Aug 042014 1 Response

Stop Squandering Your Time

I need to write my opening line.

(check email)

What’s the best way to draw attention?

(Respond to Facebook message)

I think the topic is of vital importance.

(check twitter)

(make a phone call)

(check email again)

(see if they have replied to my Facebook response)

I often wonder why I do not get more work done. A better inquiry would be to understand how I ever get any work done.

The modern worker suffers from Work ADHD. In our need to live in a constant state of stimulation we are unable (or unwilling) to ignore the distractions and accomplish the work which matters most, not only to us but also to those who pay us to do our jobs.

We are squandering our time and wasting the money which our employers are paying us. The result isn’t just a lack of productivity, but also a deep level of personal dissatisfaction and corporate frustration. (See: You Chose This–a Reflection on Time Management)

We aren’t doing meaningful work because we aren’t accomplishing meaningful tasks and the result is a growing frustration by employees and employers alike.

I don’t know many workers who feel as though they have ample time to do what they are paid to do. (And if someone does feel that way, I doubt they spend time reading articles like this). Most of us feel overworked and overextended all while underachieving and being underappreciated.

And it primarily happens for one reason: we are not intentionally choosing how to spend our time. We are reacting to our work rather than actively choosing what we will do. And the result is being overwhelmed by meaningless work without any ability to do what would bring us satisfaction and our employer value.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We can choose a different path which not only makes us more valuable at work, but will also bring us a tremendous amount of challenge and satisfaction as we fully engage in meaningful work.

It all starts with one step: before starting your day, plan your day.

Without this step, you will not do meaningful work. (See: You Always Have an Excuse)

Teachers have lesson plans; coaches have game schedules; surgeons know exactly who they will operate on and in what order for any given day.

So why does the average worker not have a game plan regarding their work day?

For many people who have flexibility regarding their schedule, the only definite plan they have regarding their day is whatever meetings they are forced to attend and lunch. While both might be important, neither is vital to accomplishing the truly important work which we need to do.

Consider how the average person begins their work day:

  1. Arrive at the office without any plan.
  2. Engage in small talk with co-workers.
  3. Check email.
  4. Begin fighting whatever the most pressing fire of the moment is.

Nothing could prevent a productive start to a day more than these four activities. It causes us to start the day in a slow, distracted, purposeless manner. When starting the day this way, it’s not uncommon for me to be several hours into my workday and realize I haven’t accomplished anything. (See: You Control What Matters Most)

But what if you chose a different way. What if you started your day this way:

  1. Before you get to work, list the three most important tasks of the day.
  2. When arriving at work, immediately go to your desk and accomplish the first task.
  3. Do not check email until at least an hour and a half into your day.
  4. After accomplishing your most important task then consider what pressing issues might deserve your attention.

It might take a day or two for your co-workers to realize you aren’t rude. It will take a week or two to break your email addiction so that you aren’t checking it every five minutes. Yet if you consistently begin your day this way, you will see dramatic results. And if a workplace can create the culture where workers are expected to start their day at a fast and meaningful pace, it can greatly change the working environment.

The worst thing the average person does regarding work is failing to spend their time on purpose. They squander their time to the detriment of themselves and their job. (See: A Secret About Today Which Could Change Everything)

Choosing with great intention how we do our work will go a long way in changing the work we do.

Are you reading this before work? Take a few minutes to plan your day in light of what needs to be accomplished, what is expected of you from others, and what this day looks like in the context of the week ahead. (See: Do You Know What Today Is?)

Are you reading this at lunch? Before jumping back into work, consider the afternoon. What are the one or two tasks you must accomplish? Do those and then worry about email and all the other pressing issues of the day.

Are you reading this at night? Take a few minutes to plan tomorrow. Make a detailed plan of how you will attack the next day from the moment you wake up. Place the list on your bathroom mirror and from the moment the alarm goes off, work your plan.

What is one piece of advice you would give the average person which will increase their productivity at work?

For more, see:

A Secret to Productivity

One Response to Stop Squandering Your Time
  1. […] Some days, like today, force me to shelve my heart’s desire in order to do what others need. I...

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