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Why do you get so distracted from things you know are important?

It’s so frustrating, you know something is important but you constantly seem to end up doing something else. The reason for our distracting habits comes down to our habitual thinking habits which can sabotage us without us knowing. Here are 3 top time wasting habits and how to overcome them and free up your thinking space for those essential actives you want to do...

1. Doing activity without a clear outcome for you

We all have habits, it amazing how much habitual behaviour human beings do to run their lives. In many cases this actually saves us time - like not having to think about the order to wash yourself in the shower or how to make toast. Unhelpful habits though creep in over time and that stops you from using your time well. Do a regular cull of time wasting habits to avoid them building up and sucking away at your precious time.

Take a look at your habits and ask yourself, ‘What does this get for me?’ Typical activity that has no clear outcome includes checking your phone or email every five minutes, watching TV you are not really interested in and some chores that are done habitually. When you aren’t clear on your purpose then your brain just gives you habits as the next best thing. Which ones do you want to keep and which are you ready to change?

2. Thinking or talking about things which you cannot influence or control

If you were to monitor your thoughts and record your dialogue, how much of your energy is channelled into topics which come into this category? For every second spent thinking or talking about something you cannot control, you are taking time away from thinking or talking about things which you can do something about.

Topics that could fall into this category include:

  • Gossiping or news sharing
  • Complaining about something to someone who cannot or will not do anything to resolve it
  • Dropping hints, making side comments and other undercover ways to try and influence someone
  • Arguing a view or position to someone who doesn’t care or can’t validate it.

 When you are sharing news, catching up, talking about other people in any context ask yourself why you are doing it? If you are discussing someone else in order to help you work out how to best engage with them, this could be productive. If you are simply moaning and plan to do nothing with or about the information you are sharing then it is wasting time.

Some people gossip or talk about irrelevant things to build and keep relationships. All the way back in history exchanging news was a way of connecting and reconnecting as human beings. It’s why we still discuss the weather at length to new acquaintances – in the UK anyway! If it has a useful purpose for you, a genuinely useful purpose, then it may not be a time waster.

The key is to be clear on what that purpose is and then ask yourself whether it is worth your time.

3. Too many open loops at one time

Open loops are ideas, activities and decisions that you have started or opened but haven’t completed or closed. The minute you think about something you open a loop. 

People often start things and don’t complete them, or start a decision-making process and don’t make a decision, or have an idea that they never take forward or close down. Having too many of these loops open is like having too many applications running on your computer: it drains the battery and impacts processing. People get exhausted by having too much open in their minds and it wastes time because yogurt overwhelmed, can’t prioritise and don’t have a clear plan.

Instead of getting frustrated or upset by them take some steps to close the loops by:

  • Taking action
  • Decide when you will deal with the thing and close the loop until then.
  • Deciding actively to stop something (and actually doing that!)
  • Deciding actively to put something off and start it later. It helps to give yourself a date to pick it up again.

Some of you will be very imaginative, constantly coming up with new ideas and thoughts. Keeping an ideas book or somewhere you can log ideas to come back to when you have space is an excellent way of preventing your creativity from driving you mad, and wasting your time. Closing some loops will give you much more energy and brainpower to focus on what is really important.

Find out more about top time wasters and how to overcome them in Time Mastery; Banish Time Management Forever by John McLachlan and Karen Meager. Available in e book and paperback at bookshops, Amazon and directly from Monkey Puzzle.

What’s your work life balance type? Do our free online assessment and get top tips to suit your type.Come along to one of our Free Webinars to help you get focused, build you communication skills and get more of what you want.

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