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If you’ve been following me for a while now, you’d know that I heartily encourage people to stop wasting time and get work done. But I also know that it isn’t quite that simple. Because if it were, we’d all be productivity Gods.

Most of us are time wasters. Admit it. There’s no shame in that. There are all these shiny distractions waiting to take us away from what we’re supposed to be doing. I mean, it’s so much easier to just scroll through Instagram than sit down and finish that report or write that blog post.

So it’s not that we don’t waste time; but it’s a question of how we can sensibly spend time that I am going to share today.

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Desktop with keyboard, candle and clip next to sheets of paper. Text overlay reads how to stop wasting time
5 Effective Tips to Stop Wasting Time, Be More Productive and Get Work Done! Click to Tweet

Today’s tips are going to be explained in the context of blogging, but any of these tips can be used by anyone, whether you’re working or not; whether you’re 20 or 50; whether you’re a parent or not. The key here is to know what to look for, how to be mindful and what to do to overcome the time wasters.

Tip 1: Put Time Fillers on the Calendar

Why do we waste time? Because we don’t think of time as valuable, not in the actual sense of the word. We assume we have enough hours in a day to get everything done.

But how often have you woken up thinking that and then gone to bed feeling, ‘Wow, I got nothing done today! What a waste!’

That’s because whenever we have time off or a few minutes to take a break, we spend those minutes scrolling social media, watching TV or reading the news on the phone. Right?

Time Wasters. Right there, you have the time wasters.

So here’s what you need to do: Identify time fillers and put them on your calendar.

Time fillers are the alternative to time wasters. Pick a useful hobby or activity that you can do in 15-minute slots. This could range from reading a book, meditating, going for a brisk walk or stretching at your desk after a long meeting.

Just thinking of these time fillers is not enough. Put them on your daily calendar.

A calendar that actually shows you the message ‘Read a book at 11.30 am’ will be the trigger that you need to do it, instead of idly picking up your phone. Keep the calendar handy. I prefer a small notepad for my daily calendar, instead of my phone. I keep this at my work station.


Tip 2: Set an Intention every hour

Humans are capable of intense, deep and prolonged useful activity. The deeper you work on something, the easier it becomes and the more productive you feel.

But you also need to take a break at the end of deep work to recharge yourself for the next sprint.

At the start of every hour, set an intention. This is just a mindful, quiet affirmation of what you need to do at the end of the hour.

It could be something as simple as , ‘Breathe for one minute at the end of the hour.’

Or it could be something which requires more effort such as, ‘Take a walk around the block after you’ve finished this task.’

Announce this intention to yourself and yes, if needed, put it on the calendar. I especially liked every single thing I read about this in Cal Newport’s book ‘Deep Work’. It’s a MUST-READ for people today!

When I sit down to work on a blog post, I first make a mental sketch of what has to be written. Next, I add a skeletal set of bullet points.

Finally I write the post. Initially, this would take me around 4 hours, from start to finish. But, over time and with deep work and that mindful intention to take a break every hour, it’s now down to about 2 hours in total.


Tip 3: Keep your phone in another room

Research has shown that almost on instinct, we tend to pick up our phones 80 times a day. That’s a ridiculous amount of time to be spent picking up a device!

Some people prefer to turn off the Wi-Fi when they are working or putting their phone on airplane mode to avoid disturbances.

I prefer to put my phone in a room different from the one I am working in. That’s because if I don’t see the phone, there is no temptation to pick it up and scroll through it in moments of idleness.

Plus, if people do need to reach me in a hurry, they can get through to me, and I just have to walk to the other room to take the call.

Setting your phone in another room is the perfect solution to avoid wasting time.

*Psst: I also dislike typing or texting on the phone because of the small screen and the havoc it wreaks on my wrists. Setting the phone aside is a great way to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome or Repetitive Stress Injury. Take it from someone who’s suffered. (twice!)


Tip 4: Keep a book /diary handy

If you must keep something within arm’s reach, make it a book or a diary.

The good thing with a book is that it is the perfect time filler when you are feeling burnt out or exhausted from too much work.

Every time you have 5 minutes to kill, pick up a book and read a page or two. The advantage is that your mind is sufficiently relaxed to get back to work once you’re done.

On the other hand, picking up the phone or scrolling through social media has the opposite effect of overloading your brain with information when you actually need to take a break.

If you’re feeling particularly conscious about the book you read taking you away from the task at hand (I know books can be addictive), then try the alternative: Use a diary to jot down some thoughts.

Note taking and diary writing have proved to be useful in helping alleviate stress. Writing things down by hand also helps create focus for the jumble of thoughts in your head.

Every time you feel like you’ve hit a roadblock, take a minute to jot down your thoughts. The result is that you haven’t wasted time. You’ve used those few minutes to bring clarity to the task at hand.


Tip 5: Keep a timer for social media

Social media is everywhere and it’s kind of hypocritical of me to say ‘Delete your social media accounts’, considering that I owe a lot to this space.

But there IS a way to use social media without wasting time.

i) Set a timer for each platform. For instance, Instagram has recently introduced the ‘Activity’ tab to show you how many minutes you spend on the app. At the end of the allotted time you set for yourself, a message pops up saying you’ve used up the time for the day.

While that doesn’t necessarily mean you will log off immediately, take it as an alert and a reminder that you’re wasting time.

Each time you feel tempted to over-step your allotted time, ask yourself this question:

Do I want to be a consumer of content or do I want to be a creator of content?

ii) Only access social media AFTER you have completed your important tasks for the day.

Have a blog post to write? Finish that first.

Have a work deadline? That takes priority.

Need to run an important errand? Make that happen.

Social media isn’t going anywhere. The notifications stay right where they are, whether you access them first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening.

Now it’s your turn to make this work for you.

a) Pick any one of these tips and try them for a whole week.

b) At the beginning of the week, start tracking how much time you are spending on time wasters.

c) Substitute with the time fillers and tell me if you notice a difference in productivity at the end of the week. Deal?

***

Tired of wasting time? Here are 5 ways to be more conscious of your time wasters and how to avoid them. Tip 1: Put time fillers on the calendar. Read on for 4 more tips PLUS an exclusive, FREE template to track your time. #Productivity #Shailajav #ProductivityTips


Shailaja V

Hi there! I'm Shailaja Vishwanath, a blogger with 12 years of blogging experience and a parent to a teen. I work as a digital marketing and social media consultant. From positive parenting tips to useful productivity hacks, social media advice to blogging advice, you'll find them all right here. Welcome to my blog.

29 Comments

writenlive · January 8, 2019 at 2:39 pm

Such helpful tips to identify where we waste our time!

I especially like the idea of setting an Intention every hour or for every task. I do it occasionally, even for my naps, telling myself I will wake up feeling rested and reenergised. I must set intentions more frequently while working.

Taking up the challenge of penciling in fillers in my day. Thanks for this article.
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    Shailaja · January 12, 2019 at 11:22 am

    Thanks a lot, Sona. I am so glad you find the productivity tips helpful.

    Setting an intention has really helped me when it comes to social media. As a result, I am not spending precious hours whiling away time scrolling through latest dog videos when I should be working. I mean, there is a time and place for dog videos πŸ˜‰ Just not when I should be writing/creating.
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Rajlakshmi · January 9, 2019 at 12:07 pm

Social media is like a time vortex… Eats all my extra time. I like the idea of keeping a diary handy. That would definitely work for me.
I like having a to do list which keeps me on my toes. That’s is my only way to not waste time.
Wonderful tips Shailaja. You exercise so much discipline in your life, it’s very inspiring.
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Soumya · January 9, 2019 at 12:14 pm

This article is going to be my bible! Love every point of it.

I’m not someone who wastes time, I love being busy and occupied. But, I definitely need to plan my time better. And this post will help me do it. Thank you for simplifying it for me πŸ™‚

Love!
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Anamika Agnihotri · January 9, 2019 at 5:28 pm

I woke up this morning with the thought to dedicate this day to reading blogs. The first thing I did was to leave the phone in the other room before sitting down with my laptop. I am suffering from a painful left shoulder and upper arm as a result of holding the phone for long periods and also working on the laptop. I will try time-filler.

Rekha · January 9, 2019 at 6:32 pm

We sure waste a lot of time. I do for sure. Keeping that phone away is what I am going to do this whole month. I am sure that’s gonna help me a lot.

I started making to-do lists last month and it has helped me immensely. Lots of stuff gets done and I am less forgetful.
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Sravanthi · January 9, 2019 at 6:56 pm

Loved every point Shailaja. Keeping phone away always works for me πŸ™‚
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Ravish Mani · January 9, 2019 at 10:13 pm

Hi Shailaja,

Wishing You a Very Happy & Prosperous New Year!

Regarding post, I’d like to tell that you’ve illustrated the concept very well. Like the idea of Time Fillers. Reading one or two pages of a book may not be a good idea, but one could definitely use that small time slots for reading blogs. I find it useful to bookmark posts encountered during Social Media time and then enter them in our calendar as time fillers matching their lengths to the available time slots. Thanks for this insight. πŸ™‚
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Shantala · January 10, 2019 at 1:04 am

I am usually good with my time. But not always. I have implemented most of these tips, and found them to be really effective. Especially setting a timer for tasks, and keeping the phone AWAY from me.

The only thing on this list I cannot do, and works to my detriment is having a book handy. So that goes, and stays with my phone – far far away from me! πŸ˜€
Shantala recently posted…My Reading Goals for 2019My Profile

Ramya Abhinand · January 10, 2019 at 1:34 pm

I surely need to keep a timer for my Social media time. It is eating into my reading time…. :))
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Shilpa Garg · January 10, 2019 at 2:26 pm

I need to follow these tips down to a T. Keeping the phone in the other room… I seriously need to do that. Phone is soooo distracting and wastes so much of time too. I like the idea of setting an intention every hour. Thanks for the nudge and inspiration, Shailaja!

Damyanti · January 11, 2019 at 7:13 am

I do a few of these, but the one thing missing is that daily list on paper. I’ve picked up on that this year.

Thanks for this: it is a wonderful post that we all need to read and implement.

Modern Gypsy · January 11, 2019 at 9:15 pm

Those are excellent tips, Shy! I’ve set up a screen time notification with a set time for social media each day. It’s taken some time, but I’ve slowly and surely managed to get a handle on the infinite scroll. That was my biggest time waster, considering I use some (ok, a lot!) social media time at the end of my workday to unwind, before starting with my second life as an artist & blogger. πŸ˜‰
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Shalini R · January 12, 2019 at 10:59 pm

These are some amazing effective tips, Mam. I swear I started with a bang this year but then fell sick and lost all my mojo. I started binge-watching TV shows and forgot all about blogging. Oh yeah, so now I turn off the Wifi before writing a blog post. That mean, no sow media or Netflix to distract πŸ™‚
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Sanch @ Sanch Writes · January 13, 2019 at 4:03 pm

I hadn’t heard of time fillers and they sound interesting. Having said that, I’m not sure if I want my weekends to have too many things in there given my weekdays are kinda scheduled due to work. I do have things like ‘Write’ in my calendar but otherwise it’s to-do lists. I have managed to cut down social media this past week and I’m stoked. Apple allows you to limits certain apps which is helpful.
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Obsessivemom · January 15, 2019 at 1:42 pm

Numbers 3 and 5 – phone and social media are often my undoing. Not that I do much there but they take away from precious work hours. I love your pointers. I like the plan of sticking with them one at a time to incorporate them into our routine.
Obsessivemom recently posted…Reading plan for 2019My Profile

Anshu Bhojnagarwala · January 21, 2019 at 7:46 pm

These are some very useful tips, Shailaja! Social media takes up so much time and before you know you are scrolling down the feed or wall and checking up on old posts. Also, time wasters and time fillers are something I need to set, reading a book, getting some chore done in the kitchen would act as a break and get the chore done too.

I keep the phone away whenever I am writing a blog post, it helps as I am then not tempted to reach out for my phone every two minutes.

Marina Pilipenko · January 25, 2019 at 5:56 pm

Nice tips! When I tried to limit time wasted on social media I found out about the distraction blockers. These are the apps that can block a specific website, all social media or the entire Internet on a phone or laptop. I used Focus app. It allows setting a specific period of time when I need to focus and blocks distracting websites for this period. But there is a variety of apps that can block social media and other distractions. Check out some of the options here: https://www.actitime.com/productivity-tools/distractions

Starry · February 7, 2019 at 9:20 pm

Thank you so much for the actionable and insightful post.
The Time fillers and keeping a notebook at reach are my takeaways and actionables.
kudos;)

Sulekha · March 17, 2019 at 9:13 am

As I type my comment, I smile because it is being written on my phone. I was planning to write a blog post but ended up scrolling through my phone and just like that so much time lost Sure glad I ended up here though, silver lining . Keeping a diary nearby is a good tip, so is allocating time slots. Thanks for this helpful post.
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Shilpa Gupte · August 21, 2019 at 1:26 pm

Up until last year, I was such a time-waster. But, once I realized how my phone wasted my time, I decided to cut down on its use and use my time well. Not that I am completely cured of this obsession, but the amount of time saved and utilized in creative, constructive work is more. I prefer shutting down the phone WiFi while working and that gives me a peaceful few hours because I know that if I don’t do it and pick up the phone to check something, I will forget about everything else and keep scrolling. So, it’s better it goes to sleep! πŸ™‚
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    Shailaja V · August 25, 2019 at 10:22 am

    OH yes, so true. Turning off the phone’s Wi-Fi is a lifesaver when it comes to deep, productive work. You’ve come so far with the blog in the last year and I can really tell that it’s made a difference to you as well πŸ™‚

Sharon · September 11, 2019 at 9:13 pm

Set a timer for social media!!! This is key. I go there to do actual work and end up scrolling. Awareness is the first step…. getting better

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