I was having a discussion the other day about my use of the Pomodoro Technique in pacing myself through daily work when the topic had shifted slightly into cutting out the “dead time” from your daily schedules. That dead time is the stuff we do daily that has absolutely no pragmatic use to our career, family or personal life. By reflecting on those three “umbrella” areas, you can usually determine whether the thing you are doing has any meaningful contribution. Understand, I’m not saying you should ONLY do meaningful things. Rather, I’m saying that if you feel that your time isn’t being used efficiently, you should start analyzing how you are using your time.
For me, the biggest “waste of time” use to be internet surfing ( usually reading blogs, message boards and articles) and social media. I cut ties with all my social media platforms back in 2011, and have been going through a digital detox to make sure I only access the internet on scheduled intervals with specific time limits. This process of purposeful use has greatly increased my available time for other projects that do directly fall into my umbrella items. I also stopped drinking and playing video games, which was a huge time suck that had no benefits to my personal growth.
A good way to start this process is by writing your umbrella items in a piece of paper.
Once you get them written down, brainstorm all the things you do every day on a separate piece of paper. It is important to be honest, don’t leave anything out. My list use to look something like this:
Reading online news Work Watching TV Playing Video Games Chores School Work Out Surf Internet Social Media Talk with Co-workers
Pay Bills Eat Food Read Stories Watch Youtube Read Message Board
There is a whole heap of stuff there! When I’m honest with how all those items relate to my umbrella, a lot of stuff doesn’t fall into any category
|Talk with co-workers||Pay Bills||Eat Food|
While some might argue with the benefits some of of my items that made the list, I think it’s more important to examine the number if items that didn’t make the list.
Watching TV Playing Video Games Surf Internet Social Media Read Stories Watch Youtube Read Message Board
Seven things I do don’t fit any umbrella items and, in theory, contribute nothing to the three areas that matter. This is a time to be really honest with yourself, because your brain doesn’t want to give up its bad habits easily. You’ll find yourself trying to justify why YouTube is good,and justify that one time you watched a video on how to eject a DVD from your broken player. But, deep down you know, that’s less than 5% of your total YouTube time.
Another important area to reflect on is the negative space. Why don’t I have more under family time? Am I forgetting things? In my case, yes! I forgot to list Church, Yoga and Kid’s Martial Arts classes. That’s good! Funny how lists can jog the old noodle and get you to be mindful of the things you actually do. But it also makes me realize that I COULD BE DOING SO MUCH MORE! This might be a good opportunity to starting making a bucket list of goals for each umbrella category and and seeing if you can incorporate them
Don’t forget that all of important things should be incorporated into SMART goals and treated with proper intention through task management. Once I started tracking my daily tasks, I found myself more “invested” in getting work done an d also more fulfilled when seeing the list of tasks competed .If you have your nose buried in emails on a smart phone, you likely aren’t being mindful of the work you have done. Being more efficient isn’t just about understanding what you do, its also understanding what you have done and allowing yourself to experience success of working effectively.