The old saying, “Time flies when you are having fun!” is true. However, time goes at the speed of light when you waste it. There are many professional and personal examples of time-wasting: Ineffective meetings, constantly checking email/Facebook/Twitter/websites, having arguments and making complaints to get your point across, watching bad television, and more. Any of these activities can make a precious hour or two vanish in an instant—time you will never get back. What a waste.
What is the solution to this time wasting problem? It is not as simple as just stopping the activity. The ways we waste time are often habits and routines. Habits and routines are our default response to moments where we haven’t made a choice about what to do next. Habits are broken and routines changed when we make conscious choices to spend our time on something more valuable.
For example, if we have not made a choice about how to start our work day, we will likely check email, Facebook and Twitter, and then an hour later make some progress on our task (and then check email, Facebook, and Twitter again).
The key to making more effective use of our time is to intentionally interrupt our routines with something more meaningful or productive. The next time you are tempted to default to a time wasting routine, intentionally choose to do something more meaningful instead.
- Call and thank a client.
- Reach out and ask someone to buy your product or donate to your organization.
- Write the first paragraph of that book.
- Start your project.
- Have the difficult but necessary conversation you’ve put off.
Fortunately, there are a number of amazing resources to help us address some of the time wasters mentioned above. Here are a few:
Al Pittampalli wrote Read This Before Our Next Meeting. If you can only pick one book to read this year, choose this one. It takes about two hours to finish and will radically change the culture of time wasting meetings in your organization. It’s only $5 on Kindle. Buy it. Thank me later when you are working on an awesome project that makes a difference instead of sitting in a meeting to plan the next meeting.
I used to struggle mightily with managing my inbox until I implemented the 3 T’s of email management: Trash it, Task it, or Take Care of it. With each email checked, I make a choice and handle it right away. The email either goes into the trash, I create a task to check it at a later time, or I respond and take care of it right away. Voila! No more overflowing inboxes!
Go on a Facebook fast. In May of 2012 I deactivated my Facebook account and didn’t reactivate it until January of 2013. Surprisingly, the greatest benefit I derived from this experience was mental. The impulse to check my News Feed every ten minutes? Gone. The interesting thoughts I had? They were pondered, deliberated, and personally discussed with others, instead of summarized while waiting for artificial affirmation of likes and comments. I more fully experienced each moment without the mental distraction of posting it online. In case you are still concerned, I still have the friends I had before deactivating my account, and even made new friends during that time!
If you are responsible to post status updates and tweets for your organization, use a service like Hoot Suite. My favorite feature of Hoot Suite is the option to schedule posts. In just 20 minutes I can take care of the next two weeks of posts. Now I can better focus on projects at hand without the distraction of writing my next tweet.
Having Difficult Conversations
Unlike meetings, email, and social media, this is not a time waster. Rather, it is necessary, scary, unpleasant, and incredibly powerful. Many have relationships (both personal and professional) that are sucking the life out of them, but fear having conversations to address the situation. I’m here to tell you from personal experience that facing your fear is worth it and comes with great reward—fullness of life.
Often people make time fly by wasting it instead of investing it in fun, meaningful, productive, and life-improving activities. Time is life. Today, start making decisions that interrupt your habits. Make conscious choices that maximize fun, memories, and meaning. The fulfillment we get from our lives, work, organizations, and society depend on it.
“Imagine there is a bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening the bank deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out every cent, of course. Each of us has such a bank. Its name is time. Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest in a good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. There is no drawing against “tomorrow.” You must live in the present on today’s deposits. Invest in it so as to get the utmost in health, happiness, and success. The clock is running. Make the most of today.”