Here is my top 5 list of items that can waste my time without achieving anything of real value. These aren’t necessarily bad things, they are just areas where it is easy to lose precious time without realizing it. Everyone has their own top 5 list of time wasters. If you would like to share yours, please do so in the comments below.
- Television – It is very easy to lose a few hours mindlessly flipping through channels on the remote. For many people, a subscription in something like NetFlicks will provide a ready source of entertainment without dealing with commercials. Also, with watching a specific movie, you have a definite end point, unlike channel surfing that can go on for hours.
- Commute – Especially with an hour commute, it is easy to lose weeks worth of time each year, one day at a time. You may not be
able to do away with your commute entirely, but you can at least put your travel time to good use by listening to lectures or even making phone calls to keep in touch with family.
- Internet Browsing – The internet can be a powerful tool, but it is easy to slip into channel-surfing mode and waste time, just like using the television. Using RSS readers and bookmark tools can help you focus your browsing to help you acquire information, not simply pass the time.
- Being Tired – A lot of times we operate well below our capabilities because we are tired. By going to bed when we are tired and getting up when we are rested, we can put more concentrated effort toward things that are really important to us. Allowing our body to sleep when it is tired keeps us from wasting time trying to perform when we are physically unable to operate at our full potential.
- Lack of Skill – Attempting to do things where we lack the skill or knowledge is a huge waste of time. This isn’t to say that it is bad to try to learn new things, but attempting to change the plumbing in your basement without spending the proper amount of time investing in your own education about the process is a recipe for disaster. There are some times where doing it yourself can be the most expensive option in terms of time and money.
Originally published December 5, 2006.
Here’s an interesting experiment: what if you measured your top 5 time wasters during the day, not in an effort to minimize them, but just to see how much time you spend feeding the beast? You could do the same thing with the top 5 time savers.
Interesting article. I thought I’d share my personal solution for #1 and #3. At the beginning of each season, I look at all the new shows that are outlined in the TV Guide and decide which ones I’m going to watch. I have two (occasionally three) VCRs that I use to tape things and at least one that I designate for “watching” tapes. (The VCRs are in different rooms attached to different TVs). At the beginning of each week, I make sure the shows I want to record are new ones and I check to see if there’s anything special or unusual that I also want to tape. A few years ago I created a table with time slots, so I just print out the taping schedule for the week and make sure all the VCRs are set. I’ve labeled my blank tapes (1, 2, 3, A, B, C, A1, A2, A3, etc.) so I just make a note in the box of what tape those particular shows are recorded on for the week. Now whenever I want to watch TV (which is usually only when I’m exercising, ironing, folding laundry, grading papers, etc.) I can go straight to a show I’ve taped and fast forward through all the commercials. Also, since I can rewind and pause, it’s easier to multi-task without worrying about missing something important.
As far as internet browsing, that’s more of a problem for me, especially with cool sites like this one ;-) Seriously, though, I read one article, which points me to another one, etc. So to make sure I don’t get “sucked” in, I set a timer for 15 minutes. When the time is up, I go back to being productive. I randomly treat myself to these 15 minute internet breaks throughout the day, and the timer helps keep me on track so that I don’t lose all track of time.
Martin S. says
This is a #&$^# good list. More people should read this. Further info on these particular time wasters would be great for readers of this blog, I think! :)
Yodz Insigne says
Wow, these are also my time wasters, especially doing things that I don’t have enough knowledge or skill – definitely eats up my whole day.
Thanks for the list.
Stephanie Calahan (@StephCalahan) says
Love the list. Here is how I manage some of them:
Television – We DVR almost everything. Easy to take an hour long show and shrink it down to 20 minutes by fast forwarding through commercials!
Commute – I use this time in a number of ways (mind you I am not in an area with heavy traffic most of the time. If I was, some of these would be eliminated) I use quiet driving time as great strategy time. I am always working on new product or service ideas. My phone has a recording function, so I record my thoughts and then review them later. The focus time is precious for me. I also do what you suggest by listening to recorded teleseminars and catching up with family. I used to use this time to talk to clients or prospects, but found it to be inefficient for me because I could not take good notes.
Internet Browsing/Twitter Time — I set a timer for how long I want to spend on the net in general or Twitter. By setting the timer, I am making a commitment to myself to not get distracted. In fact, I frequently finish up right before the alarm goes off!
Being Tired – So True! For years I was taught to “push through” my tired feelings. I have learned that is one of the worst pieces of advice I have ever received. When tired, rest. You will get MUCH more done when you are rested and focused and your end results will be much better too.
Lack of Skill – Unless it is an area of your business that you must know, find someone with the skill to do it for you. Don’t know how to delegate out work? I found a great free resource here from one of my Twitter friends: http://bit.ly/VAStrat
To your success!
Productive & Organized – We’ll help you find your way! (TM)
Mark Shead says
A 60 minute show is only 20 minutes long? No wonder I don’t enjoy watching TV!
Stephanie Calahan (@StephCalahan) says
LOL! Yup. It all depends on the show and the number of ads that are sold into the slot of course. Last October I was asked to be on the strategy builder production team for Extreme Maker: Home Edition. I was amazed in our briefing meetings when they told us that they would shoot over 600 hours of footage and break it down to 28 minutes of actual show.
Thanks for sharing your management to top 5 time wasters. I like them all, especially Internet browsing. I find I wasted a lot of my time on it; For example, mostly I just wanted to search a piece of information or news, but hundreds and thousands of information came out, then I was attracted by other more interesting information. Several hours later, I even forgot what I was trying to find at the beginning. Setting a timer will be really a good way to help, I think.
Mark Shead says
I once bought my brother a very nice illustrated dictionary. He loved it–at first. Then he hated it. Whenever he tried to look something up, he would get so distracted with other stuff that he forgot the word he was originally looking for. That is exactly what happens with the Internet. :)
Angela Esnouf says
I have to agree with all 5 of these. The commute is something most people don’t consider changing, they seem to accept it as a necessary evil.
Our recordable decoder has saved thousands of hours. Now we only watch the best programs instead of watching all kinds of rubbish waiting for the few good programs to come around.
Further to Stephanie’s comment – the worst is CSI Miami! I fast forward through the scenery (with its annoyingly fake color filters), Horatio standing around with hands on hips (always shot from the ground so that he looks taller than 4’2″), people walking through corridors, and searches for fingerprints and DNA (which are just a joke). You can easily get the program over in 15 minutes and not miss a thing!
This article is very useful for those who feel that the time is not in their advantage. What is to do then? Well i guess that we can call it “time management”. Those 5 time eaters are the most frequent ones and also important. In my case, for example, Internet browsing is the first thing on the list, because i sped a lot of time in front of the computer and at some point, i realized that i really need a plan to follow each day, so that my time spent on the Internet to be useful.