Do you remember the movie Groundhog Day, where the same day keeps repeating over and over again? Sometimes I feel like my days are like that and I don’t get anything accomplished. Ever feel like that? If we could only learn how to stop wasting time. Can you imagine how that would look? For me, it would look like a calm oasis with checks on all of my to-do’s and me curled up with a great book and my snuggly dog. What about you? So how can we accomplish this bliss in the real world? You know, the one where we have bosses and chores and children and dinner and projects and on and on… First of all, take a deep breath and stop beating yourself up about not getting things done. I know you’re guilty of that, because I do the same thing. Today’s world is highly distracting with all of the social media and fake news and email and articles saying what you should and shouldn’t do. It’s not your fault. We all get overwhelmed.
PROCRASTINATION PITFALLSWe need to talk about procrastination. Procrastination as a serious time waster. You know what you need to do, but fail to do it, even if that results in a negative consequence. This failure of self-regulation can actually be harmful and is no joking matter. An estimated 20% of US men and women are chronic procrastinators, but many more of us procrastinate from time to time. Why is procrastination such a big deal, you ask? What makes the difference if I do this project now or next month? Because procrastination is a passive act. Because you choose NOT to act, so then you can’t be blamed for any failures. Plus, by avoiding an unpleasant task, you’re avoiding the negative feelings associated with that. Over time, this can lead to low self esteem and poor performance. Procrastination has even been linked to OCD, passive-aggressive tendencies, and ADHD. On the other hand, non-procrastinators typically have a stronger sense of who they are and are less concerned with how people like them. The interesting thing about procrastination is that it’s NOT a time management problem, according to Dr. Joseph Ferrari, a psych professor at DePaul who has extensively researched the topic. It’s more of avoidance and fear (of failure or facing something you don’t like) leading to a “maladaptive lifestyle” according to Ferrari. True procrastinators would prefer to be seen as someone who just doesn’t put in the effort, as opposed to someone who lacks the ability to complete a task. If you feel like you fall into that category, research has shown some ways to deal with that avoidance behavior. First of all, it can be helpful to find something positive about the task, even if it’s simply that you’ll be happy when it’s over. Another method is to tell yourself that it’s a game and won’t affect your mood negatively. Setting personal deadlines can also work, especially when using smartphone reminders. Also, dividing up a task into smaller ones can be helpful, so it doesn’t appear so overwhelming.
STOP WASTING TIME WITH THE T.I.M.E. TECHNIQUESo now the big question is, how do the rest of us stop wasting time? Drumroll please… By using the T.I.M.E. Technique. It’s simple and straightforward, but works! Here it is: Time audit: The first step to stop wasting time is to do a time audit. After all, you can’t improve your time management if you don’t truly know where your time is going, right? So spend a few days tracking your time as described in this post. Identify time vampires: Once you have a good idea about where your time is going, identify your time vampires. You know what I’m talking about. These are the distractions that suck your time away like a blood-sucking vampire. Maybe you spend a bit too much time scrolling through your Insta feed or perusing Pinterest for the perfect Twinkie cake (it’s a real thing!). Be brutally honest with yourself. Then you can eliminate or at least cut back on these. Make a plan: The night before, write out the main tasks you want to accomplish the following day. This can be done in a simple notebook by the bed or on your computer or phone; whatever is comfortable for you. Once you know your to-do list, you can use my Snazzy Schedule Nuggets to streamline your schedule into blocks of time. I would recommend setting a timer so that you can take some breaks every hour or so to get up and move around, do a one minute exercise like squats, go to the bathroom, eat (we sometimes forget these last two!). Or you can use a handy app like Focus at Will to do that for you! Eliminate distractions: This one is a biggie! By now, you should have a good idea of what these are after your time audit. But here are some definite general do’s:
- Turn off phone notifications or silence your phone (better yet, put your phone away!)- Seriously, this means YOU! Unless you want your phone to be more important than your friends
- Turn off computer/laptop notifications
- Turn off any screens except the one you’re working on (tablet, tv, etc)
- Turn on some white noise, background music or once again the Focus at Will app and use headphones if you’re in a office space
- Turn off negative self talk- yes, this can be extremely distracting and completely unproductive; the background noise can help with this