How to stop wasting time to increase your productivity.
We procrastinate for many reasons. And then, we say we didn’t have time.
Since I started my first side hustle, I struggled with time-wasting activities. Many times, while writing, I got distracted by other things. And I felt so powerless because I couldn’t control it.
Two months ago, I ran out of content, and I felt horrible for abandoning my readers. Then, a month ago, it happened again, for another reason. And since I wanted to avoid repeating this experience, I made a list of the 20 most dangerous time-wasters I ever faced and why you should stop them.
Since then, my productivity has doubled, and I keep producing content without burning out. So here are the 20 most dangerous time-wasters I am fighting every day.
1. No-purpose social media.
When I first checked my Instagram usage, it almost touched an average of 2 hours daily. For one social network only. So I felt horrible.
I was throwing away almost three days a month and two working days a week. So I immediately blocked notifications on my phone from all potential distractions.
At first, this sudden change complicated my life because I felt like an outsider. But later, I realized how a simple action saved me many productivity hours.
2. Too much multitasking.
Writing my thesis, I had to test the software I developed and wait a couple of minutes between iterations. So I acquired the bad habit of doing many things at once.
Since then, for almost a year, I kept multitasking, which prevented me from focusing on a single task and finishing it efficiently. And for this reason, I decided to note every time I was multitasking to recognize this pattern better and prevent it as much as possible.
3. Losing things.
It might seem stupid, but losing your work tools can introduce a considerable delay in your productivity and lead to procrastination.
For example, if I want to write my to-do list but can’t find a pen, it may take time to start writing. Also, while searching for my tools, I could incur other distractions misleading my attention with other activities.
Therefore, I acquired a habit of placing my tools in the same spot, and I won’t lose them anymore.
4. Unplanned meals.
A couple of months ago, I started planning my meals for the following week, which brought me two advantages.
First, I could lose weight because I had a significant influence over the calories I was consuming daily. And second, I saved a lot of time since I didn’t have to figure out what to eat before any meal anymore.
5. Television binge-watching.
I stopped watching television six years ago, but sometimes I catch up with some comedy shows I still enjoy.
However, I noticed an addiction to television consumption when I ended up binge-watching every show from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. So I decided to stop watching live television at all and prioritize on-demand services if possible.
6. No to-do list strategy.
To-do lists have become one of my favorite productivity techniques. But even now, some days, I forget to do it, and I lose a lot of time switching between activities because I don’t know what I need to do still.
However, I am trying to improve. Sometimes I make my to-do list in the evening, and sometimes in the morning. But I never start a working day without one.
7. No added value relationships.
Another thing that was wasting many of my evenings was useless relationships.
I still have many friends from middle school, so sometimes, we still hang out. But there is no added value in those relationships anymore — we diverged so much we don’t have anything in common anymore, so we can only talk about the past.
Also, we lose a lot of time planning our meetings even if most of the time we skip them. And planning has become so tedious that I decided to limit those evenings from the beginning.
8. Checking emails when you can’t answer them.
If you can’t answer your emails, don’t open them. I learned this lesson with my first job, where I always kept the mail open, but I never had time to answer the emails as soon as they arrived.
Emails are as distracting as social media. Each of them can interrupt your stream of thoughts and delay your activities. So stop wasting your time with them and shut down that mailing software.
In the past months, I gradually reduced my email interaction to two moments. First, I check it in the morning, when I start working. And then I check it in the afternoon, two hours before leaving.
9. Not keeping a shopping list.
Not keeping a shopping list can also become quite time-wasting. Every time I go shopping, I have to recall everything that I lack. So I need to walk between rooms and observe what I could have missed.
But since I started making a shopping list, I stopped losing that much time anymore. Each time I remember something I need to buy, I note it on my list, which improves my shopping management overall.
10. Having too much clutter.
I am one of the most organized people I know, at least in my working environment. But sometimes, even leaving a book out of its place can lead to a considerable loss of time. My mind will see that environment as already cluttered, so it will use it as expected.
For this reason, I try to keep my environment as clean as possible and declutter at least once a month to stop losing time looking after things.
11. Not having a priority list.
My to-do list evolved in the past years, becoming an organized daily planner where I mark many more things than my to-dos.
A sub-list that helped me a lot is my priority list, where I write my weekly focus. This way, I can see the bigger picture I want to accomplish every day, and I am less influenced by procrastination. Tasks acquire higher relevancy which leads me to higher productivity.
12. Working without intention.
I’ve always noticed the difference between working with and without intention on a task.
When I know where I am going, I work with more passion, and I tend to procrastinate less because I am less receptive to external inputs.
However, when I don’t know why I am working, I keep searching for a reason. And this exposes my brain to procrastination.
13. Overloading work hours.
Too many things in a short period lead to exhaustion at first and then procrastination. Also, this is one of the 20 most dangerous time-wasters because it is subtle and hardly avoidable.
We all want to produce more in a shorter time. But when this production overcomes our abilities, it becomes hurtful.
14. Not being able to reach deep work.
When I first heard about deep work, I knew it was the next level of productivity, but I had a hard time implementing it.
Now that I can control it better, I realize how much time I lost trying to work on my projects on such a superficial level.
Deep work helped me increase my productivity and also cut distractions out of my routine. Also, it has many side effects because it forces you to organize your projects better.
15. Not doing online shopping.
Some days, I shop after work because markets are less crowded and it is easier to finish in time for dinner. But there are weeks in which I have to shop on weekends, and I lose up to two hours doing it.
So lately, I started planning shopping online. I am paying slightly more, but I also increase my free time, and I don’t have to stress out for people unable to keep their mouths shut.
16. Not planning commitments.
Every Sunday night, I built a habit of planning my fixed commitments for the following week, so I don’t have to check hundreds of notes to understand if I am free for a meeting.
I used to keep a diary and check it manually, but that became outdated in a few weeks. Now, I use a virtual agenda where I plan all my commitments. Also, I set a reminder three days before the meeting and the night before. This way, I don’t need to check my schedule every day, and I won’t miss any meetings anymore.
17. Not having a blocking strategy.
Related to the previous point, my digital planner doesn’t only help me with meetings but any other activity. For this reason, I use a blocking strategy of half-an-hour chunks of time I can assign to my to-dos for the day.
Time blocking helps me fight the uncertainty of not knowing where to start or if I need a break.
18. Procrastinating minor hobbies.
If I want to reduce to the minimum the expense of time-wasters, I also need to plan my free time activities and hobbies. This way, I am not tempted to play the guitar while writing an article, for example. Or I can’t decide to stay home writing when I should go out for my daily walk break.
Procrastination doesn’t only come from distractions like social media and content consumption, but also from hobbies and free time that we allow ourselves even when we shouldn’t.
19. Being unorganized.
Not preparing my environment before starting work is also a significant time-waster because I have to interrupt and take the tools I need to continue. So once I solved the problem of clutter, I also had to remove the problem of not decluttering correctly.
To enhance efficiency, I need to find the necessary tools for an activity in the same room. And if that doesn’t happen, it can become a major time-waster.
20. Not limiting environment switches.
When planning my daily activities, I try to limit the environment switches I need to take because each exposes me to distractions. Also, moving between environments makes me lose flow. So I can’t switch between activities without losing too much time anymore.
However, this doesn’t mean I don’t take any more breaks. On the contrary, I force myself to take at least one every two hours. But for any two-hour session, I try to remain in the same environment.
Here is my list of the 20 most dangerous time-wasters I fought for the past year. So depending on your good or bad habits, you should know what to eliminate to increase productivity and efficiency.
I spent an entire year finding all those procrastination enhancers, and I still have problems keeping track of all of them. But I am trying to keep track of each of those time-wasters and find out which is ruining my days the most, so I can focus on that single one. And then, when I solve one, I switch to the next, and so on.
Do you want to stop losing time and improve your productivity?
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Cover photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash.