How to Stop Wasting Your Time

Urgency is a terrible tyrant.  It demands that you give it 100% of your attention 100% of the time. (tweet it!)

Are you living by the tyranny of the urgent; constantly meeting the demands of both your schedule and your inbox as things pop up?

Do you wish you had a more organized way to accomplish the tasks you have at hand, instead of responding to everything in crisis management mode?

If your to do list has you crawling back in bed and pulling the covers over your head, then it’s time to tame your to do list, and put an organizational system in place that will rock your world. (In a good way!)

You have to take three important steps to get organized.

1. Determine Your Distractions

2. Design Your Day

3. Develop Your Toolkit


1. Determine Your Distractions

What distracts you?  Is it big projects looming over you or is it small daily tasks like email, social media, text messages, etc.?  Understanding what is distracting you requires you to take stock in what you must accomplish, what you hope to accomplish and even who you will spend your time with. 

Two quick questions I ask myself when determining how I spend my time:

Question 1. "Will this activity help me get closer to my goal of (fill in your answer here*)?"

 *Examples: helping small business owners, buying that hot air balloon, becoming a dolphin trainer, landing that spokesperson gig, having more keynote speaking opportunities... What's your goal? 

Make sure you spend time doing things that actually get you closer to that goal. Think about how you spend your time on an average day. Is your time spent on things that will get you closer to your goal?

Your resources and your energy are not unlimited. Focus them only on things that help you achieve your goals. (Tweet it!)

Question 2. "Will spending my energy focused on this get me closer to this goal?”

And you have to ask yourself these questions about people too.  Some people have some crazy drama in their lives/businesses that you just don’t need to invite into yours.

My bonus tip for you in this area comes from David Alan, master organizational guru, who teaches how to get things done, who says that the reason we stress out (and are distracted by) things in our life is that we haven’t figured out a way to store that data until we need it.  Have a way to record the things that are stealing your attention (projects that are due, emails you don’t want to forget to send, etc.) I use  Evernote to keep up with my daily notes.


2. Design Your Day

I’ve talked about this before, so I won’t go into too much depth here, but we each have different levels of productivity and brain power at different times of the day.  I’m a night owl.  I do my *real creating* later at night.  You might be a morning person like my friend Jon Acuff who belongs to a club called the 5a.m. Club. (Seriously!) You have to design your day by what works for you.

Jeff Goins, Professional Writer, wrote this, Today, I took Tim Ferriss's advice and set a goal of one task for the day that I knew I needed to finish. This was something that if I didn't do it, I would've felt like I wasted my day. Instead of messing around with trivial tasks like checking email, I just went right to it and tried to knock it out as quickly as possible. Just completed it. Feel great and have hours to spare! I'm not the world's most productive person, so this feels pretty awesome.”

Jeff found what worked for him, according to his own personal productivity rhythm. You have to do the same.


3. Develop a System to Get Things Done

There are so many organizational tools out there right now that it’s impossible to tell you what they all are.  Because life and business needs are always changing, and tech apps are getting more awesome by the day, I often switch out items in my toolkit. So I’ve narrowed it down to the systems I personally use and love right now.

  • I use my "Reminders" app built into Apple products. I type in what I need to do that day and it hassles me until I do it. The reminders pop up on my iPhone and on my laptop at specific times to keep me on track. Say I didn't get to one task at the end of the day? I add it to my reminders to wrap up the task first thing on the next day. Boom. Done.
  • I live by Basecamp to work with my team. Our needs outgrew Basecamp's functionality and needed a more robust management option, we tried Teambox, but went back to the simplicity of Basecamp.
  • I use Evernote to save articles that I want to use as research as well as a gazillion other things. (I keep hearing that I need to do an Evernote guide as a free resource here on the site. Your wish is my command. I'm working on it!)
  • I use Pocket to save random (non-work) articles to read after work is done or on the weekend. How else am I going to remember I wanted to watch that Sloth video? I can't be watching it during the day! :)
  • I use Twitter lists and never look at the 'Home Feed' on Twitter. I can easily keep up with friends, business contacts, clients I work with, the latest news and more. I keep all my Twitter lists private to keep from hurting anyone's feelings.


Be ruthless with your time and focus and guard it like it's priceless, because it is.  (Tweet this!)

Very often the things in our lives and businesses that distract us are problems that we spend way too much time focusing on.  They keep us from starting things we should start because we are so focused on the wrong things.  So ever so often I have an exercise I do that I like to call the "Be Ruthless" exercise (which I know sounds completely out of character for me to say. But sometimes you just have to be ruthless! This is your life and there's no time to waste on unnecessary crazy!)


Here's the exercise:

1. Make a list of everything you are doing.

2. Add to that list everything you'd like to start doing.

3. Place a star by anything on your list that you know you should stop doing but are afraid to stop (for any number of reasons.)


Now think about being ruthless with your time.  What would it take you to stop doing what you know you need to stop doing?  The answer to this question will do so much to move you forward, get you unstuck, and help you focus and not get distracted by things that you need to stop doing.