Even if you’re a careful time-minder, many things — of which you may be unaware — are stealing your time: Time Vampires that suck tons of your time every day. We’ll identify some then slay a few — so you can have more time!
We ADHDers never have as much time as we’d like — to finish that project the way we want, to start that new one on time, to craft a really persuasive email to someone, to spend real quality time with our most beloved loved ones. So the last thing we should be doing is wasting it.
Yet waste it we do in many obvious ways — too much social media, ADHD-driven distractions, fatigue or lack of sleep, just to name a few. But even if you’re a conscientious manager of your time, there are many things that sneakily steal your time — of which you are mostly unaware…
Time Vampires Suck Away Your Time
Yep, they’re sucking away tons of your time every day and then disappearing into the night, leaving you to wonder, Where did all that time go? What the hell did I get done today?
In this post, I’ll help you declare, “Death to Time Vampires!” And we’ll start with a distinction…
Time Vampires sneakily steal your time…
then disappear into the night!
Time Wasters vs Time Vampires
Did you know there are actually websites you can visit whose purpose is to help you waste time? For instance, there’s a website called Pointless Sites, which has carefully curated, yes, the most pointless, time-wasting sites on the internet. One of their recommendations is a site that actually counts the seconds of your life you’re tossing away as you watch. It even has a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Be sure to like and follow! (Actually, please don’t.)
Now, why was this worth mentioning? To help make a distinction: Evil as all these and other time-wasting websites are, they are not Time Vampires. There’s a big difference.
Time wasters are things that we do mostly consciously, intentionally and repeatedly. Like excessive social media scrolling, productivity-erasing video gaming sessions, TV-binging and other digital overindulgences.
Time Vampires are engaged in mostly unconsciously, which is why awareness of them is one of what I call the Five Awarenesses of Time Management (a story for another time). So let’s not waste another minute…
How to Identify Your Time Vampires
Time Vampires break out roughly into two areas: People and Thoughts & Things.
Time Vampires as people come in many forms. You’ve got your Complainers, your Interrupters, and the classic Gossipers, to name some of the top offenders. There’s value in isolating and slaying these people in your life, but the lower-hanging fruit is in various forms of Thoughts & Things. A few quick examples…
- “Urgencies”: Where your brain labels some non-urgent matter as urgent, pulling you away from a more important task at hand.
- Mini-Downtimes: Short stretches of time between tasks or meetings that are squandered. You could be losing an hour a day by assuming that, “Well, I’ve just got 14 minutes before my next meeting, so…I’ll just check the news headlines” — rather than banging something out or doing some thinking!
- Perfectionism: You’re 90% done but vampire away gobs of time “perfecting” unimportant minutiae.
- Visual Clutter: The messier your workspace, the more time you’re wasting looking for things. One study suggests executives waste six weeks a year searching for lost items and information.
- Subscriptions: The ratio of your email newsletter subscriptions to how many you read regularly is likely more than 5:1. And of those you actually read, how many are useful?
These are all worth getting more aware of, and doing so will put you on a path to begin slaying them. But I now direct your attention to two of the biggest Time Vampires, and hacks for each Dracula…
How to Slay Two Major Time Vampires
Email is perhaps the most bloodthirsty Time Vampire of all. According to stats compiled by Atlassian, each week the average business person receives 304 emails — just business emails, not personal. The average employee checks her email about 15+ times per day! And we spend about 16 minutes re-focusing after handling incoming emails.
The hack for this Dracula? We must first acknowledge this fact: Mindlessly checking emails throughout the day rather than setting specific time aside to do so is sucking tons of time away. Once we accept this reality, we can deploy two simple hacks:
First, don’t begin your day by replying to emails — unless absolutely urgent. Because the moment you dive in, you are working on other people’s agendas, handing over your valuable time and precious morning energy.
Second, set aside specific times each day for handling emails. It should be no more than three, but even if more, that beats the heck out of the 15+ times per day we’re averaging!
Multitasking: What two things do smoking weed, sleep deprivation and multitasking have in common? First, all lower our effective IQ — by as much as 40 points in the case of multitasking. Second, too many of us think we get smarter or more stuff done by doing them!
David Crenshaw, author of “The Myth of Multitasking: How ‘Doing It All’ Gets Nothing Done,” says multitasking — trying to do multiple tasks at the same time or in quick succession — inevitably leads to more stress, terrible results and more rework in the long run. Tons of research backs him up.
How to hack this Dracula? The Time Vampire slayer here is to stop with the multitasking and get with the single-tasking:
- Determine the one thing you’ll be working on for the next hour (or whatever)…
- Write that on a stickie, then…
- Set a timer and work on that one thing ’til the bell rings.
Do that single-tasking session three times a day and your to-do list will get smaller mighty quick. In fact, please schedule yourself some single-tasking sessions for tomorrow! Try it. It works.
A Closing Thought on Slaying Time Vampires
The biggest time vampire of all is not taking action. Inaction is a drag on your brain, your confidence and your path toward success. It grows your to-do list and keeps your calendar crowded. I invite you to get a little pissed off about inaction and take some lovingly angry action to put these two hacks into play — to slay your Time Vampires and free up more time, free up more energy, and fuel more action.
And remember: Whatever is in your way it is yours to crush!
Alan P. Brown, an internationally recognized ADHD/Productivity Coach, TEDx Speaker and #1 Best Selling Author of Zen and the Art of Productivity: 27 Easy Ways to Have More Time, Earn More Money and Live Happier is the creator of the award-winning ADD Crusher™ “virtual coach” video program for ADHD teens and adults. Follow Alan on Twitter and on Facebook.