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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
Featured photo credit: fischerfotos via flickr.com