“Much of our time is getting sucked away by preventable wastes of our time and energy. Emphasis on preventable.” - Alan P. Brown
If you work your butt off, but at the end of the day, wonder, What the heck did I actually get DONE today? This is for YOU.
The challenge is to name them, identify what causes or prompts them – “Why am I doing it”? – and then make a change in our environment, mindset or actions that patches that leak.
I recently did a Facebook Live on this topic, and wanted to share it here as well, because so many of the coaches I know complain that the important projects they know would help their business are just not getting DONE!
One coach recently told me, “I’m white-knuckling it all day!”
And even if things aren’t quite that bad for you, just wasting 12 minutes a day amounts to a FULL WORKWEEK every year. Think about THAT. (And I’ll show you the math on that in a moment.)
So here I’ll share some insights about WHY we constantly feel time-pressed (I call them Time Leakages), and a simple 3-Step exercise (with a worksheet) that can help you identify those leaks and patch them up – even if you’ve never been able to truly feel in control of your time.
[Here’s a link to my Time Leakages Worksheet -- grab that right now if you can and print it out.]
As I mentioned, we all have ‘time leakages’ – preventable wastes of our time and energy.
The challenge is to (1) name them, (2) identify what causes or prompts them – “Why am I doing it”? – and then (3) make a change in our environment, mindset or actions that patches that leak.
[Friendly Disclaimer: As we go through this, some of what I’ll say might sound a bit judgmental, but it's not meant to be. Hey, we all do all of the things I’ll be sharing -- and I'm guilty too -- so don't be offended if some of these sound a little bit like I'm saying, "You're a bad person for doing that." OK?]
Great. So let's start with…
Some thought starters are the obvious ones: social media and games on your phone, excessive TV and news, etc. (No judgment -- I'm guilty now and then, too.)
But the less-obvious ones can also be big leaks…
Pseudoproductivity: Constant email checking, excessive texting back and forth, and administrative busy work. Feels productive. Ain’t productive.
Inner-Dialogue: Rumination and worry are big time leaks. Also, “problem solving” of things that are not in our control. How often do we do that? How often do we solve that world peace problem?
Interruptions: These aren't all preventable, but most can be mitigated, at least. Interruptions can come from other people and also from our own brains.
Perfectionism: A big time leak. I know it's a bear, but this can be a real burner of time, and there are ways to beat that.
Irrelevant Subscriptions: How many things are we subscribed to that we see the email and say, "I'll get to it later," and then we see it again later but don’t do anything with it? Ya.
Online “Research”: One of my favorites! When go down a research rabbit hole that's not really yielding anything, but we stay in the rabbit hole because it actually gives us a bunch of dopamine hits.
Now, give some thought to all these thought starters: None of these are really moving us forward. None are “Quadrant II” things. In fact, they're just making it tougher for us to find time to do those important things.
Once you’ve listed your top time leaks – ideally, worst ones first – estimate how much time each might be stealing from your average day.
Looking at each of your time leaks, think about what’s happening when you fall into that behavior. For a lot of them, it’s just plain old boredom or mental fatigue (social media, checking email over and over again).
You've been working for an hour solid on something that's really tough, and you just think, "I'm just gonna take a rest..." And then what do we do? We grab a remote or our phone. Or we just grab our phone and think, "Well, let me just check the so and so."
Same thing happens when we bump up against the tough part of the tough task that we're working on.
And it’s so easy to see 20, 30, 40, or more minutes go by after deciding, “I'm just going to check my feed or I'm just going to check the headlines,” etc.
Another time-leak-behavior prompt might be when the phone buzzes or that email “ding” goes off -- even though there’s nothing urgent going, we go, "Oh, let me check that." (If it is something urgent, believe me, that thing will buzz a lot more than when your friend is texting to say hello.
There are many more examples of prompts in the Worksheet.
Confession: My big time leak is news. I'm a news junkie: I come from a family of news people, newswomen, and newsmen. But it’s one thing to be well-informed, it’s another thing when you’re watching news or scrolling a news app and not learning anything new! I've made huge strides in the last couple of years by making some simple behavior rules, e.g., No TV news during the day and only 15min at night. (And I check a couple news apps as reward for finishing a singletasking work session.)
So you've named your leaks, you've maybe identified one or two of the things that prompt that time-leaking behavior, and you've hopefully tracked how long you might be burning each day by doing that.
The thing to do now is to think about what action you can take. And in the worksheet, I've shared a bunch of possibilities.
For instance, you can replace one activity that's a leakage with a healthier activity. A great example: I used to open my news apps whenever I was sitting down for lunch in the middle of my workday. I'd finish my lunch, but another 10-15 minutes would go by and I’m still scrolling!
So I thought, "This is just not healthy." And I made a rule: Whenever I’m eating, I replace news with meditation (i.e., I cannot pick up my phone when I'm eating). Now, meditation doesn't mean, "ah-oooohm," but I just be. And that simple little rule saves me about 10 minutes every day -- an hour a week.
Another thing you can do is make a reward out of it. For instance, social media: it's not inherently evil, we all know that. But jumping in and out of your social media feeds is just crazy. So what if you were to make it a reward? “When I finish this two-hour work session, I get to then spend 15 guilt-free minutes on Facebook or Instagram or whatever.”
Another trick – especially good for news/email/social media checking is to schedule a specific time to do it. This is really powerful. Social media is not inherently evil, but we must schedule time to do so it doesn’t just happen whenever our brain wants it. (I'm allowed to check my emails at 11am and 2pm, after which I get some guilt-free social media time, making it intentional and not something that’s the flow of my day.
Those are just a few examples of ways you can take action once you've identified the time leak and the prompt that causes it. (More ideas in the Worksheet.)
The last thing you can do with this worksheet is to add up all your time. If you put five minutes a day, six minutes a day, two minutes a day, or whatever, you add them up and you put them in this drop down here, and then we've got an equation down here, which basically says X minutes a day, and let's pretend it's 12 minutes a day that I'm wasting on something, or all the things. And we are all wasting way more than 12 minutes a day, but...
12 minutes a day X 5 days equals 60 minutes a week.
That's an hour a week.
One hour a week 52 weeks in a year…
That’s 52 hours a year.
52 hours a year divided by 40…
That’s more than a full workweek every year that you’re tossing away, just by leaking 12 minutes a day!
Sorry to leave you on a sad note (hopefully you’ll get fired up and take some action to steal back that time), but that’s all for now!
If you haven’t yet, grab that Time Leakages Worksheet to quickly identify your time leaks and ways to stop them. You could save a few workweeks each year!!!