Do you want to make more effective use of each day? One of the most important time management skills to learn is how to identify your daily time wasters and deal with them effectively. Take a look at the following list of common time-wasters and see if you recognize yourself in any of them.
The great thing about the Internet is that you can find anything you want online. The bad thing about the Internet is that you can find anything you want online and all of it can keep you from what you should be doing. Email, Facebook, YouTube, and online forums are the worst. Have you ever popped into Facebook “for a few minutes” and not come up for air until two hours later? Yeah, we all have. But it is not something you can afford to do often.
So how do you cut out the distractions? First of all, take an honest look at what you’re doing. How many times a day do you really need to check your email? Do you need to stay logged into Facebook just in case there’s an “important” message?
Once you’ve identified your distractors, take control by specifying a time for them in your schedule. For example, limit yourself to spending just 15 minutes a day on Facebook. Set a timer and when your 15 minutes are up, close that tab on your browser to get rid of that distraction. Lack willpower? There are programs and apps that will limit your time on your time-wasting sites or even block them completely.
Whether you work at home or in an office, there will be distractions. Your kids will want your attention, your co-workers will stop in to chat, there will be other interruptions. You can not block all interaction with the rest of the world. Let people know that you are working and shouldn’t be disturbed.
Position yourself so that it will not be easy for others to interrupt you. Turn off your phone and instant messenger. Close your office door. If you work in a cubicle, turn your desk so that you are facing away from the opening. Even then, interruptions will happen. When they do, don’t let them keep you off track. Handle them and then return your attention to your work.
Many jobs are overrun with meaningless meetings that can take way too much of your time. But even if you are a solo-preneur there will be people who try to rope you in to long, unproductive meetings. Before agreeing to a meeting, make sure it’s absolutely necessary. Have an agenda and be proactive in moving meetings along and wrapping them up promptly.
Most people value their time and the other attendees will appreciate the time you’re saving them.
Multitasking doesn’t improve your productivity but actually wastes time. Each time you move from one task to another, your brain has to shift into another gear and that slows you down. Don’t dilute your focus. Do just one thing at a time and give it all your attention.
Working long hours doesn’t necessarily mean getting more done. When your mind and body get tired, you lose focus. When you lose focus, everything takes you longer to complete and your results will not be as good as they could be. If you’re not feeling motivated and energized, do something else for a while to avoid getting burned out. And make sure that if you do need to burn the midnight oil, you’re at least taking enough breaks to keep your focus together. Learn to recognize when your focus is waning and take a break when it is.
Tracking Your Time
To get a handle on your time wasters, start by tracking your time. Keep a detailed record of what you do with your day for several days. You can do with with an app or program designed to track your time, or just by jotting down what you are doing on a piece of paper. Once simple way is to use an appointment calendar broken into 15-minute increments. Make a short note about your activities in each section.
You may be surprised to discover all of the things you do each day that are not productive. Fifteen minutes chatting with someone over coffee, 30 minutes on Twitter, an hour in a useless meeting, and wait until you see how much time you spend on email. If you are wasting just one hour a day, that adds up to six work weeks over the course of a year. Convert half of that time to productive time and you have three more weeks to get things done, or to spend more time away from work and the office. What could you do with three more weeks?