Stop Wasting Your Time — 8 Hacks Based on Science
We’re guilty of wasting time. In fact, one survey found that a whooping 89% of employees admitted that they waste time at work every day.
Not that that’s always a bad thing.
“Wasting time is about recharging your battery and de-cluttering,” says Michael Guttridge, a psychologist who focuses on workplace behavior.
There is a thin line between good and bad wasting of time, however.
Unplugging and recharging, building relationships, learning a new skill, and hobbies are good time wasters. Bad wasting time would be doing trivial and unproductive tasks. Other bad wastes of time are activities where nothing is learned or procrastinating when you shouldn’t.
Simply put, wasting time can be beneficial when you need to recharge. But, what if you’re letting those bad wastes of time consume a bulk of your time? You can overpower those bad wastes of time by using these eight scientifically proven hacks to stop wasting your time.
1. Try the 2-Minute Rule
“Most of the tasks that you procrastinate on aren’t actually difficult to do — you have the talent and skills to accomplish them — you just avoid starting them for one reason or another,” writes author and entrepreneur James Clear.
“The 2–Minute Rule overcomes procrastination and laziness by making it so easy to start taking action that you can’t say no.”
The first part of this rule is that if a task takes under two-minutes or less to complete, do it immediately. Examples would be responding to an email or tossing your laundry into the dryer.
The second part of this rule is that when starting new habits, it should take less than minutes to do. Obviously there will be certain tasks that take longer, but every goal can at least get started in less than two-minutes. And, since fear is one of the culprits of procrastination, this is an effective way of overcoming that.
More importantly, the two-minute rule encourages us to just get started.
Research shows that once we get started, “we perceive the task as much less aversive than we do when we’re avoiding it.” And, “even if we don’t finish the task, we have done something.” This makes us feel in control and optimistic, which gives us some momentum.
2. Set Macro Goals and Micro Quotas
According to a study on motivation, researchers found that abstract thinking is an effective method to help with discipline. While, “dreaming big” is sound advice, you need to balance that with intrinsic motivators. At least that’s what the variety of research around the self-determination theory shows.
The answer is to this problem are “micro quotas” and “macro goals.” This means that your goals should be your big picture items. But, quotas are the minimum amount of work you must do daily to make your bigger goals a reality.
Simply put, quotas make each day approachable. And your goals become achievable because of this.
Tim Ferriss shared this example from a friend who has written more than 60 books;
“Two crappy pages. That is my quota. Everyday, I have to write two crappy pages. That’s it. If I write two crappy work pages, that day is a win.”
3. Stop Wasting your Time by only working on a Single-task.
Multitasking is ineffective and one of the biggest time wasters around. That’s because the human brain can only focus on one thing at a time. Furthermore, a study out of the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London found that multitasking actually reduces your IQ more than losing a night’s sleep or smoking marijuana!
The answer? Focus on one task at a time, aka single-task.
Do one thing at a time. Eliminate distractions. Create a priority list. And, take frequent breaks.
4. Prioritize Like You’re Going On Vacation
“Think about your day as if you leave tomorrow on a long cruise with no Internet connection. What do you do? Do you delegate? What do you ditch?,” writes Gwen Moran for Fast Company.
“Suddenly, you’re hyper-aware and more efficient because the stakes are higher,” time management expert and life coach Steve Chandler tells moran. “You’re not spending time on things that don’t need to get done.”
5. Create and Stick to Deadlines
There was a 2002 study from M.I.T. that found that deadlines are able to control procrastination. Here’s the kicker, though. You need to announce that deadline to someone who will keep you accountable.
“If you don’t use clear time frames for projects and goals, things lag, just go on and on, and interest wanes,” Gal Davis of Plan Writer tells The Telegraph. “If there is no deadline there is no urgency, and whatever you are working towards might never happen, meaning that your competitors can improve their position in the market.”
Nicola Cook, CEO of Company Shortcuts, adds, “Time frames create a sense of urgency, and build momentum. Momentum creates speed. And money likes speed. That might be a very capitalist viewpoint, but there is something ethereal, energetic about that. Time frames increase productivity; things get done.”
6. Forgive Yourself
In a study of 119 first-year University students, researchers at Carleton University found that self-forgiveness for procrastinating can reduce future procrastination.
“Forgiveness allows the individual to move past their maladaptive behaviour and focus on the upcoming examination without the burden of past acts to hinder studying,” state the researchers.
This may work because, “forgiving oneself for procrastinating has the beneficial effect of reducing subsequent procrastination by reducing negative affect associated with the outcome of an examination.”
In other words, we often avoid doing things that make us feel bad. That pent-up guilt of wasting time will keep repeating. But, if you forgive yourself, you’ll be able to break that cycle.
7. Use the Pomodoro Technique
This was a time management tool created by Francesco Cirillo. It breaks your time down into intervals, known as “pomodoros.” One pomodoro would equal around 25 minutes of concentrating on a task, and a short break of three to five minutes.
As explained by Due’s Miranda Marquit, “The idea is to go hard at a task for a set period of time, and then take a short break. After you’ve completed four pomodoros, take a longer break of between 15 and 30 minutes..”
The Pomodoro Technique is supposed to improve concentration and avoid multitasking. At the same time, those breaks are meant to reset and refresh your brain. And, according to one study by researchers at New York University, these breaks can improve memory and recall..
8. Identify the 4 Pillars of Procrastination
According to an academic study titled The nature of procrastination, there are 4 pillars of procrastination that influence us;
- Low task value. These are the tasks that we view as low value. When a task is unpleasant or boring, we try to tie it with a more enjoyable activity. Using deadlines or the two-minute rule can help get around this.
- Personality. Some people are more impulsive and easily distracted than others. Know your triggers and look for ways to keep them at bay.
- Expectations. When you expect to complete a task easily, you’re less likely to procrastinate. Go back to the two-minute rule and get it done.
- Goal failure. Fear of failure is prominent in procrastinators. Work on building your confidence so that you get small wins. As a result, you can build momentum and overcome procrastination.
By knowing the enemy, you can learn how to defeat them.
What tricks do you use to stop wasting time?