We all want to be more productive and create more margin in our lives. When I chat with friends about how their lives are going, the #1 complaint is that they are too busy and don’t have enough time. Everyone struggles with this. We want to be great at our jobs, spend quality time with family and friends, exercise and eat healthy, and have time to unwind and relax. But often our reality is we’re rushing from task to task, living stressed-out lives. We only have 24 hours per day, so we are all in the same predicament. How can we be more productive, efficient, AND create more margin in our lives for the things we care about most?
I want to share one shift that has been a game-changer for me. When people are struggling with stress in their lives, it’s my #1 recommendation. If you implement this change, I guarantee it will increase your productivity, efficiency, and create more margin in your lives. It’s not easy, BUT IT WORKS.
Here is the change: Move timewasters from the background of your life to you task list.
Let me unpack the change a bit. First, what is a timewaster? A timewaster is anything that doesn’t directly contribute to your primary work or personal goals. It can be anything, but here are the main timewasters in our society today:
Browsing the Internet
Social Media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
Phone Calls and Text Messages
Playing Video Games
You can probably identify other timewasters in your life. Take a few minutes and reflect on your daily activities. Identify at least three timewasters—things that you spend a lot of time on, but don’t directly contribute to your primary work or personal goals.
Most of the time, our timewasters run in the background of our lives. They fill the empty space. We engage in our timewasters almost unconsciously. For example, you might have your email open throughout the day, and check it periodically. Your phone might beep every time you receive a text or Facebook message. You might turn the television on and flip through the channels if you get bored or tired of working. The problem is that when you let your timewasters run in the background, they expand to fill the space in your life, and wreck your productivity.
The key shift is to move your timewasters from the background of your life to your task list. Actually put your timewasters into your schedule, and engage in your timewasters consciously, for a specific period of time that you decide upon beforehand. Apart from your scheduled time, turn the timewasters off.
Check your email only once per day. Schedule in a time during your work day to do email (e.g., 1-2pm). If more immediate communication is important at your job, schedule two email times (e.g., 10-11am, 4-5pm). During these times, focus only on your email and work through your emails. Other than your scheduled times, turn off your email. Don’t check email on your phone.
If browsing the Internet, watching television, or playing video games is relaxing for you, that’s okay. But schedule in a specific time to engage in these activities. Try starting with 30-60 minutes per day. During that time, be present and focus on relaxing, browsing, watching, or playing whatever you want. Other than your scheduled time, turn off the Internet, television, or video game.
Only check your social media accounts once per day. Schedule a time (15-20 minutes per day) to check your social media accounts, like or retweet posts, and respond to messages. Other than your scheduled time, don’t check social media.
Silence your phone during your work day. Call people back and respond to texts after work hours. If you have to make phone calls at your job, schedule it in. Set aside a certain amount of time each day to respond to phone calls and texts.
Timewasters aren’t bad. They can bring joy and relaxation to our lives. The problem is when timewasters run unconsciously in the background of our lives. They fill the space, making us less productive and happy. Make the unconscious conscious. Shift your timewasters from the background of your life to your task list, and make better use of the 24 hours you are gifted with each day.