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Eliminate These Time-Wasting Activities and Make Your Routine Actually Work

‘Time’ has been long considered the single greatest resource at our disposal and every day, every single individual wakes up with exactly the same amount of this resource: 24 hours, 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds.

Despite this even start, there is a tremendous difference in what each of us accomplishes with our time. For some individuals it seems as though the sky is the limit. No matter how busy they are, they always appear in control and on the ball. In contrast, others seem to struggle to get anything done, always scrambling to keep up, saying over and over how they just “can’t find the time”.

What’s the difference between these two groups? Why do some individuals seem to be able to accomplish so much, while others accomplish so little? Often it’s simply a matter of streamlining one’s daily routine to eliminate time-wasting activities. Let’s take a look at a couple activities that may be holding you back from making the most of your time.

Multitasking

Psychologists have long suspected that multitasking harms productivity, rather than helping it. Studies have shown it actually does far worse than we initially thought.

A recent study by Standford University demonstrated that multitaskers underperformed in every aspect of testing compared with individuals who focused on one thing at a time.

“We kept looking for what they’re better at, and we didn’t find it,” said Ophir, the study’s lead author and a researcher in Stanford’s Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media Lab.

Another study, by the University of London, showed that multitasking with electronic media can have a profoundly negative impact on a person’s IQ, causing a drop as large as 15 points.

To eliminate multitasking, retrain yourself to focus on a single task at a time. It goes without saying that this will require rethinking your existing workflows. Determine the most important task you need to accomplish and set aside a finite amount of time to accomplish it. During that time, don’t answer your phone, don’t check your email and don’t allow yourself to switch tasks. At the end of the allotted time, give yourself a short break and move on to the next task. If the task isn’t finished, set aside another finite amount of time to finish it and repeat the process.

Procrastination

Procrastination may be caused by a number of factors: fear of failure, lack of clear goals or even being overwhelmed by the tasks at hand.

While procrastination has its apologists (even sometimes, advocates) studies have shown that procrastination does far more harm than good. The results from one such study conducted by APS Fellow Dianne Tice and APS William James Fellow Roy Baumeister, was even published in Psychological Science.

“Thus, despite its apologists and its short-term benefits, procrastination cannot be regarded as either adaptive or innocuous,” concluded Tice and Baumeister (now both at Florida State University). “Procrastinators end up suffering more and performing worse than other people.”

How do you overcome procrastination? It largely depends on the cause:

  • Overwhelmed: one of the most common causes of procrastination–feeling overwhelmed by the number of tasks–can be combated by taking a hard look at what you actually have to accomplish. How many of your tasks are vital? How many of them can be eliminated? How many can be delegated to someone else. Pairing down the number of things that require your attention can go a long way.
  • Fear of failure: fear of failure is another common cause. In this scenario an individual is afraid, perhaps even convinced, they will fail. The result is a reluctance to do anything. How do you overcome it? By choosing small, realistic tasks to focus on, preferably tasks that contribute toward an even larger goal. With each success, the fear of failure will likely subside.
  • Lack of clear goals: a similar problem to being overwhelmed, lack of clear goals can be a debilitating cause of procrastination. Without clear goals, an individual may struggle to know where to begin, what step to take next or how to prioritize what needs to be done. The solution is likewise similar to being overwhelmed. Sit down and take an honest look at what you’re trying to accomplish. What tasks will help you achieve that goal? What tasks will get in the way, or distract you from it? What intermediate steps can be taken to start moving in the right direction? Clearly outlining exactly what needs to be done and ruthlessly eliminating any tasks that don’t help you accomplish your overarching goal is the key to overcoming this problem.

When dealing with any sort of procrastination, even while you’re at the office, it’s important to take a step back and examine why it’s happening. Only by knowing your enemy, can you truly combat it.

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About Curt Finch

Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx. Journyx is not your average software company. We strive to be relentlessly creative and to build tools that help you spend your time on things that matter. After all, time is all we have. Founded in 1996, Journyx offers customers two solutions to reach the highest levels of…