We are all guilty of wasting time. We scroll through social media, read “news” articles, take dumb online quizzes to know which book character we’re most like… the list is never-ending!
These days, most all people are master procrastinators, and master time wasters. Our phones, entertainment streaming services, and more are all vying for our attention, and social media is rewarding us with likes and follows and dopamine.
We’re fighting an uphill battle.
But how do you STOP wasting time?? How do you get shit done, amongst all the insanity and shiny objects of life and technology?
Use these simple (well, sometimes simple) tips, tricks, methods, and mindset shifts outlined below to get started!
How to Stop Wasting Time (and get shit done!)
These days, it’s basically a badge of honor to be able to multitask. People celebrate stories like, “I was doing 5 things at once!” and frown upon people who “ONLY” do one thing at a time
But those people who do just one thing are usually extremely focused on that one thing. They give it the care and attention it deserves. And they get it done RIGHT.
When we give in to the societal demands of multitasking, we are not being more productive. Instead, we are splitting our time, attention, care, and energy up into those different tasks… meaning they
a) probably don’t get done correctly, or very well, and/or;
b) may not get done at all… or at least not this week.
No, instead of multitasking, we must choose one task and DIVE IN. Headfirst.
We don’t have to stay married to that task for years, weeks, or even hours. We just need to spend a solid little chunk of time (even 5 minutes will do, depending on the task) focused solely on it.
That will allow us to get it done, and get it done right.
Because when we “multitask” (something many studies has said is actually impossible), we are actually just giving our brains NUMEROUS opportunities to go off on a tangent with whichever shiny object comes by – be it an actual shiny object, a task that’s more fun, or some completely different, distracting situation.
To stop wasting time, you NEED to stop multitasking.
This is one of the biggest hurdles you will have to overcome if you want to stop wasting time and get shit done.
There are distractions EVERYWHERE.
Seriously. Everywhere. There are ads online, other tabs to go to in our browsers, billboards and text messages on the highway, commercials on tv, pets, kids, alarms, and on and on and on…
But if you truly want to start getting shit done. You’re going to have to avoid distractions like the freakin’ plague.
“But that’s impossible, Allison!”… yeah, I know it seems that way.
And truthfully.. unless you go all Henry David Thoreau on me and go into the woods and off the grid.. it IS nearly impossible to avoid 100% of the distractions that the world throws at you.
So instead, you need to just find small chunks of time each day in which you can avoid your distractions.
Writing a book? Spend 45 minutes in the morning with NOTHING ELSE but your writing device. No other tabs. No phone. No pets. No kids. No food. No nothing. Just. Write.
Need to focus on your workout and really make some headway in your fitness journey? Same deal.
Don’t answer texts or emails – in fact, just turn off notifications altogether during your super, mega, ultra focused time.
Whatever your goal is that your’e trying to achieve by not wasting time and getting shit done… just do it. Nike style.
Put your phone away, or use one of these Productivity Apps
So as we know, the recent rise of the smart phone has caused a major decline in most people’s focus and productivity levels.
If you ask people around my parents’ or grandparents’ age.. some of them think phones are completely to blame, and are basically the devil.
While I agree that phones are playing a MONUMENTAL role in the decline of attention spans, work output and general get-shit-done-ness of society… it’s really more about HOW and WHEN we use them that’s a game changer.
If you can have the self control to either a) delete distracting apps or, b) not use distracting apps (Instagram, Facebook, Slack, Twitter, Reddit, etc.).. and text your friends constantly throughout the day… you might just be okay.
In fact, if you make the right choices, you could even use your phone to HELP YOU stop wasting time and get stuff done!
I’ve compiled a big list of Productivity Apps that help with this very thing!
Most apps listed there either help you stay organized with to do lists, tasks, calendars, etc. OR they help STOP you from wasting time on distracting sites.. and stay focused on the task at hand!
I highly recommend using at least a couple of these apps in conjunction with your new-found self control… stay away from those addicting time-wasters.. and go make it happen!
“DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT”
Wow, those are big letters there, grandma!
It’s because I really, truly believe in this one, and I think you need to hop on board with me here.
Many of us (I’m lookin at ME in a mirror) do this thing where we say we’re “perfectionists” and “want to make sure it’s perfect!” before we let anyone see, hear, taste, touch.. whatever.. our work.
I’m afraid this isn’t perfect so I’m just never going to finish it or show anyone.. and then I can never fail, right? Right.
This is already bad enough.. but then over time, it morphs.
It becomes less confident, more self-doubting, and turns into never getting ANYTHING done.. good or bad.
I can’t do anything right anyway. Why bother? I’ll just do nothing, and then there won’t be any disappointment.
Wrong-o, buddy! There’s loads of disappointment remaining for you! What about all of that untapped potential?
What about all of those GREAT ideas you’ve got inside of you that actually were wonderful, and then your “perfectionism” and self doubt got in the way.. only to stop you from being your best self?
So.. how do you fix this? How do you stop the fear, self-doubt, and “perfectionism” that wants to hold you back?
Repeat after me,
“DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT.”
Now say it again, with feeling,
“DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT!”
Great. Now make that your new truth.
Go out and freaking do something. Do it to the best of your ability, and when it’s at an ACCEPTABLE, “DONE” stopping point.. share it with the world.
Don’t hide behind the fear.
DONE. IS. BETTER. THAN. PERFECT.
Set Goals (in this specific way)- based on a WHY, and with an action plan
But not just any goals.
Those SMART Goals need to be based on your WHY – the end result of what achieving your goals will help you to have or become. You need to really, truly believe in, and yearn for your WHY. You’ve got to mean it.
Then, you must set an action plan. Specific steps to take to get from where you are now, to the final result of the goal you’re setting.
These goals need to be specific and attainable. Not general, vague, or outlandish. It’s impossible to truly stick to impossible goals and get stuff done.
If you set impossible goals, you’ll get discouraged, stop trying, and start wasting time.
Since our whole theme here is learning how to stop wasting time.. well, that wouldn’t be a very good idea! Set SMART goals and get going!
Stick to Your Goals & Action Plan
Now that you’ve set SMART Goals and created an action plan.. the real work begins.
You’ve got to stick to those goals and that plan.
No matter how you feel on a daily basis, you’ve got to go with your WHY above your current feelings of boredom, hunger, soreness, exhaustion, whatever.
If you really want to stop wasting time, you’ve got to stop making excuses that allow you to stray from your plan. You’ve got to stick to it.
If you can stick your goals and your action plan, you’ll suddenly find that you can’t even help it- you’re getting shit done all over the place!
Suddenly, you’re a productivity machine!
Only take on 3 major tasks per day
If you have a never-ending To Do list, that daunting piece of paper will start a staring contest each day..
Which of you will blink first??
It’s always you, of course. It’s a piece of paper with no eyes!
But in the meantime, what did you miss?? You could’ve knocked out several other tasks today, but you were busy staring at the to do list, trying to decide what to do first.. then getting distracted or overwhelmed by the to do list and starting something different.
All the while, never finishing anything.
So, instead of having a huge list staring you down each day, just choose 3 important tasks to do per day.
If you want to be a REAL pro at not wasting time and getting shit done, you should choose those 3 tasks the day or night before.
Don’t waste any “getting stuff done’ time choosing what to get done.
Before the day begins, have 3 tasks you MUST do. Once your day begins… do them.
Then if and when you finish those 3 big tasks and you still have work time remaining.. then choose something off the (now hidden!) crazy long to do list.
This simple method will help you stop wasting time and get stuff done, guaranteed!
“Eat the Frog”
Mark Twain once famously said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Yes, that sounds insane. But hear me out.. this is what Mr. Twain was trying to tell you…
Whatever the WORST thing is you have to do today (worst meaning; hardest, most mentally/physically/emotionally draining, time consuming, complicated.. whatever) – whatever the WORST thing is that you have to do today.. just do it first.
Knock that shit out.
Then the rest of your day will be smooth sailing.
AND you won’t even have to bother making excuses, wasting time, procrastinating, etc. It’s already done!
Eat the frog, friend!
P.S. – some might call this prioritizing.. they would be right. Set your priorities for your day and week. Hopefully these align nicely with your longer term goals as well. Then eat those frogs, honey.
Plan Your Week in Advance
Before you start a new week (at work, home, or anywhere else), plan it out.
It doesn’t have to be a minute-by- minute (or even hour-by-hour) plan.
You just need to have your WEEKLY GOALS, Daily Goals, and then the few daily tasks you’ll need to get from where you are now, to where you want to be at the end of the week.
Personally, I like using a bullet journal and making an extremely minimalist, basic spread of my week.
I schedule chunks of time for the different work projects I’m doing, chunks of time for eating and relaxing, some for exercise, and that’s pretty much it.
Then I color in the boxes as I go, indicating that I did the task or worked on the project that I scheduled for myself.
It’s like the adult version of a kids’ coloring book / checklist.
Whatever method you choose, you need to plan your week out. Doing so gives you the BIG PICTURE perspective you need to set goals, map out the tasks it takes to get there, and make sure you’re strategically using your time to get from Point A to Point B.
Then, the real kicker:
Stick to the plan!
I guarantee this method will help you stop wasting time and get shit done!
Plan for Distractions and Breaks
Listen, I know I said “avoid distraction” before.. but hear me out.
When you’re creating a plan for yourself, it’s easy to idealize your day-to-day activities in an attempt to stop wasting time.
“I’ll get X, Y, Z, AND next week’s A done!! I’ll use every second of the day efficiently, and completely stop wasting time. I’m. Awesome.”
Weird how I knew what you were thinking, right?? It’s because I’ve been there.
I’ve over scheduled my ass off! A few times, I had so many tasks, goals, and lofty ambitions.. I forgot to schedule little things like “shower” and “eat lunch” into my day.
When my loved ones looked over my calendar they basically just shook their heads… she’s done it again.
Then when the time came to try and actually execute my schedule.. it obviously didn’t work. I started off behind.. I showered !(how dare I!?). Then I got stressed out that I was off schedule.. then a distraction came along, and I took the bait.
Wait, omg- the schedule! *stress*
Oh look, I’m completely exhausted and mentally drained. I simply cannot work any longer today *but the schedule!*
It was bad, y’all.
So, what’s the point of my story?
To say that my schedule was created for an inhuman robot would be an understatement.
DON’T make this mistake, and spend days, weeks, or months stressing out about being incapable of completing an impossible workload.. that’s insane.
Instead, make sure you SCHEDULE in breaks for yourself. You’re a human. You need breaks to walk around, get fresh air, call your spouse, eat a snack, do whatever you’ve gotta do.
Make sure you leave a little WIGGLE ROOM in your schedule. Shit happens. You can’t be completely thrown for a loop if something important comes up (or something cute like a cat video from your spouse).
Wiggle room means you can still recover, and your day (week, month, year) is not shot to hell just because you spent 30 minutes doing something unexpected.
Be Okay With Failure (Occasionally)
Listen. I’m not yo mamma, so I’m here to tell it like it is.
You don’t shit gold.
Yeah. That’s that. You’re not perfect (neither am I) – every single thing you do isn’t going to be a smash hit, a raging success.
Sometimes it will suck.
But that’s okay.
Failures force us to learn and improve. This is how we get better. Failures are how we find success.
But in order to fail, to get better, and eventually find success, you’re going to have to actually DO SOMETHING.
Don’t be paralyzed by the fear of failure. Embrace that POSSIBILITY (hey, you may not even fail. maybe you do shit gold – what do I know??), and get out there and do the damn thing.
Whatever it is.
Do it, and if you fail, do it better the next time.
Stop Waiting Until You “Feel like it” – Just Do It Now
Can we talk about society for a minute?
So in society today.. we seem to be pulled in two directions. One pushes us to, and far past the breaking point, forcing us to work endlessly to keep up with what we think is the norm.
This is unhealthy.
Simultaneously, we are pulled in the direction of comfort.
You don’t want to be stressed out any more? Just don’t do it. (It being the thing that you’re supposed to be working hard on: homework, a project, a career, practicing a craft, whatever) Who cares what the consequences are if you’re happy, and filled with warm, fuzzy unicorn feelings or whatever.
This is useless.
If you only want to be comfortable, you’re never going to improve.
If you refuse to do anything until “you feel good and ready”… you probably won’t do anything.
Nothing will get done. You will NEVER stop wasting time if you adopt this approach.
Instead, you should just suck it up and DO IT. Now. If it’s even relatively important to you, stop freaking waiting around to feel warm and fuzzy about it.
JUST DO IT.
Identify Your Procrastination Triggers
Think about a time you procrastinated today… what were you doing? What were you feeling, thinking, eating? What time of day was it?
.. Now, think about another time you procrastinated last week, or last month, and ask yourself those same questions.
Do any of those answers seem a little suspicious to you??
Take a moment for more self-reflection. Can you identify any patterns of behavior, diet, time of day, feelings, etc. that happen just before you start procrastinating and wasting time??
I bet you can.
If you can nail down those actions, feelings, times of day, foods, or other triggers to your procrastination.. you’ll be able to flip the script.
If you know what makes you procrastinate, you can AVOID it, or take specific action to be productive during those times instead.
This knowledge will help you stop wasting time, and get shit done.
I’m sure of it.
Just do it.
Stop making PLANS to do it.
Stop thinking about doing it.
Stop saying you’ll do it tomorrow.
Just. Freaking. Do it.
Take action today. Right now.
Right. this. very. minute.
How will YOU stop wasting time today??
I’ve listed a NUMBER of different tactics to help you stop wasting time and get some stuff done! You can avoid distractions, push on despite the fear of failure, make a detailed plan for your week, or use any number of other techniques.
Which will you choose?
and remember, make good life choices!