How much time do you spend working towards your goals? I mean really working, completely focused, 100% aimed at that specific target?
Generally the answer, as hard as it is to admit, will be depressingly low.
It’s easy to notice the No-Time Syndrome, the feeling that it doesn’t matter how much time you think you are investing or how hard you work, you always feel like there’s never enough time.
Even though your colleague does a lot more and he is always drinking a beer on Friday night, the no-timer usually is the guy who does overtime, who needs a couple more hours in the workday or he is always behind schedule.
The difficult one to notice is the I´ve-Got-It Syndrome. Because of his ego, he is always picking new responsibilities, he is always asking for more from the bosses, teachers and employees; he is the man.
Every day he wakes up and he gets excited about how many things he has to do.He works a little bit here, a little bit there; he works on everything. When the deadline approaches the desperation comes, and he is too proud to look for help or to do extra hours; he is too efficient for that, and that’s why when his friends go out on the weekend he can’t, because he’s secretly working.
Of course there are many other profiles, and these are two very broad models to use for noticing whether you adopt either the positive or the negative attitude towards your time management problem.
The first thing you have to do is to realize that you’re suffering from it, to be aware, to bring the issue to the light of the consciousness.
There are many other techniques of time management, which I plan to share later, but from everything that I’ve read this is the essence, and it’s as simple as it is annoying to practice.
So let’s consider two variables: focus and distraction.
Focus is defined by the time you spend really doing what you were planning to do. It’s not looking at it while thinking about something else; it’s not a bathroom break; it’s not a coffee break; it’s not getting up to stretch your back; it’s not yawning; it’s not talking to your friends while you do it.
That said, distraction is everything that is not exactly what you were planning to do.
The next thing you want to do is to get a grasp on how big your problem is. There are two simple ways to measure it factually, reasonably and avoiding the danger of your self-deceiving mind:
A chronometer or a counter.
The counter will give you the notion of how many times you lose focus daily and the chronometer offers a more in-depth indicator; it will show how long the distraction is.
To find how long your focus is, simply use time goals.
For instance, if you work 6 hours daily and you discovered that your distraction is 1 hour long, do the math and you have 5 hours of focus.If you don’t have a work journey simply use this line of thought: “I will work on this for 2 hours”.
So our first formula is:
work time = focus + distraction
Which leads to:
focus = work time – distraction
And at last the most important factor in this whole article is finding your efficiency. I like to measure the efficiency in percentage because it is fast and easy to comprehend what that number actually means.
To find your efficiency do this:
efficiency = (1 – distraction/work time) x 100
If the answer is 12, it means 12%.
Also consider that 1 hour and 30 minutes is the same, algebraically, to 1.5 hour. So always round up to 15 minute periods, that will give you a good precision and an easy math, because every 15 minutes equals to 0.25 hour.
For instance, 1 hour and 45 minutes is the same as 1.75 so you can use it in the equation.
Now let’s work on the solutions, from the many things I’ve tried, 3 showed the best cost/benefit relation:
1. Keeping track of your distraction
If you are always using the chronometer and/or the counter, you will always be aware of your problem and you will consciously be able to fight it little by little.
2. Start a distraction diary and plan ahead
When you know what things usually distract you, and if you are meticulous enough, you will even write down how much time you spend in each distraction.You can start working on the ones that drain more time.
For instance, if you always take a break in the middle of working to eat, starting getting in the habit of eating before you begin the task.
Doing two things at the same time doesn’t make you faster; it makes you do two things poorly.
Trying to do something without giving your total attention can lead to a fatal outcome. For instance, while you are driving really, really fast try to brief your boss about the complex report you left on his table.
3. Sports or meditation
Usually sports are a good way to test your limits without getting killed, except if you like car racing, base jumping or stuff like that.
For most of humans, gym, martial arts, jogging, football, baseball or whatever it may be will tend to keep your problems away and will teach your mind to pay attention to just one thing. I especially recommend martial arts, football, rugby or anything that will give you a really straight up warning like a kick in the head or a 220 pounds mammoth tackle.
Then again, I am a guy, so if you’re not thrilled by the thought of such aggressive sports there are plenty of viable options out there. Yoga, for example, is a great way to focus on the flexibility and movement of your body, as well as the vital concept of breathing.
For more on this, read our article on Everyday Buddhism.
After a while of practicing this you will not only raise your efficiency but will also start accomplishing the same tasks faster. There’s also a positive side effect in this battle,which is actually deeply enjoying whatever you are doing.
By learning to do one thing at a time you will enjoy your food more, understand things around you faster and more comprehensively, your relationships will grow, and probably you will be a much better parent or friend for being there to spend quality, undistracted time with your loved ones.