This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission to help keep my blog up and running, but it won't cost you a penny more). For more information, please read my disclosure policy.
How many times a day do you find yourself irritated at people who waste your time?
Our lives are filled with distractions and time wasters.
Some are caused by other people, but many are actually of our own making.
Let’s talk about the time wasters that are not our fault.
It’s a short list, sorry, but managing time wasters is the single biggest thing you can do to free time for what really matters to you.
Can we agree that everyone hates these?
Especially the robocalls that are placed by machines and never actually connect with a human being?
Or who have you on hold, along with several other people, while the machine waits for someone to pick up and say hello before connecting it to a waiting telemarketer?
The Federal Communications Commission‘s website has some suggestions on how to get rid of unwanted calls and texts.
- To block telemarketing calls, register your number on the Do Not Call list – which protects both landline and wireless phone numbers: www.donotcall.gov,
- Ask your phone company to offer robocall-blocking technology.
- If you use robocall-blocking technology already, it often helps to let that company know which numbers are producing unwanted calls so they can help block those calls for you and others.
- Tell unwanted callers that you do not consent to the call, make a record of the caller’s number and when you made your request not to be called, and let the FCC know if the caller does not comply with your request.
You’ve tried all that, you say?
Yeah, me too.
Telemarketers and Robocallers have gotten very smart at switching phone numbers constantly and attaching legitimate company names to their calls so that you think you’re answering a call from Apple or the IRS, only to find someone telling you that you owe them money and will go to jail if you don’t immediately give them a credit card number.
Still, if you haven’t done the above, you should.
Erica Elson has some good suggestions for how to deal with genuine (not the “This is the IRS” calls) telemarketing firms attached to real companies. You might find them useful.
Here’s the thing. This is a huge issue right now. You may be able to decrease the numbers of calls you receive but it’s nearly impossible to get rid of them altogether.
So what’s the answer?
Telemarketing and robocalls are wasting your time. Don’t let them.
If it’s obvious that the call is a survey or business you’re not interested in, don’t pick up.
If the number shows Internal Revenue Service as the caller, don’t pick up. The IRS doesn’t call you, they contact you by mail.
If the ID is unfamiliar, don’t pick up. If it’s a legitimate person, they will leave a message. If not, they rarely will.
If it’s from the school your children have already graduated from, it’s going to be a call for donations. And they’ll keep calling back. Take the call and get it over with.
Deciding how you will handle telemarketing and robocalls reduces their impact on your time and nerves.
Door to Door Salesmen/Survey Takers/Religious Folks
I am always in my pajamas.
No, not really always! But it seems like it when the doorbell rings unexpectedly, the dog barks loudly as he’s shaken awake by the noise, and I’m trying to remember if I invited anyone over.
Your house is your castle. When you close the door, you close out the world until such time as you’re ready to rejoin it.
It’s a rule!
So when I’m in my “casual wear” and the doorbell rings, I’m in my vulnerable place and I’m only willing to stick my head out the door, while holding back the dog and kind of hoping he’ll convince them this house should be passed by. He’s a giant wad of lap puppy who only wants to lick their faces but they don’t have to know that.
For the love of God, I do not want to talk to you about politics. The internet is doing a fine job of that already, thank you very much.
Why on earth would I want to spend “only 10 minutes” on my porch with you, answering questions about my television habits. The TV is on inside my house and you made me pause House Hunters International. No, you may not put that down on your survey!
Ladies, I appreciate that you are out spreading the word of God on a beautiful Sunday morning, but it’s just a teensy bit presumptuous of you to think that your religion is superior to my beliefs. And no, I don’t think I want to debate the point.
How do you deal with solicitors and other folks at your door uninvited?
I recommend you have a response ready to go – one size fits all. It’s best not to elaborate or give them the opening to come back another time.
Mine is “Not for me, but thank you for your time. Have a great day!”
All righty, then! We’ve solved the problem of dealing with phone and front door interruptions. So let’s move on to the things you have a lot more control over.
We are a nation of people who hate a vacuum. If there’s more than a minute between activities, we feel compelled to fill it.
That’s produced quite a market of devices, apps, games and other entertainment to fill our needs.
And sometimes, the time filler activities become more important that what’s around us in real life. The next time you’re at a restaurant, watch how many mothers and fathers have their eyes fixed on their cell phones. And what are the children doing in the meantime? Their own thing on their cell phones or tablets.
Sometimes you just want to tune out and do something simple and not connected to the real world for a few minutes.
People have been telling stories, reading books, watching TV and going to movies for a very long time. Escapism is perfectly fine and healthy.
But when mobile devices give you all of those things in one easy platform you can carry in your pocket, it’s gone beyond escapism. It’s dependency and it eats up a lot of time. A LOT of time!
So let’s talk about some of the ways time might be slipping through your fingers and how to get it back.
Being placed on hold.
You need your internet restored but AT&T is one long hold time. So what can you do?
Use the hold time to do small chores you’d never do otherwise.
The small, irritating things that bother you and that you just didn’t get around to.
Pull things out of the kitchen junk drawer and toss out whatever you don’t need.
Spray and wipe kitchen or bathroom surfaces.
Pull wilted vegetables from the fridge and toss them.
Do a little tidying of your desktop files.
It won’t make the hold music any more enjoyable, but you’ll have a sense of accomplishment by the time you finally reach a human being.
One time-saving trick about phone calls is to restrict how long you are on.
If the call is not dealing with an emergency, set a timer, tell the caller you only have five minutes (or however long you want the call to last) and when the timer goes off, gently disentangle yourself and say goodbye.
5 minutes is long enough to catch up and be connected to the other person. If both of you want to continue the conversation, schedule a face-to-face coffee or lunch date.
If the other person is at a distance, go ahead and talk longer but still decide for how long.
The beauty of doing this is that you can be completely invested in the phone call. You know you have things to do but you are giving your caller all of your attention for that period of time.
This is not a call where you get to collect kids’ toys as you talk.
Be engaged in the call because you know that in five minutes you’ll hang up and the work will still be waiting for you.
It’s a win-win.
The caller knows they have your attention but they are on notice to make it count because you only have 5 minutes. You don’t need to be irritated with a long winded family member or friend because you will only be talking for five minutes.
And five minutes with someone you love is precious and won’t seriously impact your day.
Until kids get old enough to drive, mothers spend a fair amount of time in waiting rooms.
Dentist, pediatrician, dermatologist … the wait time is unpredictable but it would be rare to be seen immediately.
You know you’ll have at least a few minutes in the dentist’s waiting room this Tuesday, so come prepared.
While you wait, go through your phone and delete apps you never use, read and respond to emails you left for this purpose.
Read a book that relates to your goal and take notes.
Be deliberate about what you plan to do.
Whether we’re running errands or commuting to and from work, we spend a lot of time in a moving car.
You definitely don’t want to engage in any activity that takes your attention off the road, so texting and most activities are not an option.
If you love to play music when you drive, give an audiobook or podcast a try next time you buckle up. The variety of both is astounding and you can always find something that will motivate you, educate you or just entertain you. You can learn business concepts, facts about a travel destination, or just how to believe in yourself.
Audible has an amazing library of titles you can choose from.
Audible: (aff link: https://amzn.to/2KwK58J)
Get two free audiobooks to start
- After 30 days, get one audiobook a month for $14.95/month
- Receive 30% off the price of additional audiobook purchases
- Cancel at any time. A member’s books are theirs to keep, even if they cancel.
Podcasts are also a great way to listen, learn and make the drive a productive part of your day. Check out Stitchers for the most popular podcasts. You can also download the free app so that you can sync your phone with your car and listen on the go. https://www.stitcher.com/stitcher-list/all-podcasts-top-shows
Looking for a tool, file or document you’ve lost
Managing time wasters that are caused by poor organization is one of the easiest things to remedy.
I was in culinary school awhile back and the first few weeks were spent in learning the upkeep of the kitchen and the importance of mise en place. Mise en place is having all of your ingredients measured and ready before starting the recipe. No missed steps and no forgotten ingredients mid-cooking. You make sure you have everything ready and in place first. And clean up is a constant in-between step. When you finish one pan, you immediately wash it before going on to the next step in the recipe. When your meal is completed, the kitchen is as clean as when you began.
Disorganization eats up time as you scramble to find the tools, files or references you need.
Invest some time in creating organization systems that work for you. Using something and then returning it to its place gives you control and the ability to work quickly because your tools are always where they need to be.
Just as you have baskets or bins for children’s toys, you can organize office equipment, household cleaners, and filing system on your computer and mobile devices in the same way.
Use phone hold times to do some of this organizing whenever you have a chance.
Developing a habit of using a tool and immediately putting it back where it belongs will save you countless minutes every time you work.
TV Watching (you can also lump in Netflix, & Hulu)
I’ll be the first to defend your right to a little R & R at night after a long day at work. The kitchen’s all cleaned up and you’re relaxing on the couch with your husband and a glass of wine. Time to watch a little HGTV and see those cute Scott brothers transforming people’s homes!
Not your cup of tea?
Ok, so maybe it’s a detective series, or game shows, or comedies. Or the latest Netflix series or original movie.
Whatever floats your boat, you can bet there’s something on that you’ll enjoy watching.
Five hours a day means 35 hours a week.
Let’s think back to when you calculated your free time in Managing Your Time Budget. After work and sleep, you had 72 hours to fit in all of your errands, cleaning, cooking, family time, morning and evening routines, everything.
If you’re the average American, you just spent 35 of those hours watching TV, leaving you with only 37 hours to do everything else.
No wonder you feel like you don’t have enough time for your regular life, much less putting in the work towards your dreams and goals!
I’m not here to judge you but I have to point out that 35 hours a week is pretty much a full-time job.
When you dreamed about this wonderful new change you were going to make happen – the vision of yourself living in a little Spanish village, or writing a book, or starting your own graphic design company – did you see yourself plopped on the sofa watching a couple on House Hunters International, achieving their dream of moving to Europe and running a B & B? Was 5 hours of TV a day part of your vision?
Maybe you can negotiate time with your husband watching a little TV each evening and then your taking the time you need to work?
When I wrote this article, our home internet had been intermittent for days. I called our carrier and they could not come out to fix it till the next day. No internet, no texts except for on my phone (which I don’t keep near my work desk), no Facebook, no Pinterest.
I got more work done that day than in the week before it.
With no distractions, I had to focus on my goals for the day and it was surprisingly easy. My interruptions were healthy ones when I took my lunch outside to enjoy some sun and watch my dog chase squirrels. I also rearranged the patio furniture for the coming season.
All in all, it was a very productive day!
My social media waited for me. There were no earth shattering updates. Pinterest carried on and had even more to show me the next day.
It was a timely revelation for how much we rely on social media. And for what? “To keep up with friends and family” is the usual reason given. But let’s get real. “Keeping up” means seeing their latest meal or their reposted political post. If anything of significance happened, they’d pick up the phone and call you.
Social media has become the biggest time waster of our time. We don’t even watch TV without a phone or tablet at our sides so we can check statuses during commercials. And a text takes your eyes straight from the TV to the phone screen.
If you are in the beauty or food business, then taking time at every restaurant meals to take carefully staged photos of your meal or obsessively posing for pout-fished selfies to post on Instagram makes sense. That’s your business base and the numbers matter.
No? Then live your life instead of photographing it. Capture a special moment with friends and then enjoy them and make a memory, just don’t make social media more important than the actual people you’re with.
So how many hours does the typical American adult spend on social media?
That’s an additional 14 hours a day from your available time of 37 hours.
So if you’re a typical person in this country, you spend 5 hours a day watching TV and 2 hours on social media. You now have 23 hours left a week.
Starting to hear the familiar tick-tick of the popular TV show, 24 hours?
Texting is a wonderful way to update friends or family members throughout the day. When you need the answer to a quick question, a text performs exactly the way it’s meant to.
My oldest son and his family recently sold their home and moved to Spain. I had his power of attorney and when a question came up at the sign-off, I dashed off a text to him and he promptly responded with what we needed.
When one of my daughters started a text that clearly indicated she had a critical situation, I called her. Texting has no emotional nuances and, when you’re dealing with emotions and tough decisions, you need your communications to be clear and non-ambivalent.
Here’s the thing about texting and time. Texting is immediate, so it interrupts whatever you have going on. It’s hard not to at least peek to see if it’s an emergency you have to deal with. When someone has an urgent need for an answer and you have it, you feel compelled to respond immediately.
What’s the solution?
It’s not perfect but the best way to manage the texting barrage is just to silence or put away your device when you are trying to focus on something important. If it’s truly an emergency, most people will call. And you can train them to do just that. “I’ll do my best to return your text as soon as I’m able, but if it’s a real emergency please just call me.”
Put it in those terms and people will think before they call. Is it really an emergency to know if you can go out to dinner that night? Or to ask for help in understanding technical instructions?
I couldn’t really fit this under social media or texting, but game apps have become a huge industry and an equally huge distraction for users.
Do you play Solitaire on your coffee break, letting the fame distance you from work for 15 minutes? Compete with your bestie in Words With Friends, sharing gloating texts when you finish first? Or do you spend hours trying to beat pesky bomb countdowns in Candy Crush, or figuring out complex puzzles in The Room?
I don’t know all the details of those games from doing research. Like many people, I’ve fallen under the spell of fast moving fun games that kept me up late at night. It’s a hard habit to give up but it’s also a huge time waster.
If you are disciplined enough to only play game apps in very specific situations (say while you listen to the news every morning), then you may be able to fit them into your life. But be careful because these addictive games can really eat up a lot of your spare time!
Between social media, texting and game apps, it’s obvious that most people’s approach to managing time wasters in their lives is going to include some trimming of electronic devise entertainment!
How in the world can being sick be a time waster? Do you think I get sick deliberately?
Do you have people in your life that are the very picture of health? They eat carefully, exercise faithfully, practice positive thinking and monitor their overall health regularly?
Have you noticed that they tend not to get sick as often as other people?
Let’s face it, you are not going to be very productive when you’re ill. All you want (and all your body demands) is to rest and sleep off the illness. You miss work, you have no energy for your own interests, and you can’t even have the comfort of interaction with friends and family because no one wants to catch what you have.
Yes, it will cost you a little time to exercise regularly and do other health-promoting practices and you’ll need to remind yourself to make better food choices but it will be time well spent. There are no guarantees in life, but investing in your health will pay off in less sick time and more energy for life.
Although we’ve already covered ways to be more productive during your commute to and from work, the drive is still limiting what you can do with that time. If your job permits, see if you can work from home a couple of days a week. Work from home has been proven to be a plus for employers as home workers are more focused and complete tasks more quickly. As for you, you’ll gain time and spend less money.
Shopping, depending on how you feel about it, is the most excruciating or fun activity of your week. There is shopping defined as going out to buy the thing we need. And then there is shopping as going to the mall and looking at all the pretty things.
We need groceries (see Meal Planning on a Time Budget) and occasionally new clothes and household items.
But does does anyone actually need to be “shopping” where you wander aimlessly and buy things you don’t really need? Teens do it as a social activity. If that is how “shopping” functions for you, a get together with friends to do the stores and have lunch, then put that in your budget category as social and weigh it carefully among any other social blocks you want to create.
When you need something, always try to combine it with other errands. Go to the store that has that thing and buy it. Even better, shop online when you can.
Manage your time wasters by identifying the ones in your life. Once that’s done, you can decide which to use more constructively, which to reduce, and which to eliminate altogether.
It’s your time and you are the only one who gets to call what is wasted time for you. But we could all use some paring of the time wasters in our lives.
Now that you’ve learned to save time on a number of time wasters, think about this.
What is the value of time to you?
Are you ready to start making big changes?
To go after your dream and reinvent yourself and your life?
Learn how to reclaim your life, one half hour at a time, and spend it making your dream come true.
Join the Plotting A New Course community and receive regular tips, tools and help in achieving your goals.
As a welcome gift to you, I’ll send you a free copy of 10 Proven Ways to Find Time for Pursuing Your Goals.
Don’t let your dreams lull you to sleep…turn them into the reason you get up every day.