I found you an interesting post: the Productivity 501 blog has interviewed more productivity experts than you can shake a Blackberry at, and has compiled the ultimate master list of the biggest timewasters, according to the experts. See if you can identify yourself in any of these scenarios, and think about ways to not be that guy.
For me, simply making the resolution not to check email and the WordPress help forum till the top of every hour has significantly increased my productivity. As you think about these, perhaps others will jump out at you as your particular time-wasting triggers. Whatever it is, write it down and gauge your progress with working against the tendency to spend time unproductively.
Note this doesn’t mean no downtime. Summer afternoons with dappled sunlight should be treasured, not abandoned to the seemingly useful task of preparing your taxes for the coming end of quarter or whatever. The whole point of productivity itself is to ensure that you have the time to spend on the things you need to do and that you have the time to spend on the things you WANT to do. Time is money, in more ways than you might think.
Here are some snippets from the article, but as always we encourage you to read the whole thing. There are many gems here for you to discover.
I believe it is a combination of two things that causes people to waste time without even realizing it. First, as Stephen Covey put it eloquently, people may be climbing the “ladder of success” very efficiently, but if this ladder is leaning against the wrong wall, they won’t be effective. In other words, they may find that they have been very busy doing the wrong things without even realizing it, and therefore wasting their time.
Second, people may be “doing” a project or trying to achieve a goal, without having a clear idea about why exactly they are doing it. In other words, they haven’t given the desired successful outcome of the task or project any significant thought at all. Again, they may find themselves wasting their time on finishing a project that turns out to have no real value to them.
gtdfrk from Getting Things Done (rss)
I see a lot of people doing this with their careers. They spend years working for someone else without ever really thinking about where they want to be later on in life. One of the strengths I see in the Franklin Planners is that they try to help you figure out your values first and then decide your goals to base your tasks around.
Not knowing their life purpose. There is no bigger time waster than putting a lot of effort in doing things only to eventually find that they have climbed the wrong ladder for years. People could even waste their entire life this way.
Donald Latumahina from Life Optimizer (rss)
A few years ago my wife and I decided to take a much different path from the norm. This involved selling our huge house and giving up other things, but the result is that we’ve been able to spend a lot more time focusing on things that are actually important to us. It is surprising how difficult it can be to really sit down and decide what is important in life because we are so conditioned to think of a particular path and lifestyle as the way to success–even if the result isn’t somewhere we want to end up.
I’m going to give an answer to an assumption that’s implicit in your question: That there is a uniform single problem for everyone. Instead, I think everyone’s challenges are different. When working with clients I’m always a bit surprised when one thing leaps out at them. For example, one client loved the simple A-Z filing system – she was very excited to try it. Another found my email tips most helpful. However, generalizing one experience to everyone is limiting – it’s why I teach a consistent, complete system instead of tips and tricks. That said, email is huge, and presents a big opportunity for many people to improve how they use their time. Some of my suggestions include scheduling fixed times in the day to process messages (AKA “time blocking” or “time mapping”), quitting the program afterwards, and making sure the “new mail” alarm is disabled. In workshops I ask clients to think about email as they would a chainsaw – it’s powerful, dangerous, and should not be fired up just to “check the trees” Start the program, so the work of dealing with each message (getting them out of the inbox), then move on.
Matthew Cornell from Idea Matt (rss)