Do you frequently find yourself with a long to-do list that never gets done? You may not realize it but you could be wasting time on unnecessary routine activities. Sometimes what looks like a necessity is not really that important at all. In fact, it could be the very thing that's slowing you down. Here’s where a "time suck"- an activity that sucks the time out of your day- comes in. It takes advantage of you in the form of binge watching seasons on Netflix, getting lost in the black hole of social media, and running around without a clear goal in mind. Don't let this happen! Stop wasting time online or watching television if it's not helping you reach your goals.
I used to be constantly moving but would only make the slightest dent in my projects. I held onto my excuses like a safety net to help justify why I never got anything done. I should've just tattooed "I'm a busy mom, I can't chase silly dreams right now" on my forehead because I said it so often. Yes, being a parent is hard work! But I gave myself a cold dose of reality by recognizing that we're all busy regardless of our title.
So I started an experiment to see exactly where my time management was going wrong. I wrote down my activities from the moment I woke up to the minute I went to bed. I took note of exactly what I spent most of my time on and whether or not it was really that important.
Embarrassingly, I realized that most of my days were wasted on activities that held little to no impact on my life. I talked to my friends about the results and the vote was unanimous. We were all making the same time management mistakes. Here are the 7 ways you may be wasting time in your day, just like we were.
1. Staying connected 24/7.
The progression in technology has drastically changed how we use social media, the internet, and everything in between. Think of the cell phone you owned 10 years ago. It didn’t nearly have the features your iPhone has now! With those exciting new changes comes an increase in the time that you use it. But is that really a good thing?
Now I’m not saying you need to stop being connected to the web entirely. In fact, my smartphone is the most efficient way I can maintain and promote my work from home so I’m a huge advocate of it. But it's important to pay closer attention to how often you're on your device and how it affects your relationships with family and friends.
Let's talk about the elephant in the room here when it comes to television. Netflix binge watching is simultaneously the greatest and worst part of entertainment access. Trust me, you’re not the only one who gets sucked into watching a whole season. I’m not even sure what happened to my week when Netflix released House of Cards. All I know is that it was wonderful while it lasted but I got absolutely nothing done.
2. Checking your e-mail at the wrong time.
It's never been more apparent than today that constant e-mail can really slow down your schedule. Most of us check our e-mail first thing in the morning, then spend that time responding to time insensitive messages. The problem in this is that someone else's agenda has become more important than our own.
Check to see if your inbox is too cluttered. Unsubscribe to all the unnecessaries. If you don’t miss weekly newsletters from J.Crew in a month then you don't need to receive it anymore.
If you know you’re most productive early in the morning, then check your e-mail at night. I am a powerhouse writer and can spit out 1000 words before I finish my cup of coffee at 5:30am. But by 8:00pm I'm exhausted and can barely put together a sentence.
I forced myself to reschedule sorting my e-mail to a later time when I realized how much it slowed me down in the morning. Now I only check it for an hour in the afternoon. It has literally boosted my productivity! I get 3x as many things done by moving the most important task of my day (writing) to my most productive time (early morning).
3. Believing your negative thoughts and influences.
This is a battle we have all struggled with at one time or another. Negative people and influences are slowing you down and tearing you apart. It's time to let them go!
Are your closest friends the wrong kind of friends? John C. Maxwell wrote, “Every minute you spend with the wrong people takes away the time you have to spend with the right ones.”
Think of the people you spend most of your time with and ask yourself these questions.
- Does this person consistently complain or say negative things about others?
- Do they require you to change your actions or decisions to suit their own preferences or needs?
- Does this person inspire you to be the best version of yourself?
- Do you leave their company feeling positive and rejuvenated?
4. Obsessing about never-ending tasks.
I wrote a post about why I don't think dirty dishes should be cleaned after every mealand I still follow this rule. Your home should be clean, tidy, and relaxing. But running a "tight ship” and constantly working on never-ending chores won’t leave you with time to do anything else.
For example, I do laundry every week but don’t do it every day. There will always be a toddler's shirt with jelly and a stained towel that needs to be washed. But I will leave them until Saturday when I can wash, fold, and put away everything at once.
5. Working on to-do lists with no purpose or schedule.
This is a problem for those who never seem to get things done. If you quickly run toward your goals but never stop to make sure you're going in the right direction, you could take a lot longer to accomplish things.
Make sure your ambitions have a clear purpose and list each of them on paper. Then take your list a step further and number each goal by rank of importance, with number one being the most urgent.
I've always been a list maker but it wasn't until recently that I became good at actually crossing everything off. I used to make a list for the day and then take a week to finish it. But I changed my approach by having a defined purpose (i.e. create 10 awesome posts, spend the afternoon playing with the baby, & finish client work) and listing everything in a prioritized order. Now I almost always accomplish my daily goals by the time I go to bed.
6. Worrying about things you can't control.
There really aren’t enough hours in a day. Don’t beat yourself up over an incomplete to-do list. Tomorrow is a fresh start and you can try again. Give your list/projects/goals the best effort you can and remember that the world doesn't end if you can't get everything done.
However, you should make sure you're not convincing yourself you'll never make any progress. Ability is sometimes connected to our own perception. If you keep saying you can't accomplish something, you never will. But if you say you can, your mind will automatically start looking for the best ways to skirt around or overcome obstacles.
I stopped telling myself, "You'll never accomplish your goals since you're a busy parent," and started saying, "You need to accomplish your goals because you are a parent so you can be the best version of yourself for your kids." I'm the happiest wife and mother I've ever been because of it.
7. Dwelling on the past.
Hang onto your good memories and let the rest go. Don't let your negative past experiences limit your future accomplishments.
We've all been wronged at some point in our lives. We've all made mistakes. We all have something we wished never happened. But none of that can be changed, so why worry about it?
I had a close friend who would not let go of anything from her past. She slowly created a negative barrier of memories around herself over the years. Nowadays it's hard for people to grow close to her because she never seems to be in the present moment. Don't let this person be you!
Take a close look at everything you do in a day to see if there are activities that are slowing you down. If the list above isn't holding you back, make sure nothing else is either. Can you imagine spending the rest of your life only accomplishing a fraction of your goals? I don't want that either!
It can usually feel like there isn't enough time in one day to complete all our projects. But the activities you may think are helping could really just be a waste of time. If we eliminate the mindless tasks, we can stop drowning in to-do lists and start accomplishing our goals.
What things are you wasting your time on?