They’re everywhere. These are the seemingly innocent activities you think will only take a few minutes, but which end up costing you an enormous amount of time.
When you don’t have a discipline in handling the tasks in your life or business, they can quickly spin out of control. A few minutes spent here and there on tasks that are not time delimited can quickly turn into hours.
Think about your last visit to Facebook or YouTube. Did a minute or two quickly turn into 30 minutes, an hour, or even more?
Distractions result in wasted time. Even worse is the fact that you’ve probably accomplished very little on your To Do List. Your productivity has suffered, you have little to show for your time invested, and you’re likely disappointed because now you have even less time remaining to get everything done.
Fortunately, you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to managing time wasters. You can create a strategy that helps you control runaway tasks. There are two keys to making this work. First, you need to identify the time wasters in your life. Second, you need to craft a strategy to help you to keep them in check.
At first, it might feel awkward to ruthlessly control your time. But, after a while, by mere repetition, you’ll have new habits cemented firmly into place. Imagine how great you’ll feel to add back hours of free time that can be allocated to other interests.
Let’s take a look at the top time wasters and what you can do about them. Remember, none of these are bad things. They only affect your use of your time when they aren’t handled with some sort of thoughtful discipline.
Top 5 Time Wasters
#1 Time Waster: Email
Reading and writing emails can easily consume hours of your work day. What’s even worse is when you have a habit of checking it multiple times a day. Every time you interrupt your train of thought it takes more energy and mental effort to refocus. This increases your stress and fatigue levels.
- Unsubscribe from all the unnecessary items that are filling up your inbox. That, alone, will reduce the amount of time you spend on email.
- Allocate a specific amount of time you’ll spend on email each day. You’ll be surprised that when you put boundaries around how much time you have available, you’ll work to stay within those bounds.
- Decide how many times you’ll check email. A good rule of thumb is 2 to 3 times each day. Each check-in might take 20 to 30 minutes.
- Decide when you’ll look at your email. Do you really want to devote your most productive time of the day to reading emails? Likely not. Figure out what works for you in terms of your attention and energy levels.
If you have poor email habits, it could take a month or so before you get new habits firmly established. Be gentle on yourself, but do apply discipline. Learn how to write less and convey more. Skim emails to quickly determine what needs to be done with them. Once you get your email under control, you’ll feel empowered. The best part is that a few simple behavioral changes can free up hours of time each week.
#2 Time Waster: Texting
Texting is even worse than email. It’s constant, in-the-moment interruption. For most people, texting is a way of life. It’s time consuming, mentally and even physically taxing, and a huge distraction. If it’s part of your job, then you’ll have to make adjustments.
- Move excessive texting conversations to a phone call. There’s no sense texting for an hour when you can easily get on the phone and resolve something in 10 minutes. Don’t make things harder than they need to be.
- Use voice to text. Be smart about how you spend your time. Your friends and colleagues might not like it at first, but if you want to get anything done during your work day, you’re going to need to rein in runaway texting.
#3 Time Waster: Phone calls
- It’s really easy for a short phone call to quickly morph into a much longer one. Face it. We’re social creatures. That’s a great thing, except when it gets out of control and prevents us from accomplishing our goals.
- Schedule all phone calls in your calendar. Schedule them for 15 or 30 minute increments unless you know you absolutely need longer. Again, you’ll be surprised what you can accomplish when you limit your time.
- Don’t accept calls except by appointment. Your work time is sacred so you can’t let it be interrupted. Make sure you have an automated appointment calendar so others can schedule calls online according to your availability.
- Set an agenda either before the call or immediately at the start. This prevents the conversation from veering off track.
- End your call at the required time. If you don’t stick to your schedule, the other party will think they can always push through your boundaries. Train others to respect you and your time. If you need more time, schedule another appointment or follow up through an email.
#4 Time Waster: Social media
From Facebook to Instagram, from Twitter to LinkedIn, you’re probably immersed in social media. It’s amazing how what you think will only be a minute of checking messages on Facebook can turn into an hour or two of scrolling through all sorts of conversations and videos. It’s endless — and that’s the danger. Between social media and email, you could consume most of your work day! Yikes!
- Allocate a specific amount of time for social media. Do you really need to be on it every single day? Likely not. Could you skip weekends? Probably. Not only will you free up a lot of time that can be better spent elsewhere, you may even start feeling better.
There are a number of studies that link social media to anxiety, depression and loneliness. Imagine the time freedom you can experience by cutting back or even eliminating unnecessary time on social media and using it for other activities that bring more joy.
Consider saving social media as a reward for the end of your day – after you’ve completed your work.
#5 Time Waster: Unnecessary meetings
Most meetings are unnecessary. With today’s technology, the ease of communication, and the fact that everyone does not need to be at every meeting, they’re often a poor use of time. Still, they do have their time and place.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with meetings. But understand that they impact your time in a significant way. They take time and energy to schedule. They pull everyone away from other projects and priorities. And, it’s challenging to refocus on your work especially after leaving an in-person meeting.
- Determine whether you need a meeting in the first place. Can the objective be accomplished through an email or a telephone call? Sometimes a well-worded email can effectively communicate what needs to be said.
If a meeting is absolutely necessary, does it need to be face-to-face or can it be conducted virtually? With more folks working virtually and scattered around the world, there are definitely fewer in-person meetings. When it comes to connecting with others, think of more efficient and effective ways to accomplish your objectives. A meeting might not be the best solution.
These are just some of the time wasters you may be dealing with on a daily basis. Implementing a few of these suggestions can easily free up hours of time that can be focused elsewhere. Challenge yourself to work on a few areas and enjoy the benefits!