Your days are probably jam-packed as it is so you don’t have time for distractions. Between your big dreams and aspirations and all your routine responsibilities like cleaning and laundry, your plate is full.
Here’s what to ditch in order to focus on your priorities.
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Give these time-wasters their marching orders:
1. Mindless scrolling through social media
Social media definitely has its place and it’s not all downside. There are benefits in being able to connect with others, particularly those you don’t get to see as often as you’d like, and in being exposed to new ideas and information.
But the truth is that most of us get sucked into mindless scrolling that doesn’t benefit us in any way.
Look at your feed right now and, for each piece of content, determine the true value it’s adding to your day. Is your life any richer for having seen it, or would you have survived just fine without knowing your colleague bought a bike and your neighbour has a new haircut?
I’m willing to bet it’s the latter.
In his book “Digital Minimalism”, Cal Newport discusses the any-benefit idea – the belief that just because something has some minor benefit, it must be useful or otherwise worth having in your life.
This is usually false.
Does the odd interesting article or funny meme justify the detriment to your time, energy levels, and mental health?
Go without for one day (don’t worry, it’ll all still be there waiting for you the next), and see for yourself.
The only adverse effects you’ll suffer are the initial (and temporary) “withdrawal symptoms”. Other than that it’s all upside as you recoup a huge amount of your time and attention every day.
Again, email has its place, but it’s likely that the vast amount of stuff sitting in your inbox is either completely useless or is inducing you into bad behaviours like over-spending.
Before you send or reply to an email, ask yourself if it’s truly necessary. I have a general rule (that I use for text messages too) – if my response could basically be summed up with “OK”, and the recipient isn’t awaiting my confirmation before proceeding with something, I don’t send it.
You can also avoid a lot of back and forth by outlining some options in your initial email. For example, if you’re organising to meet someone, don’t simply ask when suits them. Tell them your availability and ask them to choose the time within those parameters that works for them.
Unsubscribe from all newsletters and mailing lists unless you truly look forward to receiving them and gain great satisfaction and benefit from them.
The fewer you sign up for and the fewer you send, the fewer emails you’ll receive.
I know how alluring a ping can be. It’s new! Exciting! Full of possibility!
But the reality is that it’s usually only one of those “OK” messages I mentioned. Or it’s a notice to say you’ve been tagged in a giveaway post. Or it’s an email to say you’ve won the lottery and if you just give them all your personal details the money will definitely be in your account by the end of the day.
Meanwhile the clock is ticking away on your important tasks.
99.9% of notifications are not time sensitive (and, truthfully, most are completely irrelevant). And 100% will still be there waiting for you next time you take a break.
(Also remember that someone else’s panic and lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on your part. You don’t have to drop everything.)
If you stop what you’re doing to check every single thing that pops up on your phone or laptop, you’ll spend the day being distracted and not getting much done. Your focus will constantly be pulled in different directions and, once off-track, can be difficult to herd back in the direction of the task at hand.
Switch notifications off completely or at least put them on silent until you have some free time and make a conscious decision to catch up on them.
You have to do it, whether it be at the doctor’s office, queuing at the grocery store, or sitting through an ad break. But it doesn’t mean you have to let your attention be hijacked by what’s around you.
Advertisers are betting on you not being bothered to skip or mute ads during your favourite shows, and use that time to try convince you that you have a hole in your life only their product or service can fill.
It's also why small-ticket items are placed at checkouts – store owners know you’ll likely get sucked into an impulse purchase purely because you’re standing there with nothing else to do.
Obviously you can’t eliminate waiting from your life, but what you can do is have a plan of action for when it appears – read a book, make a phone call, reply to important messages, meditate, etc.
You don’t always have to be “on” and doing something, but being intentional with your time and attention means others can’t steal it to try push their own agenda.
5. Junk mail
Unwanted leaflets, flyers, and letters are not only annoying, they’re time-wasters. First you have to to sort through your post to see what’s actually important and what’s not. Then you have to recycle the junk (which sometimes requires that you separate it in some way, like removing the plastic window from the envelope).
And that’s assuming you don’t get distracted by it and suddenly start considering building a brand new extension onto your home because some random company is offering a discount.
Maybe you’re not even sure it’s spam so you waste time opening it and perusing its contents before you realise.
It may seem inconsequential at the time, but all those extra seconds add up to minutes and then hours of your life wasted on unwanted rubbish.
Wherever you live in the world, find out how you can remove yourself from mailing lists, unsubscribe from unwanted catalogues and magazines, and switch all bills to electronic versions so you no longer receive paper statements.
Bonus benefit of being good for the environment too. 😀
6. Bill paying
If it’s an option for you, have all your bills paid automatically by electronic payment. This cuts out untold hours spent writing names and amounts, balancing figures, buying stamps, posting cheques, queueing at the post office or store...
Plus, it has the added bonus of saving on late fees and, you never know, you may save time down the road when you don’t have to call the company because you lost or forgot to pay the bill and were cut off.
If it can’t be done electronically, paying online is usually must quicker (at least after initial setup and creation of an account) than any other way.
E-statements also save you from filing and searching for papers. Instead, they’re all saved digitally for quicker and easier access.
7. Individual incidents
This is something I’m trying to improve in my own life because I’m more of a detail-oriented person and can often fail to think big picture, but if there’s something you do on a regular basis, batch it.
Batching tasks means getting lots of the same or similar things done at one time instead of doing them as single isolated events.
Good examples are meal prepping, cleaning, and running errands. Instead of doing them every day or every week, batch them together so you can do as much as you can in one go.
You’ll reduce travel time, setup time, searching time, tidy-up time…
Like I mentioned with notifications, skipping from one task to another can drastically reduce your focus because you keep having to “find your place” and figure out what needs doing next.
If you stick with one thing, you’ll get “in the zone” and your focus will easily flow.
Tell me, which of these is the biggest time-waster in your life?
Here are some additional posts to help you focus on what's most important to you: