I recently finished a project that was a complete waste of time. Most frustrating, I knew it was a complete waste of time. I could have stopped at many points along the way, but I allowed it to happen. It’s hard to say why. Maybe it was easy. Maybe I knew it was going to feel good to actually finish something. Or maybe I was unable to break out of the groove. Either way, those two misused hours will bite me in the near future.
In a recent interview with Men’s Health magazine, podcast superstar Adam Carolla relayed a story about his kids that sums up how I feel and inspires me to be more diligent.
A few weeks ago, it was weird hair day at school, which as we all know is a kid’s ticket to Harvard… So my daughter has her hair looking like one of the chicks in the B-52s. And I’m looking at my son, and he hasn’t touched his hair. So I say to him, ‘Isn’t it weird hair day? Why aren’t you doing anything to your hair?’ And he just looked at me and said, ‘Doesn’t move the needle.’… I was so in love with him.
How much of our day is spent on things that don’t move the needle? These distractions drain our energy, take up our time, and divert our focus. Some are habits, many seem important at the time, but all are within our control. Here are three things we can do to be better stewards of our time.
Prioritize wisely. When you don’t realize that you’ve wasted time until that time has been wasted, you’ve had a temporary lapse in prioritization. Get it together. You knew sorting that spreadsheet wasn’t your best use of time. Did it feel good? Sure, but that was a needless detail in your ever growing to-do list.
Keep perspective. I won’t repeat the overused idiom about losing the forest for the trees. The point is that it’s easy to get distracted by the minutiae. Make time every day to re-evaluate and re-align your daily tasks with the strategies of the organization and industry.
Ruthlessly block out distractions. This means taking the time to unplug from the Internet, email, and social media. If this seems easier said than done, consider utilizing these computer programs
- Rescue Time– runs in the background of your computer to measure how you spend your time
- Get Concentratingand Anti-Social – help you focus on important tasks by temporarily blocking social media sites
- Freedom – a self-induced way to bar you from surfing the net for up to eight hours at a time
No one can control your time but you. So start spending your energy in ways that will move the needle in your life. Shun the smaller diversions that quickly mount and run from the larger ones that are a disaster waiting to happen. If it’s not progressing you, it’s getting you farther behind.