By the end of this time management article you will have an important gift – a bundle of time to get more things done today.

Sound too good to be true? Well, it’s a simple fix — all you need to do is eliminate four bad time management habits and stop wasting time today.

1. Stop random email checks

Popping in and out of your inbox creates a “start-stop-start” pattern of work activity. Your wasted time quickly adds up when you consider the time it takes to refocus after each stop. A dozen email trips each day can cost you one completed product each week.

Unless you are expecting an important task-related message, each day you should schedule the 3 specific time slots for checking email: mid-morning, after lunch, and mid-afternoon.

For that matter, the same goes for your voicemail, text messages and other smartphone-related activities. Reduce these harmful interruptions by sticking to a set schedule.

2. Quit “winging-it”

Quick story alert: There was a time in my life when I would get lost while driving. A lot. For a while I thought I was a hopelessly directionally-challenged individual. But then it finally dawned on me that I was usually just “winging it”. I was setting off without a plan or direction. 

Most people start their days without a roadmap and end up aimlessly wandering around what’s important, wasting time along the way. Sadly, those who choose to skip planning mistakenly believe they are saving time, a folly obvious to your boss, co-workers, and clients.

Honestly, 5 minutes is all you need to establish a short list of tasks, create a daily schedule, and prioritize your activities in the order of importance. By creating a plan each morning you’ll have much more success in follow-through on what matters most.

3. Don’t be an interruption magnet

Let’s face it, some people are more open to distractions than others. Do you find yourself beginning work on a priority task only to be interrupted by a passing co-worker?

It’s possible that you are inviting distraction into your world like a magnet.

The good news is you’re not alone. This is a common form of procrastination, not following through on your priorities, and time being wasted. Fix it by learning to close your door, both physically and figuratively:

  • Each day, choose two separate “task hours” where you can close your office door.
  • Identify important tasks where undivided attention is a priority.
  • Communicate your limited availability to your co-workers by email or sign on the door; specify options for reaching you with urgent matters during this time.
  • Silence your cellphone – shut off your ringer and create a custom voicemail greeting that details your availability.
  • Close your email client to avoid the temptation to check-in.
  • Unplug from the Internet — shutting down any potential distractions.
  • Once you’ve found success, try adding a third task hour to your routine.

Learning the self-discipline to stay on task doesn’t always come naturally. But remember — when you prioritize a task as highly important, you’re giving yourself permission to shut yourself off from interruptions.

4. End your silent procrastination

Procrastination is usually easy to spot, especially when you’re playing solitaire, scrolling Facebook or gazing out the office window. But there’s another type of procrastination that involves “busywork” — working on non-essential tasks. I call it the “silent killer” because you may not even realize you’re doing anything wrong.

Any time you spend on less important activities is a step backward, especially when time-sensitive priority tasks and goals are concerned.

Stop this time-wasting sinkhole by giving your priorities some teeth:

  • Don’t just take time to put your task list in order — understand why it is important to you and your goals, this makes easier to stay disciplined and follow through.
  • Use Time Boxing, a reliable time management practice that consists of scheduling your tasks in fixed time segments, or boxes, with specific start and finish times.
  • When you tell yourself what you should be doing and when, it reduces the intimidation factor of having large projects and open spaces of time.
  • Create task reminders using your day planner, Outlook, or by simply setting an egg timer and working until it rings.

Structuring your task time works because it provides an appealing set of instructions in your mind about when to start and when to stop.

(Photo credit: Stop Sign via Shutterstock)

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