How to Stop Wasting Time

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It’s time to get real about how you waste time. These tips and tools can help you add more hours to your day.

Time is an entrepreneur’s most valuable asset. So how can you get more time in your day? You can’t buy, sell or trade it; you have to reclaim it.

In order to do that you need to identify how and when you’re wasting time. Let’s be real about this: everyone wastes some time during the day—we’re only human after all. The trick is to honestly evaluate your work habits. Only then can you use your time more efficiently.

In his article on Small Business Computing, Lawson Ursrey, CEO and founder of apparel company Indie Peace and product marketing manager for Sage One accounting software, identifies the top time-killers and offers tips to help you reclaim your time and increase productivity.

The first step is to conduct a time audit to see exactly where and when you’re distracted and the root cause. Keep track of your computer use with RescueTime. It tracks your activity and reports on your time spent per site, per activity and per program.

Next, consider these classic, time-honored time-sucks. Do they apply to you? If so, these remedies may set you on the path to productivity.

Multitasking

A seductive myth, multitasking might make you feel more productive, but only 2 percent of the population can multitask successfully. If you fall within the 98 percent, focus on just one task for a set period of time. And remember, changing habits takes practice. If all you can handle at first is 15 minutes of total focus, that’s OK. Focus on one task for 15 full minutes, and then switch to something else. But stick to it for the full 15 minutes.

Mobile Alerts

Smartphones are great tools to help keep us connected, but let’s face it: every ping, ding, whistle and beep distracts from the work at hand. Again, be honest: how many of your emails, Facebook comments, texts, app updates or FourSquare check-ins rate as urgent and require your attention in real-time? Turn off your phone alerts and train yourself to respond to email and texts at certain times of the day.

Email

The email inbox is the digital equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle. It’s where time goes to get lost. According to a survey in 2007, Microsoft workers spent almost 10 minutes responding to an email after receiving an alert. It then took another 15 minutes to get back to work.

Try this one-two approach: First, find a tool that filters your email inbox. Unroll.me wraps all of your newsletters into one easy-to-read digest. SaneBox automatically filters non-essential emails into folders. Next, train yourself to check email only at specific times per day, say 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The Internet

Willpower alone won’t help you if you’re wasting time on Facebook, ESPN or other time-wasting websites. You need site-blocking tools that still let you visit, but only for a certain length of time.  Examples include StayFocused (Chrome browser app), SelfControl (for Mac) and SelfRestraint (for Windows).

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of Small Business Computing. Follow Lauren on Twitter.

Adapted from 5 Time Wasters That Kill Your Productivity, by Lawton Ursrey at Small Business Computing. Follow Small Business Computing on Twitter.

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