The first thing you must do is to identify what are some of the things in your life that are not allowing you to use your time wisely. You cannot fix a problem until you know what it is. According to an article from the Associated Press in 2005, the average worker will waste 2 hours a day not including their lunch hour. Assuming a person waste the same amount of time on the weekends that is more than 700 hours wasted in a given year. That is about 30.5 days a year that the typical person wastes. A month wasted. What could you do if you had an extra 30 to complete something? The following is a list of activities, and explanations, which may be time-wasters for you:
- Answering unimportant phone calls during an activity. If you are working diligently on a project and the phone rings, this can be an unnecessary interruption that can impede the progress you have been making. Some phone calls cannot be avoided. You may be required to answer phone calls with your job. If you find yourself in a situation where a phone call is interrupting your progress, keep the phone call short and use closed ended answers, such as “yes” or “no.” If the phone call can be discontinued easily, explain to the person on the line you will have to call them back at a later. Explain to them you have an important project going on. If necessary, reassure them their phone call is important to you and you will give them a phone call back at a later time. Then do so, at a later time.
- Having unexpected people coming by just to talk about an unrelated topic. Friends or coworkers coming by can be as much if not more of a distraction than the phone ringing. It can be more difficult to “get rid” of somebody in person than on the telephone. However, again you must be honest and tell them you are working on a project and cannot be disturbed. If the topic is important to your business, either at hand, or for future reference. Take as little time as possible and tell them you will get with them later to go over. You must be assertive with people if you want to be a good time-manager. We are social creatures and sometimes it difficult for us to tell others what we need to. Most of the time WE have the guilty conscious and the other person never really gave it a thought.
- Watching too much television. The average person watches about – hours of television per day. There are times when I enjoy just relaxing and watching one of my favorite programs on television. However, there are some people who use the television as an excuse not to get up and do things. You should include watching television on your daily to-do list (we will discuss the to-do list later on in this chapter.
- Video games. I call video games E.I.R.s. This stands for Electronic Intelligence Reducers. These video games do not directly reduce your intelligence, but they distract from a time you could be learning or producing.
- Clutter work area. If you work area is clutter you will waste time trying to find things through the mess. The clutter work area can include your desk, table, office, home, etc. It can even include your computer. If you have so much stuff on your computer that you spend enormous amounts of time trying to find things, then you are wasting time. Your work area should be free from clutter to keep you from searching for things that are out of place. A clutter free work area looks neater and more professional. A work area that is not clutter sends the message to yourself and others that you mean business whatever the business may be. I have heard people explain their work area and “organized chaos.” I have yet to see a person who is chaotically organized outperform a person who is not when all other considerations are equal.
- Internet searching. If you are constantly searching for things on the internet instead of getting your work done, you are wasting time. Sometimes you just got to stop looking and starting doing. I find myself, searching on the internet for things that do not relate to the project at hand. I find that I am usually avoiding working and procrastinating.
- Working on more than one thing at a time. An old Chinese proverb says “he, who chases two rabbits, catches none.” This is true of those that try to do two big projects at the same time and perform at the optimal level. The word multi-tasking was derived from computer lingo to describe a computer processing one task while another one is waiting to load. The human brain is far more efficient than the best of computers. The human being has become quite good at doing more than one task at a time. At any waking moment, the human being is encoding information, processing information, distinguishing information, categorizing information, deleting unneeded information, and sending an output of information. We are already multi-tasking and when we try doubling the information incoming while working on two projects, our brain can go into overload and not want to work on anything. We become tired of the project easily and may leave it unfinished forever.
- Doing errands that could be done later. Sometimes we do not prioritize errands. We could be working on a project and say to ourselves “I can take five minutes to do this simple errand.” We usually take a couple of minutes to plan the errand or to think about doing the errand. Then we take a couple of minutes to get to the errand. We do the errand. We may get distracted by someone on the way or the errand was not going according to plan. Then we have to come back to the project. We may even lament starting the project back. We could have wasted 15-30 minutes doing an errand that was only suppose to take 5 minutes. If you do this a few times a day, you are losing productive time. Your errands should be planned on your to-do list that you make out the night before and morning of. More on the to-do list later on.
- Continuously checking emails. You should plan a couple of times a day to check your email and do not check it at other times. It may not take a lot of time to do the actually checking of the emails, but when we check it, there is the possibility that we need to respond to an email and that takes time away from the project. We may become upset or happy about an email and this offers us a distraction from the project.
- Worrying instead of working. When we worry about things, our mind is not on the project. It is hard to concentrate when we are worrying about things. Try your hardest to block the intrusive thoughts out of your mind and focus on the project. It is necessary sometimes to take care of a situation rather than to sit around worrying about it. Taking care of the situation may only take 30 minutes from the project, whereas worrying about a situation may take the entire day.
- Socializing. We, humans, are social creatures. It is in our best interest to socialize with other people. However, socializing can distract from the project. Socialization should be planned just like every other event of the day.
This list is not exhaustive. Some of the items on this list may be necessary for you to do your job. Therefore, this would not be a time-waster. All of us are different. However, most people who are honest with themselves with admit that they waste time on these activities, most likely on a daily basis.
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