How many times have you gotten to the end of a day only to wonder where all the time went?
Or more accurately, wondered where your productivity went.
Welcome to the club.
Productivity is easier to measure with some jobs, where you’re dealing with tangibles (how many diapers have you changed today … how many lunches did you pack this morning … how many customers did you call this afternoon?).
But in a lot of our other roles, measuring productivity is a whole different story.
What actually did happen today? Great question.
The enemy of many people and their passion is time stealing bad practices that seem to suck up massive volumes of available time.
And if you can’t manage your time, you’ll never effectively manage your life.
In this post, I want to share 5 time stealers I’ve learned to reduce or eliminate from my life. They’re below.
But I also want to invite you into a deeper journey.
If you’re tired of being stuck, if you’re tired of being semi-effective at work but leaving so much potential under-utilized, if you don’t want to spend 2017 never being off when you’re supposed to be off and sacrificing your family once again, I’d love for you to join us at Connexus for the Get Your Life Back series.
It starts this Sunday, January 15th at our Orillia Campus, and kicked off on Sunday January 8th at our Barrie Campus. If you missed part 1, go ahead and watch it here.
And in the hopes of helping you in the meantime, here are 5 hidden time stealers you can eliminate, starting today.
1. Constant Interruptions With Pesky Questions
Can you tell how I really feel by how I titled this section of the post?
How many times in your day do you get interrupted by people with pesky questions that honestly aren’t that important or that urgent? Let me guess … all the time.
Most of those questions come from the people with whom you work most closely: either people to whom you report or people who report to you.
So here’s what you do: just tell people to save their questions. When people save their questions for later, everyone saves time.
Train the people around you to save as many questions as humanly possible until your weekly meeting or bi-weekly meeting with them.
Three things will happen by the time your Thursday meeting rolls around:
The question or issue will have disappeared. What felt urgent on Tuesday was actually completely unimportant or got resolved by other means. Everybody wins.
Often, in a three minute conversation during your weekly on a Thursday, you can resolve what might have taken 10 back-and-forth emails between Monday and Wednesday. Time and agony spared.
A third option is that the issue truly couldn’t wait, and so you dealt with it when it had to be dealt with. To deal with urgent and important matters on an urgent basis is actually fine.
If you’ve got a relationship on your team that can’t wait a week, or there are just too many issues, then do a daily 5-15 minute check in, either in person, by phone or video call. You’ll solve so much and it will cut your email traffic by a massive amount.
So much of what is urgent on Tuesday doesn’t matter at all by Thursday. So wait till Thursday. Everybody wins.
2. Your Constantly Buzzing Phone
Sure, you get interrupted by other people. But how often do you get distracted by what you allow to push through on your phone?
A few years ago I shut off almost all notifications on my phone and my devices except for text messages.
Do you really need to know instantly when someone likes your Instagram pic? Of course you don’t. Ditto with emails. Why leave email notifications on when you can jump into your inbox once or twice a day and deal with what needs to be dealt with then?
According to the New York Times, the average office worker gets interrupted every 11 minutes. And it takes 25 minutes to return to focused work after each interruption.
No wonder you don’t get any work done. The math doesn’t even add up.
You can eliminate self-distraction by shutting down all but text messages on your phone.
And train your team to only text you when it’s super-urgent.
The same goes for your time at home. Each interruption that comes from the buzz of your phone pulls you away from what’s happening right in front of you.
Try tucking it away for dinner time. Meals have a way of bringing out some of the best conversations with your kids.
Focused people are always better friends, parents, employees, and leaders. It’s as simple as that.
3. Loud Work Spaces That Constantly Distract You
One of the biggest challenges for workers is creating quiet space to tackle big projects.
Even if you have a closed door to your space, carving out a few hours in a loud environment can be tricky.
Here are some quick hacks:
Close your door. Sometimes you may even need to put a note on the door that says “Please do not disturb until 11 a.m.”
Work somewhere different. Try a home office or coffee shop or park … or anywhere where you won’t be disturbed.
If you’re in an open office (or the dining room table is your office), you can put a note on your desk in a visible place asking people not to disturb you.
If all else fails, put in headphones. Even if you can’t work to music, simply having earbuds in is a social cue for people to leave you alone. The combination of earbuds and ‘do not disturb’ sign is a fantastic message to the world to leave you alone for a bit.
For most people, the quieter the space, the higher the productivity. So create quiet space.
4. Working When Everyone Else Is Working
If you have some flex on when you show up at to work, flex that muscle. If you can, try coming in an hour or two early.
It’s not that hard to be the early bird in our culture. Most people don’t even try.
And you really do catch more worms if you start early.
As I’ve outlined before, work patterns are a lot like traffic patterns: at 5 a.m. you have the road to yourself. At 8 a.m., it could take you three times as long to travel the same distance.
You don’t have to start at 5 in your office, but I’ll bet the place is pretty quiet at 7 a.m. or even, sometimes, 8 a.m.
It’s the same at home, too. Often times the best times to get things done for the day happen before the kids are up.
Get an undistracted start on the day and you’ll be so much further ahead.
You’ve got the work lane all to yourself, which means you can work uninterrupted. You can think uninterrupted and actually accomplish all your most important tasks completely distraction-free.
You can likely even leave early.
If you only work when everyone else is working, you will always struggle with productivity.
5. Your Lagging Energy
I did a Facebook Live on productivity recently and someone asked me what to do when their energy lags. Loved that question.
You know what you usually do when you could almost fall asleep at your desk or just stare blankly at the wall for an hour?
You try to push through it, right?
Well, what if you didn’t? What if you cooperated with your energy levels?
Instead of blinking mindlessly at your screen for another 30 minutes, get up. Stretch. Take a nap. Go for a walk. Grab a coffee.
Rather than (what feels like) fighting through the lull of the afternoon, go ahead and switch it up.
Bottom line? Stop fighting your energy levels. Start cooperating with them.