Your Time Wasters — How to Find Focus and Find Time

blame and change
Your time wasters are yours to manage…

Your time wasters are unique to you. And they are always there, just waiting to steal your attention and your moments.

The thing is, your time wasters aren’t always obvious to you.

When you have something that you need to finish, or someplace that you need to get to, my guess is that you are alert to the really big distractions that can trip you up.

But maybe it’s the small instances of your time wasters that are more likely to throw you off and pull you away from your planned course.  These are the ones that you hardly notice until you’re late for an appointment or have missed a planned deadline.

Your time wasters — are they anything like these?

Here are some common, “small” time wasters that may sound familiar to you:

  • You fear that you are coming down with a cold, so you plan to get to bed early and give yourself a good night’s sleep.  Before bed, you turn on the TV to check the weather, and notice that there is an exciting basketball game coming down to the wire. So, you decide to check it out ‘briefly’ to see what happens, and the next thing you know it’s the end of double overtime and you are in bed much later than you had planned.
  • You’re planning to get outside for a walk before work but check your home e-mail before heading out the door. You get caught up in reading and responding, run out of time, and forego your exercise.
  • On your way to an important meeting in an unfamiliar area, you pull into a restaurant to grab a quick cup of coffee. You call a friend while waiting, get into a conversation about a recent family event and end up being late for your meeting.

What do these vignettes have in common?

  • Your focus shifted and then you added a new activity to your schedule.
  • You most likely thought you were being flexible or ‘going with the flow.’
  • The consequence of your choice may have left you feeling victimized.
  • In each case, you undermined your trust that you will follow through on your plans.

Being flexible vs “going with the flow.”

In the examples above, being flexible would have meant making a conscious choice to either stay on course or to change it.  This would mean acknowledging that a commitment was being altered. 

When you do that, you recognize and mindfully navigate the choices that your day presents.

But in these vignettes, what actually happened didn’t involve a conscious choice. So they fall more properly under the heading of self-sabotage. 

This is a very important and empowering distinction to make for yourself.

5 Tips for Taming Your Time Wasters

  • Make yourself a detailed and effective To-Do List and keep it accessible for handy reference.  If you feel tempted to change your plans, pause and ask yourself, “What goal am I putting at risk if I do this?”
  • Weigh the consequences of changing your plans before coming to a decision.  How will you feel afterward, if you make this change?
  • Make a list of your time wasters.  Also, notice and list the feelings that precede an impulsive choice that wastes your time. Are you feeling tired, anxious, bored, or angry? How might you resolve whatever you’re feeling without overturning your plans?
  • Give yourself the gift of scheduling time every day for spontaneous pleasure.  When that time arrives, do whatever strikes your fancy.  The more consistently you give yourself this special time, the easier it will be to let go of temptation at other times.
  • Think about circumstances when you’ll want to be able to ‘bend your schedule.’ Include buffer time in your day to have space for these situations.

What next?

When a small temptation crosses your path, consider your options as you notice it. Create some space for yourself by taking a deep breath. Affirm what you value and what you have planned.  Then make a conscious decision.

The choice is always yours, and each time you make it proactively and consciously (rather than sliding into it), you are finding time. So start putting yourself in charge today, as you keep your eyes on the prize, and tame the choices that disrupt your focus and steal your time.

For more help…

How often do distractions and interruptions pull you off track? If you feel thwarted by some of your own choices, learn to support yourself by setting and maintaining meaningful inner boundaries.  My Inner Boundary Checklist is designed to help you do just that.  Find time for what truly matters to you.

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