How much time are you wasting?
If you’re reading this blog post, there’s a good chance that you’re not actually accomplishing as much each day/week as you’d like to, and that you’ve begun to suspect a good chunk of your time is being wasted.
I doubt there are many people who, as they look back on their lives, wish they had spent more time watching TV or cute kitten videos on Facebook. But there are probably an awful lot who, with hindsight, wish they’d watched less, and achieved more! Effective time management is about knowing what’s important to you. What would you rather do: work towards your life goals, or spend all night binge watching House of Cards? The more focused and self-disciplined you are, the more likely that you can (eventually) do both.
On average, we sleep around eight hours a night, and those of us of working age will probably spend around half of the remaining 16 hours of every weekday doing paid work of some type. If you’re at college, retired, or busy taking care of family, your routine will be more varied, but in most cases you’ll have at least four or five hours each day (most often in the evenings), when you’ll have some ‘down’ time. And for the majority of people that means watching TV, scrolling through social media, or texting friends……sometimes all at once!
In the UK, the average person watches TV for 3.5 hours per day, and is on-line on their smartphone, tablet or laptop for 3.25 hours a day. They spend around 1.0 hours a day travelling, 1.5 hours preparing and consuming food and drink, 1.0 hours on household chores, and 0.75 hours on personal hygiene and grooming. How does that compare with your routine?
There’s truth in the saying “if you want something done, ask a busy person”, because the busier we are, the better we manage our time. Busy people are able to get more done in a day because they don't waste time. They plan and they make lists. They understand that time is a precious commodity. It can’t be bought or sold….that’s why it’s so important to use it wisely.
Have you ever done a time audit? You may have done a financial audit to compare your income and expenditure, which is similar in principal, but instead of identifying and cutting back on unnecessary spending, a time audit helps to identify and cut out needless time wasting. I think you’ll find it’s a really useful exercise because it helps to identify what tasks could be dropped or delegated, to enable you to focus on your priorities.
There are several free time-tracking tools to make the record keeping easier, such as Toggle or RescueTime, or you might prefer using an Excel template of your own design. You could set a reminder on your phone every couple of hours, and write down what you've been doing, and there are ‘apps’ such as Social Fever to help manage smartphone and social media use. The aim is to enable you to track the amount of time you spend each day, week or month on all of your activities; sleeping, washing/dressing, shopping, eating/drinking, housework, working/commuting, leisure/sporting activities, TV, social media, text messaging etc..
The next stage in the process is to transfer the information to a pie chart, because (I find) a visual representation is far easier to work with than a list of figures. Then it’s up to you to decide where you can make changes. You might find that you're wasting time by moving between tasks too often, or that you're spending more time on your mobile or laptop than you thought. You might find that some things can simply be cut out; others could be done less often, or more efficiently by someone else. So try to categorise your activities into ‘needs’, ‘wants’, ‘rejects’ and ‘delegates’.
Needs are things such as sleep and work that you have to do, and only you can do. But perhaps you could go to bed, and get up, an hour earlier? Could you use the daily commute to expand your mind by reading or listening to a podcast, or maybe you could work through your lunch break and get off work early now and again?
Wants are things like eating out, watching TV and ‘me time’. But instead of making TV your default when you don’t know what else to do, try to use it as a reward when you’ve worked hard…..don’t just watch it because you’re bored.
Rejects are things you don't need to be doing at all, such as aimlessly scrolling through inane social media posts or having a lie-in on Sunday mornings.
Delegates are things that other people could do for you such as shopping, cleaning or gardening, which may incur a cost….but may be worth the investment.
Once you’ve decided what you’re going to change, start with the easiest, and build on your success. The most important thing is to use your newfound time in a positive and productive way, doing things that help you achieve your goals and make you happy. Don’t let time slip through your fingers without even noticing. Taking back control is empowering, and you’ll be amazed at how soon it becomes second nature!
Thank you for reading this blog post. If you have any thoughts to share, or ideas for future posts, please do let me know. I would love to hear from you.