If wasting time was a sport would you be a gold medallist? As it isn’t, and your time is finite, and a valuable commodity you can never get back, it makes sense to use it wisely. If you unintentionally, or intentionally, get sidetracked with an interesting but unimportant task, you have that nasty virus called wasting time. Maybe 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. Furthermore, this panic 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.You waste time due to a phenomenon called the urgency effect. Click To Tweet
You waste time due to a phenomenon called the urgency effect
Your brain prioritises instant satisfaction over long-term rewards, and is driven by what it considers to be urgency. 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. It is one of the reasons we don’t always do the things we know we should.
Furthermore, when we succumb to this, we are falling short of achieving the important needle moving tasks. Tasks that move us nearer to accomplishing our goals. The key lies in first, being aware when this happens, and second, discovering how to program yourself for better results.
How to stop wasting time and get more done
- Be ruthless about planning and scheduling your tasks into your diary. Break your projects into small tasks. Any task that takes more than ten minutes needs to be scheduled into your diary. Batch short tasks under ten minutes together and take thirty minutes to tick several off at once.
- Get clear about what you really want. Ensure your actions are in alignment with your goals and every day you take action towards your important goals. It helps if you have your goals written out and visible. Practice writing out your key goals daily. Ultimately this will program your subconscious mind with better habits. As we operate by habit the majority of our lives, when you fall back into habit mode, you have good habits to use.
- Use the following two questions to help you create additional habits of focus and avoid 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, the more you know what you want, what is important and what needs to be done, the more progress towards your goals you will make. More importantly, it will help you spring into action instead of wasting time procrastinating.
Use a system to help you sort your tasks
President Eisenhower created the Eisenhower matrix to help him prioritise his massive workload. Because he diligently used this process it became one of his keystone habits in his life. His matrix comprises of a square consisting of four boxes. At the top of the square are two labels:
URGENT and NOT 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 boxesWhat is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important. Click To Tweet
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!
Creating good foundational habits and disciplines is key to your success. Having a plan and foundation for creating helpful and lasting habits is essential to your level of success. Otherwise, you will likely focus on the wrong actions. Tasks that don’t have a deadline and aren’t important and are wasting time. Immediately and aggressively remove them from your to-do list. You can use this technique for daily planning and long-term planning.
Finally, what you focus on expands, so it is important to learn the skill of focusing on what is important. Not only to avoid the phenomenon called the urgency effect but for achieving more in your day and feeling better about yourself.
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