This is the second part of the best time management guide you will ever find. Enjoy the reading.
- Part 1: The biggest time wasters
- Part 2: Eliminate distractions from your life
- Part 3: Organize yourself
Eliminating distractions from your life
Let’s move from the biggest time wasters (Part 1) to distractions. In the first step, you want to spend as little time as possible on the time wasters we mentioned:
- E-mail and IM (1)
- Social networks (2)
- Meetings and too much socializing (3)
- Daily news (4)
- Conferences (5)
- Useless apps on smartphones and tablets (6)
- Unnecessary logistics and in-between time (7)
- TV, movies and games and (8)
- Procrastination and worry (9)
Secondly, you want to eliminate most distractions in your daily life. It is hard to eliminate all distractions, but if you are brutal enough, you can eliminate most of them. Why are distractions such a big problem in life? Because they throw you out of the working flow, and take much more of your energy and time than you might think.
Let’s look at an example. Finally, after a long day of work, you can take some time for your important goals, like investing in acquiring new skills or managing your money. All excited, you open your favorite investing or skill development application.
You choose your lesson and start to learn. It takes some time, but after a while, you are in the flow, completely focused on learning and acquiring new skills. You forget about the world around you, your complete attention is given to a single activity.
Then your phone rings. You look at the phone to see who is calling. In that same second, you are already out of your flow. You say to yourself: “It will only take a second, I should take this call.” You answer. It isn’t nearly as important as you thought. And you need to do some small talk. Now you are out of your flow, and just lost half an hour in the least.
You go back to your skill development application. You have to focus again and get in the flow. It takes time. And now your mental focus is weaker than it was before. But anyway, you are disciplined and continue learning. The next thing that happens is that somebody knocks on your door. The whole thing repeats itself, maybe even several times. Before you know it, the day is over and your progress is close to zero.
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The best way to deal with distractions is to eliminate all the distractions way before they get a chance to kick you out of the flow. To do that, you need a good time management system and some strict rules for it. You must draw strict boundaries regarding your behavior and interactions with other people.
The best way to do that is to simply unsubscribe from distractions. You have to make sure nobody and nothing bother you when you have time for your focused work. Here are some ideas how.
Identify your main distractions
The first thing to do is to identify the most frequent distractions in your life. We all have some weak points. Maybe you like people stopping by your office and saying hello, because gossiping relaxes you and kills time. Maybe you are crazy about instant messaging, because you feel more important and connected. Maybe you are addicted to phone messages or phone chatting. Maybe you are addicted to looking at your watch every five seconds.
When you start with your focused mental work and somebody or something distracts you, write it down. You can do that for a few weeks, and you will soon discover your weak spots and identify the biggest distractions in your life.
Eliminate distractions with zero tolerance
The next step is to eliminate distractions. Be brutal. Don’t count on only your self-discipline or the ability to say no when you are distracted. Self-discipline is a weak muscle and when you have to say no, you are already distracted. Be smarter than that.
Build a system that will help you eliminate all distractions.
- Put a “do not disturb” sign on your office or private room door
- Turn off your phone
- Install a web nanny and block all the fun sites you are addicted to
- Close e-mail and the IM application
- Do the same with all other potential distractions
Put on some classical music. Get yourself in the flow. Don’t let anything distract you. Just enjoy performing, learning and creating. Ignore the rest of the world.
Learn to say No
When you are distracted, it is already too late for saying “no”. But before that happens, you want to make sure that saying “no” is your most common reply to all people who are asking you to do things for them or join different projects. As we mentioned before, nothing great was ever achieved in life without brutal focus. You can either follow your own goals or goals of other people.
Why? Let’s say you have 100 units of energy you can invest into your goals – projects, learning and daily work. If you work on one big goal at a time you can invest all 100 units in that goal. Let’s now say that you have two big goals. Consequently you have to split 100 units in half. But you now additionally have the “in-between time”, spent switching activities etc. That means that you dedicate only circa 30 units of energy to one goal. If you take on one more project, set one more big goal or start one more big task in a day, you can go down to 10 units of energy per one activity.
Can you imagine the difference between investing 100 units (1 year time) or 10 units (10 years’ time) of your energy into one task that’s really important to you?
Therefore if you want to achieve anything in your life, you have to focus your energy. To focus your energy, you have to learn how to say “no”. It is very simple to learn this skill. For 14 days say “No” to anyone who asks you to do something. To everyone! After 14 days, you will feel confident enough to say “No” to everybody. Then you can carefully select people to whom you will say “yes”.
Energy vampires and enemies
Negative people are ultra-uncomfortable distractions in your life. Not only do they waste your time, they also suck the energy out of you. You probably know the experience of spending an hour with a negative person. Just listening to bitching, whining, complaining and gossiping. After that, you probably feel like you were hit by a train.
The most ironic thing in life is that the biggest energy vampires in our lives are usually people close to us: family members, our (wrong) partner, close friends, bosses or co-workers. Well, there is no simple and easy solution for that. But no matter who and no matter what, you want to get rid of those people in your life who drag you down. You should instead surround yourself with people who motivate you, encourage you and help you achieve your goals.
But before pointing fingers at others, make sure that you yourself are not an energy vampire. Make sure that you are not a zombie. If you find yourself in any of the situations below, you must first tackle your beliefs before you manage time. It is hard to optimize your time if you constantly have to battle with your own mind and negative emotions.
How do you know that you are an energy vampire?
- You feel like a victim (of the country, system, primary family…)
- You bitch, whine and complain a lot
- You are completely dissatisfied with your life
- You are not grateful for what you have in your life
- People hesitate when you want to spent time with them
Never forget that what is currently happening in your life – the situations you face, the people that surround you, your financial status etc. – is nothing but a reflection of your inner world: your beliefs, thoughts, behavioral patterns and decisions.
Therefore if you exhibited any of the symptoms stated above, first read at least 100 personal development books, find some professional help like cognitive therapy and build more solid foundations on which you can build your dream life. After that, time management techniques will significantly help you boost your productivity. But before you lay down some solid foundations, these techniques will be nothing but an additional burden and pressure in your life.
Also be very careful when choosing your battles with other people. We all have enemies, we all have people who envy us or see us as competition. Of course you must have a spine of steel, follow your goals, but don’t lose precious energy on battles that don’t really matter.
Every time you fight with pigs, you get dirty. You will lose time, emotional energy, and mental focus and get more grey hairs. Instead invest that time in acquiring new skills and achieving your own goals. It is understandable that from time to time, those kinds of battles are necessary, but as mentioned above, choose your battles very carefully.
At the end of the day, your mental capacities and energy resources are very limited. Focus on the positive, focus on building things not destroying them. Ignoring assholes will do it just fine most of the time.
People that just stop by
Your policy should be that people can’t just stop by, neither at your office nor at your home. You want to have full control over how you spend your time. The solution for this one is easy. At the office, there is no stopping by if you don’t have a meeting request in your calendar. If you like socializing with co-workers, you can do that during lunchtime.
If you are managing big teams, you can have daily or weekly open hours, and quick 15 minute meetings in the mornings. No stopping by.
At home, have a socializing schedule. For example, every Friday night you can socialize with your friends. And every Saturday night, have a date with your spouse, partner or whatever. All other afternoons and weekends should be reserved for your most important goals. No stopping by. If somebody bothers you, just say: “I would love to, but I just can’t right now.”
There is one more good technique, I think originally from Brian Tracy, for what to do when people interrupt you with socializing intentions, let’s say on a plane, train or anywhere else where you would like to do some work. When they ask you about what you do for a living, just reply, “I raise funds for the local church. I am always on the lookout for new donors.” There’s a high probability that people will leave you alone after that. :)
We all feel ultra-productive when multitasking. But in reality, multitasking is a big waste of time. You are much less productive when trying to accomplish several tasks in the same time frame. You can find hundreds of scientific studies that very clearly show that multi-tasking doesn’t work.
Therefore don’t try to feel more productive or busy by multitasking. Do just one thing at a time. Fully focus on one thing. And do only those things that deserve your full attention – like making love, for example. ;)
Continue to Part 3: Organize yourself