Workflow Management, How to Stop Wasting Time
Managing your workflow means reducing the time wasted on non-essential items. But how can you tell if your crazy busy day has you wasting time, or functioning efficiently if everything completed feels like it has to be done right this second?
There are a number of things that we do regularly that can be either productive or total time sucks. Here are the most common things that waste time more often then they need to.
Not Knowing Your Priorities, the ultimate in Wasting Time
Honestly, this is probably the biggest time waster of all in all aspects of life. If you don’t know what your priorities are, someone else will commandeer Your Time, for Their Priorities. It’s bound to happen in so many different ways.
Priorities are our guides to how we spend our time, at home, at work, and in our business. But if your life priorities are out of whack you may end up focusing on one area (like work) to the exclusion of everything else (home).
You see this commonly with people who are called workaholics. And often after years of this focus and building up a great career, they turn to their home life and find things missing (like their spouse and kids).
Many times this focus on work is meant to help take care of and provide for the home life, but because of the imbalance between their priorities, the work-life takes over.
This can also happen on a smaller scale as well. At work recently I received a new task, it was supposed to be done every day before noon so as not to hold up the other departments. However NO ONE told me what the deadline was, so I processed the paperwork in the sequence prioritized around my understanding. A lot of people got upset, had I known the deadline I could have easily accommodated it (well not easily, but I would have made it work). But because I didn’t know, I didn’t rearrange my priorities.
The Solution: Set your priorities clearly for yourself. Is your career the most important, or your family? Are they equally important? Get your big priorities straight first (family/work/business) and build all the other stuff in your life around them.
Meetings & Phone Calls
Ever had a meeting about a meeting to determine if you needed to have a meeting about something? A good number of the Executives I’ve worked with limit the number of meetings they have regularly for this exact reason.
If there isn’t a clear agenda see if the matter can be resolved in an email or short phone call. If you need to see people face to face learn how to keep everyone on topic and watch the time.
The same thing for phone calls, keep the “pleasantries” short and to the point. After that stick to the topic at hand & direct the conversation back to the point of the call.
It feels like you are being productive because meetings and phone calls are supposed to be a high-level productivity management efficiency. This can get collaboration from many people in real time.
The problem is not everyone knows how to stay on topic, so be polite but keep it on topic.
The Solution: Always have an agenda, and time frame pre-arranged before your meetings. Don’t accept anything else into your calendar.
Distractions – Smart Phones / Social Media / Notifications
There is a reason why you will occasionally hear me say “Smart Phone, Dumb Person”. It’s because we have become like Pavlov’s Dog’s responding to our phones.
That little notification that we have a message, a like, a share or whatever goes off and we start salivating to get into our phone.
In Mrs. B.’s post How your Cell Phone use affects your Mental Health, she discusses numerous reasons why our phones directly affect our brain’s functionality and some of the challenges faced in today’s world because of it. Not the least of which are things like depression, trouble sleeping, and productivity declines.
And social media is no different, it’s not just the notifications that suck us in. There is a pseudo-relationship that happens between us and our social media accounts because they connect us to so many of our loved ones.
How many times have you said, “I’ll just check Facebook for a sec” and come away an hour later having watched some videos, read an article or 2, and messaged a couple friends?
These platforms are designed to draw us in, and when used correctly can be a great tool for staying in contact or a great waste of time & productivity killer.
The problem is that it breaks your focus. Studies show that for each interruption it takes an average of 10 to 15 minutes to get back on task and productive.
The Solution: Use things like your “Do Not Disturb” function when you are working, & turn off all unnecessary notifications (no Facebook won’t disappear if you turn the notifications off).
Email, Necessary yet kills more time then it saves
Email falls under a category of its own because it often becomes an “Inbox of To-Do’s” from other people. So handling emails are frequently something that feels productive but really just gets you focused on whatever the other person’s priorities are.
For example, your boss emails you during the evening, and if you see it I bet you start thinking about how to get the answer back to them or the task completed the next day. Your bosses priorities just took over your evening plans with the kids, or to work on your own business.
The Solution: Handle emails in batches & set up a workflow for your emails. Set aside time in the day to open your email and handle it. If something gets sent to you as a to-do add it to your to-do list and move on.
Multi-Tasking / Trying to learn too much at once
Every workflow I’ve ever established focuses on transitioning from one task to the next. Workflows are not a simultaneous “all-the-steps-are-done-at-once” type of set up. But rather a series of events or tasks that bring you closer to finishing your end goal.
You have only one brain, if you think of it like a computer sure, you could open a bunch of programs and let stuff run in the background. The problem with this is that it still chews up your memory and slows everything else down that you are trying to do. And in reality, there really is no such thing as “multi-tasking” for a human brain.
So if you are trying to make phone calls, answer email, write a blog post, and manage children underfoot all at the same time it’s likely some of the things you are trying to do will get all jumbled up in your mind.
The person on the other end of the phone will pick up and you’ll have to think about why you called in the first place. All while listening to your kids ask for yet another snack.
When you’re finished your call and head back to the email you’ll find you may have typed something about the call in the email or forgot the point of what you meant to say.
And that’s not even looking at the post you worked so hard on, and those little ones who love you dearly clamoring for attention.
The problem is that our brains (for the most part) can only consciously focus on one thing at a time. And there are a bunch of studies that prove this. True Multi-Tasking does not exist in the conscious part of the human brain.
The Solution: Focus on what you need to do when you are doing it. I know this is tough, especially with little ones underfoot all day. But whatever you are doing you need the access to all your brain power, not just a little corner of it while the rest tries to hear if the kids got into something they shouldn’t in the other room.
This can take some planning, for instance, our little guy is a bundle of energy and constantly underfoot these days. So I blog, and handle a number of other tasks that manage our house when he sleeps or visits his Grandparents. Or Hubs and I will tag team, and he’ll watch kiddo while I work and vice versa.
If you are doing something that the kids could help with, then, by all means, get them involved as well (like cooking or food prep, or laundry depending on their age and abilities).
This is applicable in almost anything, but especially as a blogger. You found a new topic and you are excited to write about it, so you go & research it to see what everyone else is doing.
An hour or 2 later you have read a gazillion other posts on the topic and now you are totally lost. You are officially overwhelmed too, not to mention that you’ve likely lost your own voice on the topic in the process.
We all get those moments where we are fascinated with a topic or idea and just have to read about it. And if we land on a great blog or article we will read it all the way through and look for more.
Here’s the thing, most of the time when you need to know something it doesn’t take a tone of research. Especially when you already have an opinion on the topic., in a likelihood you are just researching to prove your own point of
The Solution: Limit the time you spend on this, I literally set a timer for 30 minutes to research any blog post I write. If I haven’t found what I need in that time frame I don’t find I need it.
Oh and all those posts I find? I skim them looking for highlights instead of reading in depth, saves a bunch of time.
Hint: keep all the links you use for things like headline analyzers and keyword searches in one quick easy to use a handy spot like a spreadsheet or trello card so you just have to click a link instead of search for it.
We all do this to some degree. There is something on our to-do list that needs doing and we know it, but put it off repeatedly. We are too busy, the task isn’t important enough, it will take too long, it can wait (and so therefore must).
Sometimes a task will sit there for weeks, months or even years before we get around to doing it.
But because it is on our “to-do” list it keeps taking up time and wasting our productive brain power.
The Solution: Scrap them or create a catchall spot for these types of tasks to go into. If they are time sensitive assign them a relevant due date and move on. For everything else just slowly plug on through them one at a time. Don’t keep them constantly in your face where you think about them.
How Striving for Perfection Wastes Time
This is one I personally struggle with regularly. Especially with regards to blogging, I work on a post and work on a post and try to get it “right”. And just like most people hold off putting something out there because it’s not ‘good enough yet”, hitting that publish button freaks me out on occasion.
And I completely understand why many people put their ideas and thoughts on the chopping block. Its because they are not “perfect” enough. Or they spend hours and hours of work on something only to never release it, or only to keep going back and trying to fix it.
Improvement and growth are great, but if our need to be “perfect” is getting in the way of completing our work or pursuing our dreams it’s likely that we need to step back and let go of that need for perfection.
The Solution: Get comfortable with good enough. I’m not saying you should never go and improve something. But if you have a good enough version now release it. Hit that publish button, sing that song, make that craft. In most cases, those little “imperfections” are things only you will see. And even if others do see them, it’s not the end of the world.
Wasting Time will happen… so take breaks from your productivity
Wasting time will happen from time to time. It’s normal, our brains need breaks from processing all the data we see every day.
We will all spend some time online killing time, or chat with friends and family. That’s normal
But when we are establishing a workflow, or focused on being productive we need to minimize these things and just get the work done.
But in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, we also need to ensure that we are taking breaks where we need to.
Maybe at work, you don’t take your morning coffee break because you get caught up in the tasks you are working on. But then I would challenge you to take some extra time elsewhere (provided it won’t get you in trouble at work). Or treat yourself to something that relaxes you when you get home.
The point is that not all “Time Wasters” are always a Waste of Time.