Two of the most valuable commodities you possess are your time and your energy; coincidentally enough, those are two things you feel like you never have enough of. Is this ringing a bell?
If so, see below for an article by Leo Babauta on the culprits most guilty of robbing you of your time and energy, and thus your productivity!
Email. The biggest time drain for many of us. We need to do email. But we don’t need to do it all day long. Choose a couple of times a day to process your inbox to empty, and be done with it. Otherwise, email is an endless stream of interruptions, and you can never get anything done.
Internet. By this I mean everything on the web that’s not email or chat/IM/Twitter (see next entry) … the blogs, websites and endlessly fun distractions we’re all guilty of … and that drain away our time. I’m all for distractions — at the appropriate time. But when it’s time to buckle down and work, you gotta get rid of this time drain. Disconnect, and get work done.
Chat/IM/Twitter.Related to the above two items, but separated because while it may be a lot of fun, it’s completely unnecessary for most people. Sure, there may be times when an IM session can save loads of back-and-forth emails, but for the most part, it is just chit chat and an unproductive use of your time. And it can end up taking up huge chunks of your time instead of a few minutes a couple of emails would’ve taken.
Games.Solitaire, sudoku, Internet games, video games … lots of fun. But if you are wondering where your day went, when you didn’t really get anything done, it could be this reason. Get rid of the games or block the sites from your browser to free up a lot of time.
Co-workers/boss/clients.Your co-worker who wants to chat about baseball or the weather or politics or whatever … he’s eating up your precious time. Give him the hand, and walk away. Well, you’re better off finding more polite ways of stopping these time wasters, and the best is probably to cut them off and say, “I’m trying to finish off an important project … I can give you a minute of my time … what can I do for you?” And keep it to a minute. Just be sure your online sudoku game isn’t showing when you do this.
Phone.The phone was invented as a time-saving device. And yet it can interrupt what we’re doing and take up hours of our time. The truth is, most of the time it’s better to communicate through email. Turn off your phone and let it go to voicemail. Create a message that asks people to send you an email if at all possible. Don’t return calls right away. People will get the hint.
Repetitive tasks.What are the tasks you do over and over every day? Is there any way to eliminate or automate them? Can you get someone else to do them? If not, at least group them together and batch process them, so they don’t take up your whole day.
Unproductive projects.Sometimes it feels like we’re getting a lot of work done, because we’re not doing any of the above time-wasters, but working on actual projects instead. However, there’s a difference between projects that will make a lasting impact, and projects that really mean nothing but take up a lot of your time. Focus on just those projects that actually have a major benefit for you and your company, and that will generate future business or increase your reputation.
Cluttered surroundings.A messy desk or house can be very draining. I’ve found that clearing my desk and surroundings, and keeping my house uncluttered, has given me a peace that I would never have suspected before. It’s surprisingly satisfying to have a clear desk. I think our surroundings can drain us of more energy than we realize.
Negative co-workers.Actually, I mentioned co-workers because they’re very common, but any negative people in your life can drain energy without you knowing it. They grate at you, irritate you, drag you down, get you into a negative cycle, and create conflict and anger in your life. It’s impossible to completely get rid of these people, but you should avoid interacting with them as much as possible.
Too many commitments. Having a jam-packed schedule may make you feel important, but it’s extremely draining. I propose that you take a look at all the commitments in your life — work, personal, civic, etc. — and see which ones drain your time and energy without giving you much joy. Cut them out. It may seem impossible or extremely difficult, but I assure you, it can be done. You just have to learn how to politely but firmly say no. Realize what your time is worth, what your sanity is worth, and protect it. Leave only those few things in your life that really give you joy. Your schedule will be much freer, and so will you.
Unfinished tasks.Have a long list of things to do? All those things piling up can really weigh on your mind. Here’s how to deal with it: First, see which tasks can be eliminated or delegated. Get them off your list. Now eliminate some more. Now choose a couple to do each day — just the really important ones — and using this number see which ones you can do this week (10 at the most). The rest you need to put on a second list (called “Someday/maybe” in GTD) … this is a list that you will take a look at next week, but for now, you’re going to concentrate on only 10 things per week. If you finish those 10 things, by all means, see what else on your second list needs doing, but until then, just focus on what can actually be done this week.
Unhealthy food. Many people don’t realize the effect that greasy, fatty, salty, sugary, fried food has on their bodies — besides just the higher risk of disease and obesity, unhealthy food makes you feel less energetic and can also lead to depression. Try eating healthier food — whole grains, fruits and veggies, nuts and beans, etc. — and you could find that you feel much better. Plus, it helps you slim down if you’re overweight, which can be another way to gain energy. Exercise works great too.
Being in control.Often we try to control everything around us — our kids, our co-workers, every situation we are in — but the truth is, that’s impossible. Not only that, but it is extremely exhausting. Learn to relinquish control — just let it go! — and you’ll find that you get much less frustrated and feel much calmer and happier.