12 min read

Time wasters

Posted in: Research

Researchers identified a top 50 list of time wasters – from situations people cannot control, to self-inflicted ‘time wasting’ activities, like catching up on the latest celebrity gossip.

Time wasters such as roadworks, queues and automated telephone systems scored highly as frustration factors, while many wish they spent less time sat in front of soap operas, and hooked up to social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

The average Brit calculates one hour and 40 minutes of their precious time is wasted every day – and wishes they could spend their time more productively, by helping others, or getting their own lives more organised.

That’s the equivalent of almost 12 hours a week. Time that could be spent reading a good book, volunteering, or pursuing an interest.

Engage Mutual carried out the study of 2,000 adults in conjunction with the launch of the Engage Foundation, which is setting aside at least £1 million in funding to help its customers both on a personal basis, and within their local communities.

An Engage spokesperson said:

“We all lead very busy lives but it’s amazing just how much time life’s distractions can take up. Some time wasters, like waiting in traffic and commuting are unavoidable, but, others – like watching soaps and playing Candy Crush – we choose to do.

“What’s apparent is that many people want to make better use of their time.  Understanding where and how we might be wasting this scarce resource, is an important first step.”

The study shows transport causes no end of frustration for people who would like to make better use of their time – with road works, de-icing the car, train timetables and delayed public transport services all making the list.

Waiting is a major bugbear for busy Brits, who hate queuing in supermarkets, waiting for nails to dry, downloading YouTube videos, and hanging around while the kettle boils or the washing machine finishes its load.

The telephone apparently causes hours of misery, as automated telephone systems, PPI calls and waiting for someone to call back all feature highly in the top 50.

Essential household chores are seen as another source of frustration for many – who find dusting pointless and cleaning the windows in the winter futile.

Self-service checkouts at the supermarket, Come Dine with Me repeats, and surfing between television channels are all considered regular time-wasters.

But the study also explores what people would do if they did have more time on their hands.

A quarter would like to improve their home, while a fifth of health-conscious Brits would like to do more exercise.

Pursuing hobbies and interests and getting jobs done around the house would also be priorities for those blessed with a little more time. While others would like to spend more time with loved ones and visit friends they rarely see.

Indeed 44% of those polled admitted they would like to be in a position where they could help out more in the local community or with their elderly neighbours.

The Engage Foundation spokesman continues:

“It’s great to see that given a little more time many people would like to help out in the local community or see elderly relatives a little more.

“Those who do have the time to volunteer in their community report a greater sense of wellbeing as well as having the opportunity to learn new skills, socialise, and give something back.”

Are you as cool as a cucumber or do you have zero tolerance when it comes to life’s unwanted timewasters? Here is the complete list…


1.     PPI phone calls

2.     Automated telephone systems

3.     Worrying about what might happen

4.     Waiting in a supermarket queue

5.     Unnecessary packaging

6.     Traffic jams

7.     Queuing

8.     Roadworks

9.    Waiting for someone to call back

10.  Self-service checkouts where you always end up needing assistance

11.  TV adverts

12.  Waiting for pages to load on the computer

13.  Candy Crush

14.  Facebook

15.  People that won’t listen to you

16.  When you’ve got loads of emails to open even when they don’t apply to you

17.  Dusting when the dust settles straight away

18.  Cleaning

19.  Advertisements before the movie starts in the cinema

20.  Untangling earphone cable when they only get tangled up again

21.  Cleaning the house windows in winter

22.  Commuting

23.  Taking the wrong turn on a motorway

24.  Surfing between television channels

25.  Putting away supermarket shopping

26.  Twitter

27.  Food that looks really nice on the packet and when you taste you want to throw it away

28.  EastEnders

29.  Waiting for delayed trains

30.  Watching Come Dine With Me repeats

31.  People who give directions but have no idea where they are going

32.  Soap operas

33.  Tidying

34.  Clearing up mess after spilling stuff

35.  Waiting for the washing machine cycle to finished

36.  Waiting for the kettle / pan of water to boil

37.  Match of the Day

38.  Caffeine free tea and coffee

39.  Booking an appointment at the Doctor’s over the phone

40.  Long term gym contracts

41.  Waiting for YouTube videos to download / stream

42.  Pizzas with that massively thick crust which makes you so full you don’t have room for the actual pizza

43.  Waiting to fill up your petrol tank

44.  Having to take stuff back to the shop because it didn’t fit

45.  Train timetables

46.  Waiting for nails to dry

47.  Cooking a big meal but nobody is hungry

48.  Waiting for the bath to run

49.  De-icing the car

50.  Trying over and over to book tickets for a gig online