We waste too much time. We even sell products to help us waste time, but they are designed to make us think we're being efficient. Don't believe me?
Consider the highlighter. Now, don't get me wrong, I own highlighters and my students often ask me if they can use them to highlight their lines. From a visual standpoint, I can see how highlighted lines may be easier to read, but the final task of them actually memorizing their lines and knowing their cues is not achieved simply by highlighting. Rather, the act of highlighting is just a step to the final destination. I want students to engage with the text, memorize their lines, and make it their own. Or, consider students who highlight and underline text as they study, but then don't do anything with that material. That time spent highlighting has just been wasted! Highlighting and underlining on their own are not effective study habits! They waste time.
I fell into this trap myself as a graduate student. I had so many books and articles filled with text I highlighted, underlined, and pages I dogeared, but if I didn't actually do anything with that text RIGHT THEN AND THERE, that time was lost. Days later, when I returned to those texts, those highlighted sections, underlined passages, dogeared pages no longer resonated with me. I then just stopped doing those actions and when I found something useful, something that hit home or emphasized a key point or even played devil's advocate to a point I was trying to make, I would WRITE IT DOWN, cite my source, make my argument. I would deal with it then and there. Guess when I became more efficient? That's right: when I stopped underlining, highlighting, and dogearing text with the good intention of returning to it at another point. Think about the many tasks and tools we use that get us started on something but they don't actually take us to the final destination. The highlighter is just an example.
Here are three things to STOP doing that waste our time and three things we can START doing to make better use of our time.
STOP browsing on your device without purpose. We have all fallen into the time wasting trap when we are sucked into the world of our devices and taken down the rabbit hole. We click on an article about how to maximize our time (ironically), to be brought to another exciting article, to then look at an image, to find this video, to check out a popular meme, and then half an hour later, we wonder where all that time went. Just notice the impacts phones have when people choose to take it to the bathroom with them versus those who leave it behind. Those who take their phones will take a longer time! This is usually done with the intent to 'save' time, to 'multi-task'. After all, why not just 'quickly' check your emails, because you're waiting to hear about something important? People waste time and are also incredibly dangerous on the road when they try to check their phones while driving. Some claim they only look at a stop-light, but I mean, really? Have you ever been behind a car that is just stopped on the road because they were on their phone? Or perhaps missed a turn signal because they were on their phone? Maybe you've been that person? The thing is, not only is that incredibly dangerous, but you're also wasting time and delaying your ability to get to work on time. And, you're affecting those who were behind you who also missed that green turn signal!
START browsing with a time frame and purpose in mind.
If you are seeking articles, research, resources, then decide how long you want to spend doing that and what you hope to accomplish by the end of your browsing time. Even if you just want to look at social media, go from just scanning images and looking at other people's lives, to actually making connections, reaching out, and making plans to see those you care about. I'm not saying we shouldn't browse around on our phones, but perhaps we should become aware of how much time we're spending on our devices and what we're actually accomplishing.
STOP checking your email to just check your email without taking action!
Have you ever checked your e-mail, you open up a message, read it, and then decide to deal with it later? Some people even mark their messages again as unread because they want to deal with it later. You guys, this is all part of wasting time! Instead of just swiping through your e-mails, make it a point to actually look at your emails and respond to them.
START checking and dealing with your email right then and there
I learned from the great Tim Ferriss, author of bestseller of The 4-Hour Workweek, to decide when in the day you plan to check your e-mail and to have an autoresponder that explains when you check your emails so people know when they will hear back from you. You can also articulate that when you are not checking email, you are teaching, working, in meetings, etc. Perhaps even set 2 or 3 times a day when you sit down, check your email, and deal with it then and there. Think about the many hours you have to NOT check email and to actually do other things that are focused on what you need and hope to accomplish.
STOP writing to do lists without prioritizing and acting on each item. We've all fallen into this trap as well. How many of you have items on your do-list that's been on there for, well, too long? How many of you make a new year's resolution to do list and how many of you have actually accomplished everything on that list? Lists are great, but they're a starting point, not an end point.
START writing out what you need and want to do and then schedule your calendar.
Instead, make a list of all that you need and want to do, prioritize those items, and then actually schedule them into your calendar. Plan for them. If you put in a date and time in your calendar of when you will actually go work out, you're more likely to do it instead of just writing 'work-out' on your to-do list. It also forces us to break down some of our larger tasks on our to-do lists into manageable chunks and help us see how long things will actually take.
How can you stop wasting time and start making time to do what you actually want and need to be doing?