Hackernoon logoHow To Actually Get Things Done by@macgill

How To Actually Get Things Done

A study found that the average workday has increased in 8.2 percent or 48.5 minutes in the past year. The average person spends 2 hours and 51 minutes on their phone and 56 minutes on social media each day. Social media and messaging apps like Slack offer a constant stream of notifications and messaging that are impossible to catch up on. They’re a major waste of time. Multitasking reduces the speed and quality of completing tasks. We can save a huge amount of time by writing out the most important tasks and prioritizing them.
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@macgillMacgill

Cofounder of Rize.io

Under a constant onslaught of messagings and notifications, it’s never been harder to focus and get work done. Despite continued improvement of the tools we use at work, people are wasting more time than ever. In fact, a study found that the average workday has increased in 8.2 percent or 48.5 minutes in the past year. Wasted time is a huge contributing factor to that increase. In light of these trends, I decided to share a few tips on how to stop wasting time and be more productive. 

Why we waste time

Before diving into how to stop wasting time, it’s important to understand why we waste time. I listed a few of the most common reasons we waste time. 

1. Constant stream of messages, notifications, and other distractions

The tools we use at work and in our personal lives are constantly distracting us from getting work done. Social media and messaging apps like Slack offer a constant stream of notifications and messaging that are impossible to catch up on. They’re a major waste of time. 

You can spend your entire day checking email or scrolling through messages and tweets, and never get any work done. To make it worse, social media products are engineered to be addicting and maximize our attention. In fact, phones and social media reduce your ability to focus even when they’re not actively distracting you.

2. Multitasking

Study after study shows that multitasking reduces the speed and quality of completing tasks. A study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that the more complex the task, the larger the negative impact of multitasking. Multitasking leads to context switching, which reduces your productivity and wastes time. 

3. Lack of prioritization

When you don’t know the most important thing we should be working on, it’s easy to fall into multitasking, context switching, and procrastination. We can save a huge amount of time by writing out the most important tasks and prioritizing them.

4. Lack of data on how we actually spend our time

Despite spending 70 percent of our days at work, we lack the data on how we spend our time to make informed decisions. Many of us track our sleep, our steps, and our meals but have little to no insight on how we spend our time during the workday (this is the major reason we decided to build Rize).

‍How to stop wasting time

Now that you understand why you waste time, we can cover a few productivity tips to help you save time and be more productive.

1. Track your time

As we love to say, you cannot improve what you don’t measure. This applies to pretty much everything, but is especially true of time management. If you want to stop wasting time, it’s important to first understand how you waste time and what’s preventing you from getting focus work done. Often the reality of how you spend your time differs from your perception. 

As Laura Vanderkam writes “If you want to spend your time better, the first step is figuring out exactly how you spend it now.” 

As Laura Vanderkam writes “If you want to spend your time better, the first step is figuring out exactly how you spend it now.” 

You can use a time tracker like Rize to get a complete picture of how you waste time and what’s distracting you.

2. Remove all distractors

The average person spends 2 hours and 51 minutes on their phone and 56 minutes on social media each day. Don’t forget that phones and apps reduce your ability to focus even when they’re not actively distracting you. 

Before starting focus work, move your phone to another room and close all distracting apps and websites on your computer. This includes email and messaging apps like Slack and Gmail. Turning of notifications can help too. This will reduce the cognitive drain from these apps and enable you to get more done in less time. 

3. Batch email and messaging apps

Email and messaging apps are the number one cause of interruptions at work and are estimated to cost up to 6 hours of work a day. Most of us work with email and Slack open, meaning any message or email can disrupt us from our flow, even if they’re not urgent. 

Email and messaging apps are the number one cause of interruptions at work and are estimated to cost up to 6 hours of work a day. Most of us work with email and Slack open, meaning any message or email can disrupt us from our flow, even if they’re not urgent. 

A great solution to this problem is batching checking and responding to emails and messaging apps. Pick three times throughout the day, once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once in the evening, and only check and respond to emails and messages then. This clears up the rest of your day for focus time. This will reduce context switching, save you time, and make you more productive.

4. Move all your meetings to one or two days

Alongside email and messaging apps, meetings are a major waste of time for most people. A study that aggregated data from 3,143,270 people in July 2020 found that the number of meetings has increased 12.5% over the past year. 

A study that aggregated data from 3,143,270 people in July 2020 found that the number of meetings has increased 12.5% over the past year. 

Meetings disrupt your ability to get focus work done and kill time outside of the minutes they’re allotted on a calendar. A 30 minute meeting requires you to stop working and context switch to join the meeting. Studies show that it can take up to 30 minutes to refocus after an interruption. 

While you should get rid of all unnecessary meetings, it’s often required to have meetings to collaborate with your team. One tactic to reduce meetings’ impact on wasting time is to batch your meetings on a few days of the week. If you can commit to a day full of meetings, you can keep the rest of your week available for focus time. This will reduce context switching and save you immense amounts of time. Another tip is to change meetings to phone calls whenever possible to reduce their cognitive load. 

5. Stop multitasking

True multitasking is a myth that only leads to context switching which wastes time and kills your productivity. The easiest way to combat this is by picking one task and devoting 100 percent of your focus on completing it. Creating a plan in the morning of your important work and prioritizing tasks is a great use of time and helps to eliminate distractions and time-wasters. 

6. Timebox tasks

Timeboxing is a time management technique that allocates a set amount of time to each task. Timeboxing is proven to make you more productive and help you reduce wasting time. Timeboxing also helps reduce procrastination and plays on the fact that brains work to complete deadlines, even if those deadlines are arbitrary. 

Stop wasting time

Time is your most valuable resource. Understanding how you spend your time allows you to get more done and make time to do the things we enjoy. From the moment you wake up to when you go to bed, there is more than enough time in the day to finish your work and have free time to do what you love. So stop procrastinating, stop wasting time, improve your time management, and start taking action to be more productive. 

Time is your most valuable resource.

‍‍Photo by Ben Kolde‍

Macgill Davis is the cofounder of Rize - a simple, intelligent time tracker that improves focus and helps build better work habits.

Previously published at https://blog.rize.io/blog/how-to-stop-wasting-time

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