“When you kill time, remember that it has no resurrection.” A.W. Tozer
I just finished reading Cal Newport’s excellent book Deep Work and I’m ashamed.
Apparently, when it comes to protecting your time and productivity I’ve been operating at a kindergarten level.
Newport is a tenured professor at Georgetown who’s written 4 books, is actively involved in research (he’s a computer scientist), and does it all that without working past 5:30. He’s also managed to become a best-selling author without any social media accounts.
Now I’m ashamed and envious.
I promise to do a complete deep dive on Deep Work in a later post (it’s worth a couple of blog posts), but for now, I want to talk about how we waste time.
We all do it: procrastinate and generally piss away precious minutes thinking grand plans but mining away in the minutia of life.
Nothing wrong with idle moments or occasionally getting lost between tasks—sometimes I’ll have a Eureka moment in a mental lull between tasks.
The problem is when wasting time becomes normal.
“Tell me how you use your spare time, and how you spend your money, and I will tell you where
and what you will be in ten years from now.” Napoleon Hill
Oh! Not me, you think. After all, I’m a productive person: I use a calendar, day timer, project planner, phone reminders and egg timer. Heck, I even have a gratitude journal.
In the spirit of better is always possible, I did some digging into recent research on how we all waste time (even a little bit).
Have a look.
2.34 hours checking email (30% are neither urgent nor important.) (Carleton University)
35 minutes deciding what to eat (New York Post)
7 minutes thinking about exercise (but doing nothing) (Kettler)The average person spends 7 minutes a day thinking about exercise (but doing nothing). Click To Tweet
37 minutes on Facebook (Verto Analytics)
27 minutes on other social media accounts (eMarketer)
40 minutes on YouTube (really!?) (Mediakix)The average office worker spends 1 hour in meetings and 50% of that time is wasted. Click To Tweet
4 hours watching TV (Statista)
96 minutes surfing non-work related websites (CNBC)
171 minutes checking your smartphone (comScore)
90 mins in daily interruptions (such as colleagues asking questions) (WashingtonPost)
2 minutes – spent reading this list (Hey! I wanted 13 in my list)
What I didn’t include is another scary list of guilty parties, including:
- time during commutes NOT learning from books, ebooks, audiobooks or podcasts.
- time worrying about outcomes that won’t happen or you can’t do anything about.
- time frustrated about someone’s attitudes, activities or how they brush their teeth.
- time spent thinking about working on something (like phoning a client, outsourcing an unwanted job, or preparing for a meeting) but doing nothing.
- time spent learning how to do something (like graphic design, Facebook advertising, research or fixing your lawnmower) that someone can do for half the price in half the time.
- time spent making lists over and over, but never moving forward on important work.
Here’s the deal.
Whether I’m speaking with HR Managers, entrepreneurs or top executives, they all have the same complaint: I don’t have enough time.
I get it. Stuff comes up. We get distracted and “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” (Robert Burns)
But, one thing I know about time is when something becomes urgent we do it.
The clogged sink I should have called a plumber about 2 months ago finally packed it in – it became urgent, I called the plumber.
After months talking about it, this week I’m hiring for a sales position. Replacing me in sales became an urgent need, so it’s happening.
But, that’s no way to live.
You already know what’s important. It could be your health, your relationships, your work or even what you do between 6 pm and 10 pm with your leisure time.
Today is when you need to take what you know is important and make time for it. Trust me; Facebook, TV, email and a million other time escapes will wait.
Want to build your productivity muscles?
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