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Before You Grumble About Not Having Enough Time, Check If You Have These 8 Time-Wasting Habits

Before You Grumble About Not Having Enough Time, Check If You Have These 8 Time-Wasting Habits

For many of us these days it seems like we have thousands of things to do and never enough time to get to them all. No matter how many things we get done the list just keeps getting longer.

The reality is that we’re likely wasting time on many things that are not accomplishing our main goals. Here are 8 ways you’re probably wasting your time in the day.

1. Doing what others think is important for you means you don’t really get your top tasks done

How often do you start the day by checking your email only to find 10 new things people want you to do? Or maybe you check it in the midst of a deadline instead of actually pushing the project forward.

Instead of starting the day by seeing what everyone else thinks is important for you decide what your top task is before you leave the office or go to bed. When you start the day start on that top task. Only look at what others think is important once you’ve finished the most important task.

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2. Saying ‘yes’ to everything so you have no margin

Of course we want to keep those close to us happy. It’s something that we’re taught from a young age, to just say yes when people need help. The fact is that if you always say yes you really have no margin in your life. Without that margin you end up running from thing to thing without actually having time to do one thing right.

Don’t always say yes. Evaluate each request based on what’s important to you and only say yes to items that match. Only by saying no regularly do you have room to take advantage of the great opportunities when they come along.

3. Letting perfection get in the way of finishing things

I know you want to do things the right way but the problem is that right so often turns in to perfect and that’s a recipe to never get things finished.

Perfect isn’t ever going to happen, it’s an entirely unattainable moving target. You’ll always think of something more that can be done to make it ‘just right’.

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Alternatively finish the project and launch it. Then go back and make some changes. It needs to be out where others can see it to have any impact.

4. Letting busy work hide procrastination

How many times do you finish a day feeling like you’ve worked hard only to realize that you really can’t remember what you accomplished. You probably just did busy work like cleaning your desk or checking email or social media. You never put any concentrated effort in on the important tasks.

Start scheduling your email and social time during the day and put a time limit on them. Schedule office cleaning every few weeks. Focus on moving things forward instead of just making yourself look busy.

5. Finishing something just because you started it

Yes it feels bad to not finish things, like books, but if you really don’t like a book you need to put it away and move on.

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Give a book a fair chance and then drop it if it’s not up your alley. Go find something worth your reading time.

6. Doing many things poorly instead of one thing well

Unfortunately many people think that multi-tasking is a great use of time. You get more done right? In reality you can only focus on one thing at a time and all multi-tasking does is force you to change your focus quickly from task to task.

Focus on one thing at a time. Work on it till it’s done or set a timer and work for an hour or 2 hours on the task. Then switch your focus and put all your attention on the next task. Giving intentional focus to each item on it’s own will yield better work.

7. Trying to remember things causes too many open loops

Having ideas is a great thing. Those ideas yield a wealth of possibilities. The problem is that so many ideas often create a bunch of open loops in your brain. Instead of being able to focus on a single task you end up expending brain power trying to remember everything.

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To fight this have a notepad with you at all times and write down the title of that new book you heard about and want. If you’re not a fan of a paper notebook use a tool like Evernote and drop a quick note to reference later. Getting those open loops out of your head will allow your brain to focus on the task at hand.

8. Dwelling on the issues that may happen causes inaction

Any sane person tries to account for the unknown. You may hit traffic on the way to visit a friend so you leave early. But some people sit in a state of looking for issues figuring they can move forward when they’ve accounted for all possible issues.

You’ll never find them all. Instead give yourself and hour or maybe only 20 minutes to look for and come up with solutions to issues then take the next step. There is nothing to stop you from getting a few steps towards finishing then stopping and taking that 20 minutes again with the new knowledge you have.

Next time you feel like things are overwhelming come back to this list and make sure you’re engaged in the things that matter not wasting your time.

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Featured photo credit: fischerfotos via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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