By Robyn Miller and Christine Paik
How many times have you started to do something (leave the house! clean a drawer! look up the name of that restaurant!), only to get distracted by something you thought would take a second? And before you knew it… 20 minutes had disappeared.
Here’s how to stay on track from now on.
The fingerprints on your stainless-steel stove -- it’ll just take 30 seconds to wipe them off. Oh, the mail needs going through, which can be done in a jiffy. Impulse chores are like potato chips: Once you notice and take care of one, you can’t resist another, and then just one more. Unless something is hazardous to your health (e.g., your computer cord is in just the right position for you to trip on it), you’ll need to come up with your own way of “letting it go” until later. Time-Suck Fix: Grab your smartphone and record what needs to get done (voice memos can be your friend!). Or, email yourself a short to-do list of chores to tackle later.
A funny tweet? A status update on Facebook? A scan of what your friends are up to? Each may take just one minute, but when you add those minutes up, they can suck a lot of time out of your day. According to a 2011 Nielsen study, the average Internet user spends almost eight hours a month on Facebook. Add apps, email and general Web browsing, and you’ve got a big waste of time. Time-Suck Fix: Instead of posting/tweeting/checking throughout the day (time-suck red flag!), Natalie Houston, a personal productivity coach, advises that you “write on an index card next to your computer, 'I'm going to spend 15 minutes on Facebook.'” Then stick to that. A social-network aggregator, such as Alternion, can access more than 220 networks, including your Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and LinkedIn accounts. By using an aggregator, you’ll be able to catch up on all of your social networks with one dashboard! If email tends to be a behemoth task, the new Hotmail has a genius “sweep” feature that makes it extremely easy to filter your messages.
You know who we’re talking about: the person calling or texting, always needing your advice for something -- nope, make that everything. When you do actually pick up the phone, the conversation revolves around her and her latest problem. It ends with a “Thanks so much!” -- but no question of how you’re doing. Time-Suck Fix: If you can’t completely exile this person from your life (and many of us can’t), then you need to start managing your relationship now. You may not want to have that “hard conversation,” but you can unilaterally set boundaries. For starters, you can make yourself less available, and when you do pick up, you can tell her the amount of time you have for her (and then, when time’s up, remind her that you have to go).
How many times have you sat down to watch a show... only to get sucked into another one... and then another one after that? A 2011 study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average American watches 2.8 hours of TV per day. And with online viewing skyrocketing, we're watching even more on the Internet. Time-Suck Fix: You know this one: Make the DVR your best friend, and record only the shows you're invested in. Then designate time to catch up on those programs. You can also be strategic, efficient and thrifty by giving up cable and only watching free (legal) offerings on your computer or mobile device. (You'll not only free up a lot of time, you'll free up a lot of extra cash.)