worker


If you’ve been to a few standards development meetings, you know already that standards people love the rules. We thrive on set expectations. So, it’s no surprise that we are also perfectionists in our day-to-day work. But spending too much time on a task can be counterproductive. Sometimes good-enough is in fact good enough. If you find yourself spending what seems like hours on one task, try setting a time limit and sticking to it. When the bell goes off, the project is done for the day and you move on to the next item. If you want to revisit it the next day, you can, but it’s very likely that when you do, you’ll find the work is just as good as you’d expect from yourself. Feel you’ll overthink it again? As a colleague to review it. Doing so will give you confidence that it’s ‘done’ and will help you better transition to the next thing on your work list.


Need to write a paper but you find yourself searching the local online storefront’s daily deals? Procrastination hits all of us and can turn 8 hours of available time into 2 hours of actual work, that’s 6 hours of lost productivity! If you find yourself being frequently distracted, that might be your body telling you it needs a break. Try going for a walk, getting a drink, doing mild stretching or exercise and give your brain a break. Then commit 30 minutes or more of uninterrupted time to the project at hand. After 30 minutes, you can then reevaluate and either keep going or take another break, but you’ve now made 30 minutes of high-quality progress that you can build on. 


Need to complete a big project but you signed up to attend a webinar? While it might seem to be an effective strategy, combining tasks could be causing you big delays. If you’re focusing on your project, you won’t be listing to the webinar and if listening to the webinar, you won’t be able to develop a high-quality project. To maximize your efficiency, make a list of everything that needs to be completed and do one activity at a time.  

Whatever your strategy, remember to keep trying new things and share your lessons learned with others to help them better manage their time as well. Want to share your time saving tips with Women in Standards? Email us at

[1] Women in Standards, A Survey of US ANSI-Accredited Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs) – July 2020

[2] ISO, Developing Standards,usually%20takes%20about%203%20years.

[3] The Cost of Interrupted Work: More Speed and Stress

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