Even if you’re one of the more dedicated and organized people out there that shutter at the mere thought of wasting time, it is highly possible that you may still waste time unaware. Whether you own your own business, work from home, or at the office, we all can be a little guilty of getting distracted and losing focus, no matter how much of a productivity geek we think we are. It may not even be deliberate and you probably don’t realize that you’re doing it until it’s too late.
In this article, we will discuss some sneaky “distractions or interruptions” that be masquerading as productivity hacks that could take you down a rabbit hole before you even realize it. You’ll also find some simple time management strategies that can help you become more efficient and productive and get the most out of your day. Let’s get started.
Here are five ways that you might be wasting time every day:
- Social Media, Emails, and Texts
One of the biggest and sneakiest culprits of them all is social media, emails, and texts, or simply touching your phone. I get it. You’re a busy aspiring professional and your life is on your phone. However, these technologies that were designed to make our life easier are doing the exact opposite unless you have a strategy and put boundaries around your usage.
These technologies have become a vital part of our lives. But the world won’t stop turning if you don’t look at your social media for 15 minutes, especially first thing in the morning. When you first wake up your brain is in a hypnotic state and is very creative and receptive to new ideas. Why would you allow the world to hijack your creative process and steal your focus by downloading everyone else’s foolishness? Instead, you could spend that precious time receiving solutions to some of your own problems that need to be solved.
Another big distraction is hearing that too familiar ‘ding’ that comes with a new email or text message. It prevents you from finishing the task at hand because you keep looking at your phone every five minutes.
Picture this scenario: you’re in the middle of work when your phone beeps. You reach for your phone to see your incoming message. So, you go from message to email to Facebook to Instagram. Then, when you’re done, you notice that 20 minutes have gone by. But what you may not notice is the 20 minutes it takes for your brain to get back to what you were doing before the interruption that morphed into a distraction.
Research shows that each time you get distracted, even for a couple of minutes, your brain needs more than 20 minutes to refocus. Imagine how much wasted time that amounts to at the end of the day!
The Fix: Avoid randomly checking social media, emails, or texts. Instead, set up a certain time during your day for doing just that. In the meantime, turn off any notifications or mute your phone. Or if you’re really brave put your phone in another room when you are concentrating on work tasks.
2. Organizing and Preparing
You’re probably wondering: how is this a time-waster? But too often we fall down the rabbit hole of ‘organizing’ our day. Sometimes, we spend so much time “organizing and preparing” that we actually run out of time to do any of the things on our list. This is a very clever way of procrastinating on taking action on the things that will actually move the needle forward in our life and business.
The Fix: Find an online planner or to-do list system that works well for you. Then, pick one day out of the week where you plan out the whole seven days in advance. Schedule work-related projects, meetings, and deadlines. You can also include a workout schedule and get-togethers with friends.
Now for my hardcore free-flowing freedom-loving friends, I know this might sound like it will cramp your style, but I guarantee you, this one strategy alone will create even more free time for you to be “free”.
Multitasking is just another “strategy” that we do to trick ourselves into believing we’re being more being productive. Yet, the sad truth is, multitasking wastes a ton of time, not to mention the ill effects it has on our brain health.
It’s counter-productive when your attention is divided among several tasks at once. In other words, it’s just another form of distraction. Albeit, a sneaky one.
The Fix: It’s simple. Just put all your attention and focus on one task at a time. Try devoting at least 20 minutes at a time to any given task. When you’re done, take a break or move on to the next task, and so on. Try making this process into a new habit.
4. Checking the News
In this day and age, it seems something is happening in the news every five seconds. So, it’s easy to use the news as an excuse for procrastination. After all, we all want to be in the loop when it comes to politics, sports, and local news. We have a responsibility to know what’s happening in our world, right? Yes and no. Yes, we need to know and no, we don’t need to be addicted to drama.
The Fix: If you find yourself addicted to the news. Try to put some healthy boundaries around your news consumption. Force yourself to stay away from checking news updates every half hour. You can use sheer self-discipline, or you can use a site blocker. You could try the Stay Focused Chrome app. It helps you ‘hide’ certain websites for, say, 45 minutes. Then, you can tell the app you want to spend 20 minutes on a particular website. After the 20 minutes are done, the app will block you again until your next break.
5. Errands and Chores
The problem isn’t the errands or chores themselves; it’s when you do them. Running errands during rush hour is one of the biggest time wasters ever!
Doing chores is another. You might be sitting at your desk, working away when you notice a dusty shelf or a cluttered drawer. So, you do the responsible thing and start dusting and decluttering.
You tell yourself that it’ll only take five minutes. Then, when you’re done cleaning the entire room/office, the day is over! And you still haven’t finished what you were initially working on.
The Fix: Plan your errands ahead when you know there’ll be less traffic. Also, shop online or try shopping when you know the stores won’t be as crowded and they’re in their least peak hours.
As for chores, set up one or two days during the week when you do all the dusting, cleaning, and decluttering. This way, even if you see a dust bunny that catches your attention, you can push it back in your mind and wait until ‘chore day’ rolls around.
If you are like me and inherently despise running errands because you feel like you’re wasting time. Try this strategy. Schedule in your calendar a “life admin day”. First, you create a huge brain dump list of all the nagging things that have to get done. Once a week, or month or quarter, (on your life admin day) you refer to this list and do those things. I taught this strategy to my daughter and it “changed her life” (her words). 🙂
A Final Note
We all get the same amount of time each day: 86,2400 seconds, 1,440 minutes, or 24 hours. It’s up to you to figure out how you’re going to spend that time. Sadly, many of us spend our days doing things that don’t really add much value to our lives—or anyone else’s for that matter.
The good news is you can train yourself to focus more and have fewer distractions and interruptions. Make a conscious effort to add purpose and value to your life and follow through. You’ll soon notice you’re getting more done during your day than ever before!
Be well + prosper,