Deal with time wasters before they deal with you

To become a productive person, you must learn to focus on the tasks that add the most value to your life. You need to devote your time and energy to the tasks that yield the highest returns towards achieving your goals. To achieve this, you need to work on identifying your time wasters. Time wasters are those seemingly little unscheduled interruptions during the day that shift your focus away from your most important tasks.

Scrabble pieces spelling "Time out thanks"
Devote time to work on important tasks

Humans are social creatures who like to interact, catch up on the latest gossip and chat. It is no surprise then that most of our identified time wasters tend to revolve around social interactions such as phone calls, chatting and unannounced visitors. No one wants to seem rude but if you stop working every five minutes to answer a phone call or respond to your friend’s message, you won’t be getting as much done. You don’t need to cut people out of your life entirely. That would be a very lonely life indeed. What you should so is use a few simple tricks to stop you getting interrupted during important tasks.

Only respond to emails at scheduled times

Email has crept into our work places and is here to stay. Many people reply to emails as soon as they get them. It is bad productivity to check your email first thing in the morning at work. Instead, check your to-do list and get started on your most important task for the day first. After that is done, you can check your email knowing that even if you have to respond to an emergency, you have taken care of the task that will add the most value to your day. Responding to emails as soon as you receive them means you are allowing other people whose goals might not be the same as yours to set your agenda for the day. Schedule times to check your email. You might check only at 10am and 2pm, for example. If you receive larger volume of mail, you might need to schedule additional times to check email. It doesn’t matter what times you set as long as you are able to work on your important tasks in between checking emails.

Turn off notifications

Nothing creates a desire to abandon what you are doing and check your phone faster than a new message alert or the flashing light at the top of your phone. Turn off notifications when you’re working. It seems scary because of the fear of missing out. Trust me, you can catch up on those messages later. This may seem counter intuitive but it really is impossible to miss anything important because the person sending it would find other ways to reach you if they don’t get a response. On the other hand, the person who just wanted to say “hi” would find another friend to chat with.

A phone flashing with call and message notifications
You don’t have to check the message immediately

Always have an agenda for meetings

Meetings without an agenda have a way of rambling and running beyond time. If you must have a meeting, the person who calls it should share an agenda with all invited attendees. This can help you to know what valuable insight you can provide during the meeting and also to steer the conversation back to the agenda should speakers begin to ramble. Create an agenda and stick to it. It will save you lots of time. If the meeting doesn’t have an agenda, then you probably have nothing to talk about in the first place.

Meeting agenda: Participants, purpose and outcome
What role can I play in your meeting?

Discourage office visitors

The office is meant to be your place to work without distractions. If your friends feel it’s ok to drop by your office unannounced, you will never see the end of them. To prevent this, let people know you would rather not receive visitors in the office. Arrange to meet at a later date and a different location. If someone does drop by unannounced, guide them to a standing location, ask them what they want and let them know when you can get back to them. Be firm but polite. They will understand your reasons. Even if you work from home, designate an area of your house as work space. If you have children, let them know mama or baba are working. They will learn to respect your rule if you’re consistent about it.

Most of the time our greatest time wasters come from the fear of missing out and the fear of coming across as  rude. At the end of the day, your friends and relatives should be able to respect your working hours. People might complain at first but eventually they get used to it and adjust their requests to accommodate your schedule.

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