The first rule of any technology used in a business is that
automation applied to an efficient operation
will magnify the efficiency.
The second is that automation applied to an inefficient
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operation will magnify the inefficiency.
Time is one of the most valuable commodities in our lives. It is one of the few things that is equal for everyone. Even a billionaire only gets 24 hours in a day. It is vitally important that you work to limited the amount of your wasted time to make room for the things that are really important to you.
Even after you have made the commitment to limit your wasted time, it is still highly likely that curiosity will still be your undoing. I am talking about the things that suck almost everybody in:
- Do I have a new text message?
- I wonder if I have any new fresh and exciting email.
- How many visitors have been to my website in the last hour?
And the list goes on. Unfortunately, frequently indulging every whim of your curious mind can have adverse effects.
What’s the harm?
I’m glad you asked. Here are a few things to consider about these seemingly mindless and harmless indulgences.
1. How much time is it really taking? Let us say that you spend just 10 minutes of time each day on each of these activities. That’s 10 minutes a day, 5 days a week, and over a year’s time that is equivalent to a 40-hour workweek each year. An entire week! Finding that you can’t get your reports done on time? Now you know part of the reason why. Lost time really adds up.
2. Loss of momentum. Taking time away from your regular work flow to check your email costs you more time than just what you are using to pull up your email account, probably more than one, and read the new information. Whenever you finish this non-work related activity, you still have to get back on track with what you were supposed to be working on after you have finished with the email.
You have probably lost your train of thought, lost your place in the memo you were reading, or misplaced something you were using. Even worse, especially for those of us who are aging not so gracefully, you may completely forget what you were doing in the first place. And, you already know what happens to you next. You now have to take the time to respond to that email or text. And then you have to keep checking back to see what their response is. It never ends.
What’s the answer?
1. Things can wait. Remember that many of life’s “urgencies” and emergencies can wait. In our high-velocity paced lives, people have lost a sense of how to properly prioritize things, and to how disconnect from their electronic devices so that they can concentrate on the task at hand.
Part of the issue is that we have bought into the myth that we can all multi-task. Many studies have been done to show that most people cannot. Not just that they do it poorly, but that they now have to spend more time “fixing” each of the tasks than they would have if they had done them individually.
This will come as a shock, I know, but there are many people who can get away with checking their personal email only once a day. Texting is the same way, believe it or not. Most of these types of distractions are very seldom of a critical nature. If someone’s message does happen to be critical, they will find a way to get it through to you.
On a more personal note, I use this same approach to the news. I rarely watch television, and even less often watch news. This has done wonders for my general state of mind, sleep, and productivity. You see, I have a few precious hours in the evening to get things done that are important to me. So, I have made the decision to not squander it listening to someone rehash and spin the day’s event.
And, if it’s important, it will come to my attention before the day is over. Probably from someone who cannot live without their daily fix of news.
2. Schedule it. Set aside a specific time of day to check on all of those little distractions that are keeping you from getting your work done. Perhaps you might choose to only deal with email at the end of the workday or over the lunch break.
Whatever you are perpetually curious about, set aside some time each day to address it. To maximize your efficiency in dealing with this, all you have to do is stick to the schedule.
3. Let people know. If everyone knows that you only look at email between 4:45pm and 5:00pm, they will probably call you if they need to communicate something that’s vitally important. If it isn’t really all that important, they may not send the email at all. This may even mean less work for you.
Additionally, you’ll find that people won’t bother you with text messages during the day if they know you’re not going to answer them anytime soon. And, with less stuff to distract you, you will be able to better focus on your work.
We all have and do little things that waste time. Some of those things are curiosity-based, and are frequently the most challenging to ignore. Be honest with yourself , and acknowledge the amount of time it costs you each year, time that you can never get back, time that could be used more effectively and efficiently.
Most of the things that pull you away can wait. Think about how often you really need to check these distractions and make a schedule for them. By informing the appropriate people of your plan, you can be sure that they will adapt and nothing critical will be missed or overlooked.
Take back control of your time. You’ll be glad you did!