One of our most valuable resources is time. In fact, in some ways, time is the only limited resource. Every person has the same time each day to accomplish whatever it is that they desire. On average, most people have approximately the same number of years of life to achieve all that they want too.
If that’s true, why do some people seem to get a fantastic amount accomplished, while others seem to lack time to do the same, even given the same time to get things done?
The truth is that many people sabotage themselves when it comes to being productive. They waste time without even thinking about it, in ways that do not notice, and then wonder how they’ll ever be successful with the limitations given to them.
The first thing to do to eliminate time wasters in your life is to recognize them for what they are and how they affect your life. Once you identify what is wasting your time, either delegate the task or item or eliminate it. That sounds easy, but some things may be more challenging to identify than others.
Grab a pen and paper, find a quiet place, turn off your phone – set up a no distraction zone, and find your time vampires.
Be Honest About How You're Spending Your Time
You’ll need to get real with yourself. It’s so easy to say that you don’t have time for things, but how much time are you really spending on Facebook, watching TV, surfing the Internet, gaming, and doing things that do not lead you toward meeting your responsibilities and realizing your life’s goals? Can you spend your time better? Absolutely!
What is a Timewaster?
For most people, time wasters are apparent. They consist of activities like watching TV, surfing social media, playing games, and doing things that get in the way of productivity haphazardly. For others, they may need to dig to figure out where they’re leaking time. For example, is a friend calling you every day and talking to you an hour or more? Does a co-worker stop by your desk for “one quick question” that turns into a 30-minute chat session?
Even things that seem significant on the surface, like talking to your co-worker, can end up becoming a time sucker if you are allowing it to get in the way of your overall schedule. Write down any item that you think might be a timewaster.
Do you procrastinate on this task?
Now let’s look at some tasks at which you tend to procrastinate. Make a list of them without any judgment. Right now, don’t deem them as timewasters or essential tasks. If you tend to put it off, or often don’t do it until the last possible minute, or even at all (even when it’s needed), write it down.
The truth is, most of the items you procrastinate about are going to be timewasters, but they might not be something you think of immediately as a timewaster. Of course, you must pay your bills, but if you put it off, pay them late, do it last minute, and aren’t scheduling and organizing, you’re wasting time someplace.
What Bottlenecks can you Identify?
Look at a day, or a week, of your life. Write down any times of the day that seem overwhelming in terms of the time you have available versus what you need to accomplish. For example, are you having trouble preparing healthy meals on practice nights? Are you missing deadlines to submit work to clients? Do you often feel rushed and overwhelmed? Write down each time that happens during the week that you monitor.
Each situation needs to be analyzed so that you can figure out how better to accomplish your tasks. For example, on practice nights, eat leftovers for dinner, such as leftover turkey wraps that can easily be thrown together in 15 minutes and eaten with the hands.
Are You Losing Track of Time? Why?
During some portions of your day, you may find that you’re losing track of time when you’re doing those things. For example, some people lose track of time while surfing on the internet, or social media. They’re looking for a 30-minute recipe to cook their favorite meal, but they get sucked into the internet, and it takes an hour or two to find the recipe.
Other things might be less noticeable. However, if you think something takes 30 minutes to do and it really ends up taking an hour or more to do, you’re either losing track of time for some reason, or it really takes longer, and you’ve scheduled incorrectly.
Can You Identify an Outside Source That's Distracting You?
Some timewasters almost seem as if they’re utterly uncontrollable because they come from outside sources. They can be family, friends, colleagues, and bosses, and others, causing the issue for you. Identify these issues for yourself. Once you realize what’s happening, start setting boundaries, or find a way to work around the person or thing distracting you.
People really cannot multitask/ Our brains are simply not wired for it; we just think we can. If you have set aside time to journal each night to become more thankful, you may be wasting time by keeping the television on while doing it. However, knitting a birthday sweater while you watch TV might work out great. The only way to know whether you’re more productive without multitasking or not is to try doing things without multitasking and time yourself.
What Is and What Is Not Getting Done?
Believe it or not, sometimes, the things that are getting done don’t even need to be done and get in the way of you getting important things done.
Make a list of things and tasks that are and are not getting done. What was the purpose of the tasks you completed? Were they a part of your plan, or did you get sidetracked? What about the tasks not getting done at all by you or anyone due to being overlooked. Put all these in order of importance. If you want them to get done, put them at the top of the list. If they don’t matter in the scheme of things, put them at the bottom, and then eliminate them.
Let's talk about a few of the typical time vampires that you probably want to work on stopping right now. You'll likely find more as you work toward discovery in your situation, but most people can agree that the following are common time suckers that you should stop doing now.
Not Setting Goals
The very first thing you should do is to set goals based on your morals and values for your entire life. Set life goals for your life psychologically, physically, and spiritually in each area of your life, including personal, relationships, and work. For example, if you want to be healthy, you’ll need to set healthy eating goals, healthy exercise goals, and so forth, according to the results you desire.
Once you have set your goals, you need to look hard at the tasks you perform and ask yourself:
Does this task align with my goals?
If you feel any resentment at all about a task, it’s important to ask yourself questions about your goals and how the task helps or does not help.
What deliverable will result from doing this task?
When you do this task, what is the result of doing it?
Does doing this task move me closer to my goals? How?
All of us can be guilty of doing busy work in life. By asking how the task moves you nearer your goals, you will find you can eliminate most busy or filler work. If the task is not moving you toward your goals, and you can do it another way, you should examine that other way to figure out if it’ll work for you. A task that many can identify with is going to meetings. So many meetings are useless and time vampires.
Not Planning and Scheduling What’s Important to You
Once you have identified what’s important to you, it’s essential to create a plan and make a schedule of the steps in chronological order of what you need to do to get to success and reach your goals in the time frame you’ve set up for yourself. For example, if you believe it’s important to eat dinner with the family four nights out of seven, what are you doing to ensure it happens? Likewise, if you want to publish an 80,000-word novel by December, what do you need to do to get there?
Lack of Organization and Systemization
One reason people don’t reach their goals promptly has to do with not organizing based on the actual amount of time you have to do the tasks. If you want dinner on the table at 7:00 pm each night, plan the meal carefully, consider the time it takes for prepping, cooking, and setting the table.
Plus, not creating systems with automation in place is a huge time sucker. For example, there is no reason to spend hours paying bills each month when you can automate the process via your bank. You can even organize and systemize family dinner by assigning each person a task to do that ends up with dinner being on the table by 7:00 pm in a realistic manner.
Not Delegating and Always Doing Everything Yourself
Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent, a salary earner, or an entrepreneur, you can’t do everything yourself. It’s imperative to your future that you learn to delegate and stop trying to do everything yourself. There are people in your life that can help you, and if you don’t have those people yet, you can find them.
Ask yourself: What is the point of doing this task? What is the reason you’re doing it? Assess every task to decide whether you need to do it yourself, or you should let someone else do it.
Delegate any task that you do not need to do specifically. Underline any task that you can transfer, even if you don’t think you know who to ask or you don’t think you can afford it. Just note the ones that you can delegate.
Not Setting Boundaries and Saying Yes Without Thought
This is usually related to being a people pleaser, too. Some people call these people “yes” people. You see them in every single PTA, Church Group, Office, and volunteer opportunity. Some may see this person as the “go-for,” who gets things done for others. These people are often stressed, overwhelmed, and have low self-esteem.
Many people-pleasers say yes to every single ask of them without even thinking. This is a huge time vampire because there is no reason why you need to say yes to everything. First, weigh the things people ask you to determine if it’s worth being involved or not. An excellent way to decide is to have criteria for saying yes.
Ensure that doing this will get you closer toward your goals in each life area. Check your calendar to be sure that you do have the time available before saying yes. Say yes with enthusiasm or no without guilt.
Now take a look at your own life and start identifying time vampires. Only you can truly determine what a time sucker is and what is not. Spending five minutes on social media is a time suck for some people, but it might be how you schedule your downtime. It’s your time, so if you can reach the goals you set for yourself, you can choose what tasks you want to do and what responsibilities you don’t want to do.
Tell us what your Time Vampires are in the comments.
Use the workbook along with the other guides in this series to take control and manage your time.