Have you ever wasted your time being entertained while you were working?
It was happening to me every time before I start reading a lot on this and searching for ways to improve my productivity. I was like you, but today everything is over. When I focus on a task, nothing can disturb me anymore.
“Stop wasting time, start investing time for that is the only way to greatness.”― Sunday Adelaja, How To Become Great Through Time Conversion: Are you wasting time, spending time or investing time?
When I started coding every day, a few years ago, my productivity was so weak. Unconsciously each thing was a trigger to me: a noise, my social networks, my emails, someone speaking next to me, etc.
I think most of us know this; you are starting to work on something, then suddenly you have the wrong idea to open a webpage and start reading one, two, three articles. Then you close your browser, a half-hour later, and ask yourself where I was? Your brain takes a few times to remember everything before you start working again.
Other examples of my daily habits, 30-45 minutes of social networks right after waking up, 5-10 minutes of youtube videos at the toilet, 20 minutes of news each break, etc.
Do you recognize yourself? So, you are like me: you waste your time and decrease your productivity considerably.
“Time should be invested instead of wasting it or spending it.” — Sunday Adelaja, How To Become Great Through Time Conversion: Are you wasting time, spending time or investing time?
Once you are dependent on these bad habits, you are doing multitasking.
In a first thought, we can say that multitasking is a good thing. We can achieve many things at the same time, and my productivity is incredibly huge.
But it’s false. Unfortunately, humans are not computers, and our brains can’t handle it correctly.
When I was writing this article, I was looking for a multitasking definition, and I found something funny.
“Multitasking, in an operating system, is allowing a user to perform more than one computer task (such as the operation of an application program) at a time. The operating system is able to keep track of where you are in these tasks and go from one to the other without losing information.” - WhatIs.com
Multitasking is in a first search, a computer skill.
Indeed, it seems like a great way to finish a lot of things at once, but researchers have shown that our brains can’t do it. By doing it, you will lose a lot of focus and also IQ.
"According to a study by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, e-mailing while talking on the phone reduce your IQ by 10 points. Researchers studied 1,100 workers at a British company and found that multitasking with electronic media caused a greater decrease in IQ than smoking pot or losing a night's sleep." — Chicago Tribune
Much more than that, some research found that a typical office worker gets only 11 minutes between each interruption and can take an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after interruption.
Did you remember the last time you were working on something, and a colleague asked you to finish another task quickly? Try to remember the time you took to come back to your first task.
"Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine, found that a typical office worker gets only 11 minutes between each interruption, while it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption." — NYTime
What I want to show in the previous part is that we do a lot of things by habits, without really thinking about it. If a practice is right, this is fine, but in these cases, our patterns are wrong, and we need to find solutions to break them.
I will help you to stop multitasking and increase your productivity by giving you the tips which helped me.
The first thing you need to do is define your time wasters. As I explained precedently, in my case, it was social applications most of the time.
You need to take a break and write on paper all the triggers that make you unfocused on a task. Try to remember the last time you worked or tried to learn something. Once you do that, you make a considerable improvement to your future improved productivity.
I’ve sorted my advice in 3 categories:
- General: Tips that everyone can use to improve productivity.
- Low time-waster: If you lost a bit of time and you want to make some improvements without blocking everything.
- Hard time-waster: If you already tried many times to stop being distracted, but nothing is working.
This law follows the principle of work expands to fill the time available for its completion. It explains why you are more productive when you do last-minute work. Your brain will focus more because you know it’s the last limit, and you can’t exceed it.
If you want to counter this law, you need to create constraints of time in your tasks. For example, you should finish a task in one month, try to do it in two weeks.
The constraint will give you a clear objective and make it easier for you to concentrate.
This method of work helps a lot of people (developers, project managers, etc.), and it’s the most simple productivity method to implement in your daily life.
Only 5 simple steps are required to accomplish this method.
As simple as it may seem, the timer will create a sense of urgency. Unconsciously, you will focus more on your task because you want to reach your goal.
If you are distracted while doing Pomodoro, for example, a colleague is talking to you, you need to postpone your timer and start it again when you can focus again.
Free Pomodoro timer (Online, Android, or IOS):
“For many people, time is an enemy. We race against the clock to finish assignments and meet deadlines. The Pomodoro Technique teaches you to work with time, instead of struggling against it. A revolutionary time management system, it is at once deceptively simple to learn and life-changing to use.” —https://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/opinion/sunday/a-focus-on-distraction.htmlThe Pomodoro Technique
This advice is simple but efficient. For most people, noise can be a trigger to concentration. Your brain will have a lot of difficulties to stay concentrated if you work in a noisy workplace (co-working, coffee, etc.).
When I started coding, I decided to invest in a noise-canceling headset. It was a bit expensive, but by making this purchase, my productivity has exponentially improved.
You can find a lot of headsets or earphones with this feature at different prices. My article will not give you what is the best one, but a few examples.
- Sony WH-1000XM3
- Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
- Sony WH-1000XM2
- Bose QuietComfort 35 II
- Sony WF-1000XM3 True Wireless Earbuds
- Jabra Elite 85H
- Philips Fidelio NC1
- Bose QuietComfort 25
- Bowers and Wilkins PX Wireless
- Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC
- JBL Live 650BTNC
- Microsoft Surface Headphones
A few months ago, I received many hundreds of notifications a day. I was always looking at my phone. Most of these notifications were not interesting: who liked my last twitter post, an advertisement by email, games, etc.
I disabled data connectivity in the background for all my not essential applications.
You must know that all smartphones are always synching notifications in the background. It's why you receive them even if everything is closed.
On IOS and Android, you can select for each application if you want this feature or not. What I recommend is to disable data fetching for every social network, news, and games.
It does not mean that you will not be able to use these applications. You will receive notifications when you open them only.
Besides, it will save your battery power!
It's a bit similar to the previous tip. Most of your email notifications are advertising, don't be overwhelmed and use the "unsubscribe" option at the bottom of useless emails.
After a few weeks of doing this, your phone will stop ringing constantly.
If you can't control yourself and unlock your phone regularly, you can enable "do not disturb" mode. It will prevent your phone from the light on when you receive a notification, and you will not leave your task to watch your mobile.
Block time-wasting website and applications It’s for me the most important thing, and I still use it today.
If you want to force yourself to focus on your task, you should remove every distraction. Some companies and developers created blockers on smartphones and computers to remove access to distracting websites or applications.
When I feel distracted, I switch-on, and I don’t have anything else to do. You can be safe; you can call and answer with your phone if it’s needed.
Some applications (Windows, Mac, Android, and IOS) you can use:
- Focus (Mac)
- Freedom (Windows, Mac, Android, and IOS)
- SelfControl (Mac)
- Forest (Android and IOS)
- ColdTurkey (Windows and Mac)
If your phone is a real distraction, you can switch it off or use the “airplane” mode to stay concentrated. It can be useful when you are learning a new thing or working on your examinations.
Lack of sleep negatively affects your way of thinking and your productivity. If it’s hard for you to be focused daily, it can be because you don’t sleep enough.
For high-performance work, it’s essential to have a healthy life. If your life is not qualitative, you can’t focus.
I hope that this article has helped you to find ways to avoid wasting time.
One last tip is: don’t escape the rule. If you keep these new habits in your daily tasks, you will succeed!
If you want more content like this, you can follow me on Twitter, where I tweet about web development, self-improvement, and my journey as a fullstack developer!