Errands, tasks, chores—there always seems to be a job yet to be done. Different days mean different responsibilities and things to accomplish, but it’s not always as simple as just getting to it and doing it. Sometimes the most difficult daily undertaking is to be productive.
After all, it’s so much easier to distract yourself, especially so if your jobs for the day seem boring to you. And boredom often leads to wasting time. So, what can you do? Well, let’s look at some productivity alternatives to what’s known as time wasters.
What Is a Time Waster?
First, let’s tackle the obvious and define the term. Wasting time is clear and simple. Oftentimes, wasting time means doing something unimportant rather than what needs to be done. A time waster is the behavior you engage in when you waste your time.
Pretty much anything can be a time waster, since you can waste time doing anything. And the best way to deal with time wasters and stop doing them is to acknowledge you’re guilty of them in the first place. So, let’s point out some of the more prominent ones and see how we can divert our behaviors and stop wasting time better spent being productive. Plus, these examples will ease your understanding of the term.
In our modern-day world, with how easy it is to live online, social media is both the best and the worst. It connects you to other people and allows you to form relationships, share, and much more. But it’s also, arguably, the most distracting thing in our lives.
It’s fair to say that if you don’t open Twitter periodically throughout the day, your life will still be the same, with no major changes. The same goes for obsessively refreshing Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and so on. Social media is appealing but, in the grand scheme of things, not super important. Especially not more important than doing your daily tasks, whether work- or home-related.
So, how do you avoid checking your social media accounts a thousand times a day? Well, you can self-impose an internet ban. Decide that you won’t go online for a certain time, which could be an hour or two, or even the whole day, depending on what you’re looking to accomplish. Then, once you’ve done your tasks, productive as ever, lifting the internet ban is like a reward.
If you don’t trust yourself not to go online and check your social media, you can make it impossible for yourself to do so. You can block websites from being accessed on your PC. And, in the case of apps, you can restrict your access to them on your phone, too. There are many apps you can get that act as a restriction device—they lock you out of using your phone for a specific time.
The Forest app is a great tool to curb your phone addiction. But, if you prefer something else, there are many more apps that help you get your projects done faster and improve your productivity by keeping you off your phone.
2. Checking Emails
Another top time waster is going through your emails more times than you really need to do so. Sure, it’s good to go through your emails, but do you have to do it more than two or three times a day?
To avoid wasting time by going to your inbox time and time again, try to set specific slots for email checking. For example, decide to spend ten to fifteen minutes checking emails every five hours of your day and then go back to what you were doing. And don’t go overboard with slots, either.
If you don’t trust yourself to stick to your allotted times, then you can temporarily block new messages from showing in your inbox or turn to a service like Inbox Pause.
3. Checking Private Messages
It’s easy to spend the entire day browsing apps and checking messages. Whether it’s a messaging app like WhatsApp or Telegram, or one that allows private messages like all social media apps do, it’s a fun time. But a waste of time, too.
Moving from app to app, reading and sending messages hinders your productivity immensely. If you want to kick the habit, be it a conscious or subconscious one, try to restrain yourself. After all, getting a message doesn’t mean you should rush to open it immediately.
Think about it. If you get notifications every five minutes and rush to check them out, you won’t be able to get anything done. So, a good way to tackle the interrupting private message time waster is to turn off your push notifications.
They won’t distract you if you can’t hear and see them pop up. You can even go nuclear and use airplane mode to shut out all disruptions. It’s a great tactic when you’re trying to focus. And, remember, it can still be a time waster, even if it’s for work.
Sure, multitasking is great in theory, but it doesn’t always work out well in practice. Sometimes instead of helping improve your productivity, trying to multitask harms it. And attempting to multitask can look different depending on the day you’re having.
For example, if you’re at home, it’s super easy to jump from task to task but not really finish a single one. You can easily distract yourself from your work tasks by trying to do your home tasks, and vice versa, and then realize that you didn’t do an adequate job in both areas at the end of the day.
And, if you’re at work away from home, you can slip on the same slippery slope. You can find yourself taking on new tasks before completing old ones, going off to check on coworkers, helping them with their tasks, and so on.
To avoid doing everything but finishing nothing, try not to split your attention. When you start a task, focus on completing it without distracting yourself by going on side quests. If you hone your attention, you can knock jobs off one by one. And wouldn’t that be better at the end of the day?
When you look back at what you accomplished, you can see one or more finished tasks instead of several that are at different stages of completion. A great way to avoid the multitasking time waster is to make fully finishing a task the better alternative—gamify your productivity. There are tons of apps that reward you for completing a job. Use them, and you can accomplish more with less distraction.
5. Pets and Kids
It’s a bit unfair to call pets and kids a time waster behavior, but here’s the deal. If you’re working from home, it’s more than possible to distract yourself by means of your pets or kids. And the same goes even if you’re not working from home, but simply are home and doing a task.
You look up from your screen, and there’s your kid smiling up at you—how can you resist? Or, your pet hops near you, demanding attention. It can be tough to say no and go back to being productive.
The best way to avoid giving in and wasting valuable productive time, as pleasant as it could be to do so, is to have a dedicated space, preferably with a door, where you can go and focus on productivity. Also, you can keep pets in the bedroom while you’re in the living room, finishing job after job, and vice versa.
It’s a bit trickier with kids, but you can always try to distract them with the millionth replay of a favorite animation. The more you close off your environment while doing tasks, the faster you can complete them. Don’t let your productivity suffer because you can’t resist the cuteness around you—hide away from it by setting boundaries.
Productivity Is Good, but It’s Not All There Is
Productivity can have lulls too. You’re allowed to ‘slip’ from time to time. After all, it’s not easy to be productive all the time, day in and day out. Sometimes you give in to distractions; other times, you simply can’t focus—there can be a million reasons for your productivity to decline.
Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Giving in to a time-wasting activity every now and then is hardly the end of the world. But if you do so to the point where you’re not productive at all, then it’s time for a change.
There are so many little things you can alter about your day-to-day to help improve your productivity. And they don’t have to be major changes, either. All it takes is implementing a few mini habits here and there, and you can see positive results and an increase in productivity in no time.