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Is It Possible to Become More Productive?

No matter how many time management or productivity tips I read about, I still struggle with reaching my full productivity potential. I felt this way during my law firm career and I feel it now that I have moved on to other projects, like writing for this blog.

I constantly feel like I could be wildly more productive, but something is stopping me from fully getting it together and firing on all cylinders. When I think about the potential I might be squandering, I get even more frustrated with myself, and a whole chunk of my day can go to waste.  Any of this sound familiar to you?

I am desperate for the magic pill that will give me perfect productivity and time management skills (side note – if you have it, let me know). While I haven’t found it yet, I have recently discovered a method that is saving me enormous amounts of time, so I’m sharing it here because I think it might help you, too.

Little Time-Wasting Habits Add Up

I took the subway recently to a place across the city that I had been to before in an area I knew relatively well.  I definitely needed a bit of a refresher as to how to get there (which subway line to take, which stop to get off at, and then how many blocks to walk up), but once I checked the directions, I was not in any danger or forgetting them or getting lost.  I left at 2pm in the afternoon and estimated I’d arrive at my appointment within a half hour.

Do you know how many times I took my phone out, opened up google maps, and checked the directions on that short trip (to a destination I had been to before, in an area I knew well)?  Too many to count. I was obsessed.

I finally caught myself when I checked the directions again – this time, right outside the door of my destination. I had not only wasted time during the trip that I could have been using to do or think about something else, but I had wasted it staring at my phone and using up my data (sorry, family plan members!).

When I thought about, I realized I was wasting so much time, mental energy and space on needless things, starting with this habit of constantly second-guessing myself.  Before cell phones, you used to look up or ask for directions, maybe write them down if they were complicated, and then be on your way. 

You wouldn’t really think about them again until you had to make a turn or check a cross-street. But now that we can check and re-check ourselves constantly, I find I do that for almost every trip I take, and for many more things too. This habit had to stop!

A Bigger Time Management Problem

They say that realizing you have the problem is always the first step. I think this obsessive directions-checking problem of mine is part of a larger issue – too much reliance on my phone and too much time spent looking down at it and not up in the real world. 

I’m working on less screen-time too, but for this post I am just going to focus on helping you limit the use of your phone as a crutch to constantly second guess yourself and waste your time.

Two Simple Strategies to Reclaim Your Time

1. Put a little trust in (or back in) yourself. And put away your phone.

Trust in yourself that you can do it – you can make it to where you want to, you can figure it out, you can make the right decision, etc. – and you can do this all without second-guessing yourself and over-relying on your phone.

Practice trusting yourself when you are going somewhere you know how to get to. Put your phone away (far away) and just go. Don’t use it to listen to music or a podcast (if you must listen to something – because constantly having headphones in and not being able to be silent and just listening to your own thoughts is another hard habit to break – then bring a separate iPod that doesn’t have internet access. I recently started using an old iPod shuffle I had received as a gift years ago and it plays my music and nothing more, which has helped me tons in cutting back on my bad habit of constantly checking the phone, be it for directions or something else.)

2. Set a time limit for your tasks.

Let’s say you are going to purchase a new living room furniture set.  You could research hundreds if not thousands of different pieces of furniture to buy. Some people find it fun to hunt for the perfect piece.  Even if you do find the hunt fun, you can get wrapped up in spending way too much time on this task that really should take a short amount of time.

Having everything available at your fingertips (thanks, iPhone!) is both amazing in that it speeds things up (you can click through and pick out your perfect sofa without having to schedule a time after work to go to an actual store to look at them), but it is also a time-suck for those of us who have trouble limiting ourselves.

Set a time limit on how much time you are going to spend researching.  Or set a limit on the number of choices you’re going to give yourself. Pick out three items and then choose between them. 

While it is possible that if you spent a little longer you might find something a little cheaper or a little more perfect (isn’t there always something out there newer, fresher and better?), the time you spend agonizing over which brown sofa would go best in your living room is time you’re never going to get back.

So set the limit and when you reach it, make your decision and don’t obsesses over it.  The key is that once the time is up or your choice is made, don’t hem and haw, wasting your precious time and mental energy thinking about it anymore – just move on.

What Are Your Productivity Problem Areas?

What do you waste your time and energy obsessing over?  Maybe it’s second-guessing and delaying your decisions (from small ones like which subway line to take to larger ones like which apartment to rent), like I do.  

Or maybe it’s something else entirely, in which case I’d love to hear how you apply these time management tips to another area of life. If you are struggling with productivity when working from home, check out my prior post on that topic here: 7 Ways to Guarantee a Successful and Productive Day When Working from Home.

Lastly, have you incorporated any other productivity tips into your daily routine to combat overthinking all the things, that can take up so much valuable mental space? If so, please share! I’ve never met a time management or productivity tip I haven’t liked (not that I’ve implemented them all)!

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