Yes, yes, I'm adding a "how-to" on using time to the already huge collection of articles online... so why do it? Well, quite simply, this post is cut from a different cloth than the rest. I don't like wasting my time reading the same old advice that EVERYONE gives.
The Jim Carrey picture is meant to just be a joke of how even as God he couldn't get everything done. (Plus it's just a funny picture ;))
So instead of trying to learn from amateurs, I chose to learn from experts, apply them myself, and then fine-tune them for my own purposes. Time is the most valuable resource on earth and one must learn to maximize how they use it if they ever want to achieve big goals, such as building your own business.
This used to go through my head all the time, and still does on the occasion I fall off course. (Which is totally natural, and totally fine as a human, so don't beat yourself up over it!) Nobody ever really taught me how to be efficient at things, I guess it's one of those things where people assume it's common knowledge. Heh, even though that isn't so common anymore, but that's a topic for another blog.
After I figured out that I sucked at getting work done I began to really dig deep into what my psychology was like and my habits. I came to understand that, most of the time, the reason I wouldn't get projects or tasks completed was simply because I wasn't focused enough or my goals weren't clearly defined. Again, I get it, everybody and their father preaches this, but I'm going to show you solid methods that AREN'T crap.
A lot of what I've gathered has come from books, but only one of them really stood out. It doesn't tell you that you need to totally rearrange your life like most do. Instead, it focuses on managing the time you do have so you can still be a normal human that enjoys life and has fun with friends! The book is titled Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.
I still must stress that my methods have worked wonders for myself however that's not to say they will work at all for you. I mean they should, but hey everyone is different!
- Henry David Thoreau
This is the biggest obstacle hands down for pretty much everybody. Throughout our life we slowly gather baggage, whether they are material or habitual, from trinkets to books to what you do first thing you wake up. That's just how we are wired, as I'm sure you know, and it can affect us in all kinds of ways depending on how you were raised! Bringing it back to topic, a lot (most?) of us develop habits that waste our time. Surprise! 😉
For me, a lot of that time is wasted on messaging people or using social media while working, making unnecessary trips around the house or to the store, holding on to activities that no longer serve me, and spending too much time planning or researching.
Now you might disagree with me on some of these, but I encourage you to stick around! There's times where you can still include these into your life, which I'll go into. The first two pointers are pretty tiny changes that are, in general, commonsense, but the second two are devious time suckers!
We all can take blame for doing this to ourselves, I've been one of the worst in the past. Get started on a big project, get a little work done and bzzt!... The phone going off and your immediate impulse is to check it, which you do. And then you get back to work only to get another message a couple minutes later.
Probably didn't need quite that much detail, but you get it! It's extremely distracting to have a phone and do work because, well, most of us make excuses that we need our phone with us at all times. Yes, some of us do, emergencies and such. But that doesn't mean you have to mess with it every few minutes!
What works for me, albeit I don't have kids or any life or death situations that come up, is just turning the thing off. Seriously, just do it. If you need to, let others know that you're going to shut it off. Besides that, there's the handy function all phone have now that provides a do-not-disturb function, that way you can ONLY receive calls from certain people in case an emergency pops up where they need to get a hold of you.
I get that this is pretty commonsense, but I'm highlighting it here anyway because it's probably the #1 reason for procrastinating nowadays. Communication is great, so is social interaction, but getting things done and getting rid of stress is more important!
This is kind of another commonsense point here, but it needs to be addressed. I used to, and still do, make way too many trips out to get things done. Even something as simple as going to the grocery store and coming home having forgotten to cash a check or go to the store next door.
Trips that need to be done during the week should be planned out. Just a simple paper will suffice. Just writing these out can save you from having to make an extra 2-3 trips or more a month saving, I dunno, 10-30 minutes for each trip? That's anywhere from an extra half hour to an hour or more you could be spending on doing something you love. Yes, this may seem like a stupid-silly tip, but it adds up in a year (6-12+ hours).
Now when it comes to just walking around at home or in the office or wherever, just make it a habit to mentally prepare yourself. Think about what you will need and have it all as close to you as possible. It's not like this will save much time walking, but it's a lot easier to get distracted by things in familiar places such as conversations, TV, or any activity that's not as important.
From here on out you might find yourself either screaming no in your head or wholeheartedly agreeing with me! Just a warning 😉
(This section is broken into two sections, so be sure to read it to completion!)
Going back to my point of how we slowly gather habits throughout our life, we tend to develop negative, self-destructive habits. Well, not all of us, but most of us I would argue do based on the fact most people dislike where they are in life. Keep in mind however that this does not mean that they are entirely bad! They may very well be keeping you from going off the deep end physically, emotionally, or mentally.
I've had problems with video games my whole life. To make a long story short, I go to video games to deal with stress, anxiety, and literally escape life. It's a great habit in terms of distracting me and making me happy in the short term, but I have never been able to get anything done until I gave it up, along with TV. (Full self-bio)
Does this mean I entirely removed it from my life? No, I still do these activities, but only with friends, that way I get to do something I enjoy but with the benefit of bonding with those close to me. Play hard, work harder.
How much time did I use to spend on these? Scary question. In a year I used to play upwards of 300-400 hours. That's a very conservative number by the way.
Now I doubt most of you are as bad as I used to be, but I'm sure you have activities that are, ultimately, not really that much benefit to you or your goals. One of the more morbid but effective tricks out there is to imagine your funeral and what people say at it. If you don't want to be known for it, why the heck would you spend hours and hours on it? Gut it from your life!
So now that you've decided what nasty habits you want to get rid of you need to fill the void! Ever hear of the alcoholic that gave up drinking and took up gambling? If you don't replace the negative behavior with something positive it will turn into another bad one.
The replacement behavior should be somewhat obvious based on your own wants and needs, but for me I used time blogging or reading nonfiction. Instead of wasting hours upon hours of having pure fun and developing anxiety from avoiding reality, I am building a business and learning.
The key thing here is to be really clear. And I mean DEADSET clear on what you want! No bullshit! Go back to the funeral exercise or imagine what kind of person you need to become. Decide what the exact behavior is that you want and focus on it a few minutes every day. This will train the subconscious mind to worry about this new habit and slowly forget the old.
Oh, and yes, this kind of thing sucks to do. It will be hard probably 95% of the time. So get some support! Reach out to friends, family, or make new friends that will help you stay on track! You can do it!
Like that little headline? Well guess what, that's an actual psychology term! It is when one over-analyzes something to the point of being stuck in a state of inaction. Yes, that is a thing, and I have a hypothesis that this might be the ultimate killer of goals.
Best example can be found in the weight loss market. Holy Hannah, there's gotta be thousands of different products and services that are all totally different! If you don't know what you want, it can be hard to choose anything! And if you try it, then compare it to others, you'll hear how much greater one is than this other, etc. What a waste of time!
Getting over this is a lot easier than it seems. I did this when deciding on a strength routine... for months. And then I just TRIED something, even though I knew there were disadvantages to it. And with time and practice, I learned what worked for me and tweaked it to suit my individual needs.
So yes, all it takes to avoid analysis paralysis is to just decide what you're going to do or choose. Hell, get somebody to choose for you if it is taking too long! Any decision is better than no decision! (Unless of course it's a scam, please do research first for your own sake!)
Now that you've decided and are working at whatever it is, what do you do to get better? Well, you need to research, but be smart about it! People make money off of providing different angles of approach to topics and problems. That's because they work for some people. Ultimately they do tend to be gimmicky!
My most helpful advice with doing research is to get the big ideas done and then let self-discovery fill the cracks. Besides the fact that this will help you learn the skill of learning, it's impossible to have every problem figured out for you every time by someone else! If you find out you do need to look something up after trial and error, THEN you can search it.
Well, that covers much of the topic on getting rid of wasteful activities. Now what can you add to improve your work rate?
Yup, I'm seriously going to talk about lists. You know why? Because they give direction and they work.
What kind of lists should you make? Well when I first started out trying to get organized, I found it helpful to write down what I wanted, didn't want, what I was doing and needed to do, and everyday tasks. Why? Because it got me to zero in on what I really wanted, needed to do, and how to make it happen.
Again, it's not necessary to do, but it will help tremendously with getting and keeping you on track, especially if you put them up as reminders in places like your fridge door, mirror in the bathroom, or heck, even your ceiling for when you go to bed or when you first wake up!
Now I could spend time putting together a great explanation for and sample templates to use for writing your goals down... but Anthony Robbins already has the best one around! It also goes into much greater depth than I would, without being too long. Oh, and it's free!
For any other things that need to get done that only take 2 minutes or less, are general reminders, or anything else, just make separate lists. Whenever you have spare time in a day, just go to these lists and knock a few out!
The other great tool I suggest is downloading a good old checklist for everyday stuff. You don't need one for the rest of your life or anything, but using one for a couple weeks can help you to stop wasting time on non-essential tasks. There's a free download of the template I use below, as well as a link to some easy no-machine-needed laminating sheets. (I highly recommend laminating any lists you intend on hanging on to for a while. Then you can re-use them!)
This section is a short one all about music! (Yes, the headline is a pun. Deal with it.)
This might come as a really obvious thing to do, but music can help with getting work done! It just needs to have very little to no lyrics, more mellow instruments, and I also find that it helps if the music is totally new to you.
Why do I suggest all this? Because of the way it acts on the brain. It's easier to get into a flow state to get work done if the music doesn't disturb you much. Lyrics switch parts of the brain on related to speech recognition which is generally unneeded, thus distracting you, even if subconsciously. Music on the calmer side as well as listening to new music just tends to have the effect of washing over you instead of bringing up memories and getting extra brain regions turned on that you don't need on.
Now this isn't to say my method is right and yours is wrong! Bringing up memories might be good for artistic purposes. Having energy and getting worked up is obviously good for more active work. This is just what has worked for me!
Below I got a couple channel suggestions for music that is calm. I'm not partners or anything like that with them, I just want to give you a couple possible solutions!
Alright, this is a pretty small topic with dramatic effects. Your internal world and ability to do work has a lot to do with your environment.
You've most likely heard it in school, the whole nurture vs nature debate. That our experiences shape us as we're growing up. Well, it shapes us as adults, too! When you walk into a place and can feel the atmosphere of the place, good or bad, you usually already have an idea of what type of people might go there regularly.
It might not seem to prevalent, but believe me when I say that a clean room will make you more productive. Or maybe it's just a sign that you are more productive, I'm not sure! But I do know that whenever my bedroom starts to get dirty is when my brain feels foggy and stressed. Cleaning my spaces always brings me back to my normal self. So this might be one of those it-just-works-for-me things, but I'm sure others have experienced this, too!
Then there's your job... wow, it's crazy to me still how much a workplace influences a person. You get bombarded with all kinds of different tasks, coworkers, managers, employees, and possibly customers or clients. Any of those people could be incredibly negative people you are always around, or you could be doing things that you really, really hate! For me, I used to sell women's shoes. Some of the customers would go absolutely ballistic, my coworkers were stressed and complaining all the time, and my managers all sucked at managing as well as keeping employees from quitting! Now it's nothing against the job or place, but for me? That was NOT my ideal place.
So if you have a job that you hate, but it makes good money... You might still need to quit! Or at least work on something on the side so you can work less or quit in the future. Don't let others put you down, and most importantly don't let them keep you down! You are worth infinitely more than feeling like a tool, no matter your capabilities, especially if you're able to read and understand this!
The final point on environment, and I'm sad to say this, is your friends. We all have had some toxic people in our life at some point, but to be friends with them is a disaster waiting to happen. Most of the time these people won't change until they have to change, if ever. So if you're around them, they will bring you down! If they are changing on the other hand, then support them!
But if they refuse to change, it's better to let go of them. If you have a bottle full of toxic water, you can't get pure water until you pour it out! It's better to have few or no friends for a period then to only have negative ones. I used to be around it all the time and they actually made my anxiety worse with all of their stress and baggage.
I'm pretty sure I covered everything there is to know about getting work done quickly. I really wanted this to be a great guide for everybody that can face the test of time. I plan on adding to and improving this to make it a be all-end all piece of work.
As always, if you have any comments or questions relating to this post, or you want to help others with additional tips, or anything else, please feel free to drop them below and I'll respond asap! 🙂