It’s 8:00 p.m. Where has the time gone? It’s evaporated like sand through our fingertips, leaving us frustrated that we did not achieve nearly as much. Before you drift off to sleep, do you find yourself relishing in everything that you’ve accomplished on your “to do” list, or, do you wish you would have achieved a host of additional tasks that will look you straight in the eye next morning?
Technology has introduced a plethora of time saving techniques, while at the same time providing a high tech means of distraction at our fingertips. Multitasking many times does not work to our advantage. It reduces quality throughput, simultaneously increasingly our stress level (Kuchinskas, 2008). Science has shown that a single-minded focus on what’s immediately before us, known as “mindfulness,” or “presence,” helps us not only to accomplish more work, but feel happier because we engage with the task at hand (Seppala, 2016).
We must therefore distance ourselves from modern day distractions that squander time. As a doctoral student I owned no cell phone, DVD player, Internet at my apartment, nor cable TV – simply a small black and white television with limited channels that I watched rarely. And I was happy, in large part because I was able to remain “in the moment” most of the time.
To squeeze the most productivity from our day, consider eliminating or minimizing the following time stealers:
- Your cell phone. SMART phones represent a huge distraction – not just in terms of texting while driving, but in the amount of time that we spend glued to our small screens, seemingly lost in a never ending maze of information. Some people actually lose sleep as a result of mindlessly surfing on web sites that in the final analysis add nothing to their lives. My life was certainly less frenetic circa 2014 – when I purchased my first Smart phone. Now, I unfortunately feel the compulsion to check it several times during the day, intrigued by the “ding” sound it makes to alert me to a new email or instant message. Unless we’re anticipating an emergency, is anything that we receive on our off time that important? I’m currently in the habit of placing my Smart phone in a different part of my house to remove the temptation to check. Shawn Achor describes the “twenty second rule”, whereby we are less likely to retrieve an article if it’s placed outside our immediate reach. Impact of cell phone addiction can include somatic illness, male infertility, eye strain, tension, irritability, anxiety, nervousness, neck problems, sleep disturbances, and obsessive compulsive disorder: see Psychguides self-test: Am I addicted to my Smart phone?
- The TV. Turn it off! Going cold turkey may prove difficult, but once you’ve accomplished this feat for a single week you’ll find so many more constructive uses for your time – for example, that exercise regimen you’ve been meaning to begin, readings piled high in your living room and sun room, phone calls and letters you’ve been meaning to make to repair frayed relationships. Talking heads, reality shows filled with dubious individuals, and the ever present political pundits do little to improve the quality of our lives. Start slow. If you have cable, could you cancel some channels? Chances are you are watching only a fraction of what you use.
- Get up earlier than usual. The satisfaction of accomplishing several things before 8:00 a.m. each day will propel you to achieve more. This assumes of course that you went to sleep at a reasonable hour (which turning off the tube/hiding your Smart phone could facilitate).
- Stop “woolgathering;” idly day dreaming in the middle of a task instead of going full steam ahead, spending quality time with your nose to the grindstone. Be sure to give yourself requisite breaks (and rewards) when you complete interim tasks, and try to take some much needed downtime after each two hour stretch to prevent mental fatigue.
- Exercise early in the morning. Get your mojo going by putting one foot in front of the other immediately after you wake up – to promote mental clarity, and to help you go further on projects as a result of enhanced focus. According to Posen, “A habit of regular exercise will help keep you mentally sharper throughout your entire life.”
- Organize. Presumably, we spend an entire year of our lives looking for lost items. “10 minutes a day looking for our keys, 5 minutes for the TV remote controllers. Approximately 7 minutes go for your socks and shoes, 4 minutes for sun glasses.” If you could easily locate everything in your house and office (an accomplishment achieved by regular maintenance/purge/reorganization) you could save time. This activity comes with the added bonus of culling though less possessions each time you look.
- Keep your skills current. How much time could you save if you took advantage of the tools at your disposal? E.g., are you aware of all the time saving features included on your latest computer operating system, tablet, automotive gadget, or new-fangled kitchen appliance? Even a cursory reading of the manual could educate you in some of the upgraded tools.
- Buy in bulk. Recently, I bought a membership at a big box store. A minimal added expense – but one that saves me loads of time in terms of continuously running back and forth for nonperishable staples (e.g., shampoo, paper towels, bleach, cleanser, etc.). Typically, I now only need to stock up on these items once every three months.
Implementing even a few of these time saving techniques could reap benefits for people you love the most.