Many of us have time sucks that we are completely unaware of. Discover the possible time sucks in your life to be more productive and make time for the things that really matter to you.
Time sucks or time wasters aren’t always bad. We all know that we partake in activities that are not productive. Things like social media or games on our phones are the obvious time sucks in our lives. We might use those things to relax or take a break.
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5 Common Time Sucks
These time sucks are things that you may or may not be aware of in your life, but now is the time to consider these things. They interfere with your ability to manage your time, which impacts how much time you have for the things that are important to you.
1. Not Having Goals
I’ve talked about goal setting quite a bit. And I don’t want you to be overwhelmed, but you should have specific goals for every area of your life. Start with your personal values and set goals for each aspect: personal, career, relationship, health, home, finances, etc. You can pick and choose what aspects you should include, but knowing what you want for each part of your life will enable you to plan.
2. Not Planning or Scheduling the Important Things
We all know we have the exact 24 hours in a day. You have time for what you make time for. If having dinner with the family is important, schedule it. If making it to your kid’s soccer game is important, schedule it. Often, we shift the things that are important to us like family and relationships, and put them on the back burner. They are relegated to the “leftover time.” If it’s really important, it goes in the planner and you schedule other things around it.
3. Lack of Organization and Systems
This one isn’t really a shocker for anyone here, right? I mean, it’s why you’re reading. Time management is a huge issue for most people struggling with executive functioning. It’s tied closely to planning and prioritization. How can you have dinner with the family at 6 if you haven’t decided on a recipe, bought the food, and allowed time for cooking?
Create systems so you (and your family) know what to expect. Have a meal planner in place with a shopping list. Have games, events, and performances on a centrally-located calendar so you can see what’s coming up. Have a system and use it. Train others in your life to use it as well.
4. Trying to do it all
I feel this one hard. Whether it’s because you feel the need to be in control or you don’t think you have a support system, trying to do it all is a huge time suck. You need to learn to delegate. Even small children can help by feeding the pet or bringing their dirty laundry to the machine. It might not seem like much – a couple of minutes here and there, but all those little minutes add up to more time for you.
5. Not Having Boundaries
This goes hand-in-hand with trying to do it all. If you’re a people-pleaser, you will take on extra obligations and responsibilities without giving any thought to how and when you can do it. You don’t want to let people down, so you automatically say yes.
That needs to stop. You do not have to feel guilty for protecting your time, energy, and well-being. I’m not saying you can’t volunteer to do things. You just need to be conscious of the choices you are making.
Once you have determined different time sucks in your life, how do you figure out how to change? What things can you implement to give yourself the time you really want?
First, it starts with prioritization. For those of you who do better with images, take a look at Covey’s Quadrants. Stephen Covey wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and he talks about how to organize tasks into one of 4 quadrants:
Quadrant 1 – Important and Urgent – These are things that have to be done now (or really soon). They are both important (bad things happen if it’s not done) and time-sensitive.
Quadrant 2 – Important and Non-Urgent – These are things that HAVE to get done, but they are not time sensitive. If you push them off a little, you can get away with it (but you do have to do them).
Quadrant 3 – Not Important but Urgent – These are tasks that are time sensitive, but don’t really carry negative consequences if they aren’t taken care of. Things like answering phone calls and emails. They interrupt what you’re doing and often, your instinct is to respond immediately.
Quadrant 4 – Not Important or Urgent – These are the busywork or time-waster things like games, chatting with co-workers, and scrolling social media. One thing I want to point out is that just because something is in this quadrant doesn’t mean you have to cut it out. It’s just about being conscious of how much time you’re wasting here.
For the tasks you have to complete, determine the order of completion based on quadrant. Quadrant 1 gets done first. Quadrant 2 is typically next, but sometimes an urgent matter will take precedence over something that isn’t urgent (even if it’s more important).
You decide where everything goes. What is important or urgent to me may not be the same for you.
Once you have your tasks prioritized, you want to implement other habits to remove time wasters as much as possible.
- Have a good morning routine. Get up at the same time each day. It will build a schedule for you that you will rely on.
- Schedule everything but be realistic. Once you know what you have to do and you’ve prioritized that list, you can plan out your schedule. Batch similar tasks so you don’t have to switch your focus too often. Efficiently plan out errands. Don’t schedule time wasters. Fill your time with the important things first. Trust me, the time sucks will find their way into free space.
- Plan your day and week ahead of time. Use Sunday (or whatever day works for you) to look ahead at what you have coming up. Each night, plan for the following day. Doing so will get you in the best mindset for success.
- When you have a gap in scheduled tasks, see what small things you can do. Gap time is excellent for some self-care like reading, meditating, or doing some deep breathing exercises that will improve your mood and well-being. It’s no longer a gap and you’re still being productive.
The last thing I want to mention about time sucks is that you still need to do things that you enjoy, even if they are time wasters. You need to take time to be off the clock, both as an employee and as a mom. The idea of being more productive and managing your time better is not that you spend more time working, it’s that you have more time for the things that are important to you.
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