If you’re like me, you begin your day with a long and daunting To Do list which you being with vigour, dutifully ticking things off. Quickly however you find other ‘things’ get in the way. For me, the dishes in the sink beckon me, the dirty washing bag calls my name and the grocery store whispers to me to make a visit to buy the food I need for that night’s dinner. While all of these things need to get done, they constantly get in the way of me getting real things done and making daily progress. And this is even before Facebook, Twitter and other fabulous daily Internet distractions enter the picture.
So, how does one combat these pesky little day-to-day things? Enlist help. And here’s how.
There are now some extremely useful programs and free services offered on the Internet that help you to maximise your time. I have recently discovered RescueTime (www.rescuetime.com), which offers both a free and paid subscription service for users. RescueTime will track your computer usage and, via an Activities Report, which is available in real time for paid users and delayed for free subscribers, it maps out both the websites and other computer programs (e.g. Word) on which you are spending the majority of your time. For those of you who can’t be bothered logging on to the website itself, RescueTime will send a weekly summary that graphs, in colour, where you have been most active and how productive you have been with your time. It will even compare it to previous weeks so you have some idea of whether you have reined in your Facebook habit and managed to achieve more productivity. The program also lets you set goals and track your progress. It is one very handy service indeed.
There are also numerous ways to physically block access to tempting sites, whether they are social media sites, blogs or news sites. I won’t detail any specific ones here as you can Google them however these sites can be extremely effective if you know that you are easily distracted by particular pages. Blocking access to them between say, 9.00am and 5.00pm ensures that you will remain as productive as you can while you sit in front of your computer.
As to mobile phone Apps, I recently downloaded Chronos, which allows users to set daily and weekly goals in relation to a range of things, whether it is exercise, home time, working hours, errands or social time. This App requires no work or commitment whatsoever by its user – it uses the GPS on your phone to determine where you are and updates accordingly. You can now no longer hide the fact that you spend 2 hours a day at the coffee shop next to your office. It also compares your goals (and actual activity) to other users so you can compare to what it calls the ‘average’. A handy little App that is a gentle reminder of where your time is being spent the most.
I find that the easiest way to tackle home tasks and errands is to dedicate a solid block of time in which to get done what you need to. Sacrificing a large amount of time may seem unproductive and counterintuitive at the time, but once the duties are done (or if you set a time later in the day to do them), you can focus your energies on things that matter. At the moment, I find that if I try to get all of my errands done in the morning, I can spend the afternoon solidly focussing on what it is I need to get done that day. Some days I like to mix this up however and spend the morning solidly working, then approaching the tasks of errand running as a break from work and writing. Whichever way you choose to do it, just make sure you lump it all together, instead of letting little things continuously distract you. If that dirty mug bothers you, wash it now and put the washing on, tidy the bathroom and make the bed. Boom – before you know it, half your house duties are already done and you can now focus on what counts.
Stop trying to multi-task while you’re at the gym and just get down to business. Trying to read a book on the treadmill? Why bother. In our time-pressed lives, having the chance to workout is rare, so make it count. Amp up your workout when you’re at the gym and not only will you have to spend less time there in the long run, but you will also have more time to get back to achieving things that count. Gym classes are a good way to ensure to you are ‘on’ at the gym for the entire time you are there. They also offer the added benefit of being at a set time , so you can schedule them into your diary like you would any other appointment.
If, at the end of the day, you enjoy your time spent procrastinating and mucking around, just make time for it. Get up earlier and built it in to your day. You can start easily by just setting your alarm 15 or 30 minutes earlier each day and slowly increase from there. If you can tick a few things off your list before breakfast, it frees up more time throughout the rest of the day for these little breaks and distractions you enjoy.