Get a life!

Is there anything you do that wastes so much of your time that you don’t have time to do other things that are more useful, things like having more fun or getting more work done?

I have a friend who spends — wait for it — at least five hours a day dealing with her emails. And her job does not require her to be fully available on email. Not at all.

Five hours a day is a huge chunk of time. She says it’s because she gets about 200 emails a day. But this is counting spam, which is very quickly dispatched, and a lot — a lot — of newsletters she subscribes to.

She spends so much time on her emails that she watches hardly any TV, hardly ever reads a book, eats her meals while she’s emailing and she doesn’t even have time to clean her own house — she has to pay someone to do it. So her email habit is eating up her money as well as time!

Why doesn’t she do something about it, you may well ask. And I did. Why don’t you file the newsletters into a folder and read them when you have time? Or better still, set up your email system to file them away automatically? ‘Well, because then I’d never read them!’ So she sits and reads them as they come in. This is NOT a smart use of time. And yet, she’s a smart lady, I wouldn’t want you to think otherwise.

Plus, if she wouldn’t bother reading them if she filed them away, they couldn’t be all that important, could they? The solution is obvious except to her: Unsubscribe to the lot of them. Of course, I suggested that, too, but it seems that although she seldom gets any good ideas or learns anything much from them, she’s afraid she might miss out on something!

Granted, she’s an extreme case but I have a suspicion that she isn’t the only person who does things in an over-the-top way that prevents them from having what the rest of us might call ‘a life’.

So here’s my Call to Action: Figure out what wastes a lot of your time, and cut it out or cut it down.

How to make the best use of your mornings

SMH ran an interesting article by Eli Greenblat the other day, advising us to spend a few moments to take some deep breaths, ‘be in the present’ and think about our top priorities for the day; and for the next 30 to 90 minutes, to work on those priorities. Unaware that this is part of a Buddhist mindfulness tradition, I’ve done that for years and I concur–it helps get the important tasks done. Only after you’ve kicked a few goals should you check those time-consuming and often unimportant emails!

And here are my other favourite strategies for improving your productivity:

  • Prioritise important tasks, not easy ones.
  • Don’t go for short-term gains at the expense of long-term goals.
  • Get enough sleep and your share of play, too.
  • If you feel overwhelmed, ditch unimportant tasks, at least temporarily by delegating them or dumping them.

Discussion questions

What can you do to make your days more productive? (To find out how to determine your priorities, check out pages 204 to 212. You’ll find other good ideas for improving your productivity on pages 216 to 225 of the text.)