The Solution To How Your Brain Tricks You Into Wasting Time
Do you unintentionally (or even intentionally) get sidetracked in interesting but unimportant tasks, wasting time? Perhaps you had a critical project to focus on, but a seemingly urgent email or task pulled you away? Suddenly, your deadline is just a few days away, and you feel that all too familiar sense of panic. That uncomfortable panicky stressful feeling causes you to spring into massive action, and you are left wondering why you let fell victim to this self-sabotaging pattern again, wasting time?
Why does this happen?
It’s because your brain tends to prioritise instant satisfaction over long-term rewards. You are often more likely to perform urgent, smaller tasks with a deadline instead of working on more important tasks with no immediate time constraint or imminent deadline. Even if the smaller task feels a bit arduous than, the larger one which has consequences of not doing, we instinctively tend to choose the smaller urgent tasks.
This is due to a phenomenon called the urgency effect.
Here is how to stop this urgency effect wasting time and sabotaging your goals
- Be ruthless about planning and scheduling your tasks into your diary, while keeping your long-term goals clearly at the front of your mind. Break them down into small tasks and tick them off when done. Know what you value and be clear about what you really want. Here are two questions to help you create better habits around 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 time to work out, here is a way to help you prioritise your work.
- Try using a system to help you sort your tasks. President Eisenhower created the Eisenhower matrix to help him prioritise his massive workload. His matrix consists 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. Tasks are evaluated using the criteria important/unimportant and urgent/not urgent and then placed in the according quadrant. Try drawing this now and write in Do, Decide, Delegate, Delete into the appropriate boxes. Now you can sort out your tasks more easily as follows:-
Stop Wasting Time Today
- 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 that you will eliminate). DELETE
“What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.” Eisenhower
On any given day, try to put every task into one of those four boxes. You’ll quickly see that the many of your tasks linked to approaching deadlines are not often the most important things out of your list of tasks. And the tasks you thought you might leave are actually critically important. Accordingly, schedule time to work on these first and schedule the other ones for later. Maybe even delegate them? Stop wasting time today!
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 critical to learning how to maintain your focus, both on your long-term goals as well as your daily schedule. If you want to finish this year strong, make sure you give this is a go today.
To discover more tips and mindset techniques to perform optimally in all areas of your life, then come along to my next workshop.