If wasting time was a sport would you be a gold medallist? As it isn’t, you need a helpful solution to stop wasting time. Time is a finite resource and a valuable commodity you can never get back. If you unintentionally (or even intentionally) get sidetracked with an interesting but unimportant task, you have that nasty virus called wasting time. Maybe you know you have critical projects to work on, yet a seemingly urgent email or task pulls you away? Suddenly, your deadline is looming, and you feel that all too familiar a sense of panic. That uncomfortable panic fuels more stress which propels you into massive action as you have no option but to get it done? As a result, you are left wondering why you fall victim to this self-sabotaging pattern again, wasting time? Well, there is a reason for this.
It’s because of a phenomenon called the urgency effect.
Consequently, your brain prioritises instant satisfaction over long-term rewards. You are more likely to perform urgent, smaller tasks with a deadline instead of working on important tasks with no immediate time constraint or imminent deadline. Even if the smaller task feels more arduous than the larger one, which has negative consequences if you don’t complete it, we instinctively choose the smaller urgent tasks. The key lies firstly in being aware when this happens, and second, discovering how to program yourself for better results.
How to stop wasting time
- Be ruthless about planning and scheduling your tasks into your diary. Break them down into small tasks and tick them off when done. Know what you value and be clear about what you really want. Keep your long-term goals and vision at the front of your mind.
- Here are two questions to help you create better habits of implementation and to stop wasting time.
- What am I working towards?
- What are my highest values that drive my life?
While this might take some extra thinking time to get crystal clear, ultimately it will prevent wasting time.
- Use a system to help you sort your tasks. President Eisenhower created the Eisenhower matrix to help him prioritise his massive workload. His matrix comprises of a square consisting of four boxes. At the top of the square are two labels:
URGENT and NON-URGENT
On the left are two other labels:
IMPORTANT and NOT IMPORTANT
You then evaluate your tasks using the criteria important/unimportant and urgent/not urgent and place them in the according quadrant.
Grab a piece of paper and draw your own quadrant now. Write Do, Decide, Delegate, Delete into the appropriate boxes. Now you can sort out your tasks more easily:-
- Urgent and important (tasks you will do today – sooner rather than later). DO
- Important but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later). DECIDE
- Urgent but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else). DELEGATE
- Neither urgent nor important (tasks you will eliminate). DELETE
Stop Wasting Time Today
“What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.” Eisenhower
Put every task into one of the four boxes.
On any given day, to stop wasting time set a goal to put all your tasks into one of the four boxes. You’ll quickly see that the many of your tasks linked to approaching deadlines are not really the most important things from your list of tasks. Furthermore, the tasks you thought you would leave are critically important. Accordingly, schedule time to work on these first and leave the other ones for later. Maybe even delegate them? Stop wasting time today, prioritise and be more productive!
Similarly, it’s very likely you’ll wind up with tasks that don’t have a deadline and aren’t important. They are simply wasting time. Immediately and aggressively remove them from your to-do list. You can use this technique for daily planning and long-term planning.
What you focus on expands, so it is important to learn the skill of focusing on what is important. Not only for achieving more in your day but for your long-term goals as well.