I’ve gotten to the point where wasted days are a rarity for me. Long gone are the days where I’d lock myself in my room and waste a weekend away playing video games.
I’m happy to be past that, but I still struggle to use my time optimally. I’m a lot more productive than the average person because I consciously avoid big time wasters like television and mmorpgs, but I often fall into the trap of just doing something for a “few minutes.”
Yesterday I needed to write a new blog post, but I allowed myself to look up a TED talk and justified that watching it would be productive as well and that I could write the blog post after.
Three TED Talks later it was time for bed and I still hadn’t written the post. Similar to the drug addict relapsing just “one more time” I kept delaying my most important objective just “one more minute.”
Though I’ve still got a long way to go in reclaiming these wasted minutes there are a few strategies I’ve used to make these incidents occur less often. Micropriorities, preventing the first temptation, and eliminating triggers.
Micropriorities, as described here by Tynan, help you maintain clarity on what you find most important. They allow you to prioritize your work more effectively and prevent you from unconsciously wasting time.
Preventing the First Temptation
Aside from micropriorities, another brilliant concept by Tynan is the idea of preventing the first temptation. An example of this in my own life was when I first decided to start eating healthier.
Instead of trying to resist the junk food my mom bought and failing miserably, I simply told her to stop buying it. Though I now find junk food repulsive, in the beginning it was absolutely critical to my success that none was available.
The final strategy I’ve used to increase my productivity is eliminating triggers. The simplest example I can think of this is turning off push email notifications.
I noticed that getting an alert every time someone tweeted me or sent me an email was extremely distracting and prevented me from ever getting into flow. I also found that instead of just checking the specific tweet or email I had received I would often waste HOURS on the internet just because of a single notification.
After a few weeks I turned push notifications off and haven’t had them enabled for years. I’ve saved countless hours since then all because of a single change that took less than 30 seconds to implement.
The best advice I can give in improving your life is to find the things that trigger your bad habits and then do everything in your power to remove them from your life.
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