Hack These Two Time Vampires that Suck Your Time and Energy Away
It seems there’s never enough time — to finish that project the way you want, to start that new one on time, to craft a really persuasive email, to spend real quality time with your most beloved loved ones.
Even if you’re a conscientious time-minder, there are many things that steal your time of which you are mostly unaware. I call them time vampires. 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 heck did I get done today?
In this post…Death to two major time vampires!
First, a Time Management Distinction
There’s a big difference between time wasters and time vampires.
Time wasters are things that we do mostly consciously, intentionally and repeatedly — by choice. Like excessive web surfing and video gaming, social media overindulgence and rampant rumination. All classic, self-inflicted time wasters of which we are fully aware as we guiltily engage in them.
But time vampires are engaged in mostly unconsciously, or at least in a way that we’re not hip to the fact that they’re wasting our time and energy. Which is why awareness of them is in itself a powerful time management tip.
Time Vampires are much sneakier than straight-up Time Wasters.
The Many Forms of Time Vampires
Time vampires break out roughly into two areas: People and Thoughts & Things. I’ll rattle off a few examples of each before focusing in on two of the biggest thieves of our time and energy.
Time vampires as people come in many forms: You’ve got your complainers; your interrupters; you’ve got your busy-minded bosses, clingy clients, serial meeting setters, talkatives, irrelevants and … yourself!
[To find out more about these human vampires, I devoted Crusher™TV Episode 44 — Death to Time Vampires, Part 2 — to dealing with them.]
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 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?
- But now to those two biggies…
Time Management Tip: Slay These Two Major Time Vampires
Email: 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 36 times per hour! And we spend about 16 minutes re-focusing after handling incoming emails.
Mindlessly checking emails throughout the day rather than setting specific time aside to do so is sucking tons of time away.
The hack for this Dracula? Two time management tips, really. 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 specific times aside each day for handling emails. It should be no more than three, but even if more, that beats the heck out of the 36 times per hour 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 management tip 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 three times a day and your to-do list will get smaller might quick. In fact, please schedule yourself some single tasking sessions for tomorrow! Try it. It works.
A Closing Time Management Tip
The biggest time vampire of all is not taking action. It’s a drag on your brain, your confidence and your path toward success. Inaction grows your to-do list and keeps your calendar crowded. Take some lovingly angry action to use some of these hacks, to free up more time, to free up more energy, to fuel more action.
And remember that whatever is in your way it is yours to crush!
P.S. Want to Identify and Slay More Time Vampires?
I dedicated an episode in my Crusher™TV Membership to Time Vampires in the form of Thoughts & Things, and you can click the image below for the Episode preview. I talk about so-called “time saving” apps and your own to-do list as actually being time vampires!
Each Crusher™TV Episode is a well-researched “mini-masterclass” of evidence-based solutions on a specific productivity topic.
You might get a lot out of watching that entire episode of Crusher™TV where I dig deeper into this topic. (You can become a member for a buck and cancel any time ya like.) It’s Episode 40, and you can preview it at the link.
Alan P. Brown, an internationally recognized 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 host of Crusher™TV, where he and his Guest Experts share simple ways to get more done in less time with less stress. Follow Alan on Twitter and on Facebook.