Monday, November 9, 2015

Identifying and Dealing with Time Wasters

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Time is our most precious resource. It is the one resource that no matter what we do we can't get any more. If we think about it time is the very thing we trade for everything else. You may think money, but we trade our time and talent to get the money we use. When something is as precious as time it just makes sense to try and utilize this resource to the best of our ability. This becomes critically important for anyone who is homesteading and/or running a business.

The strange thing about time is the more of it you need, the less you seem to have. I am feeling the crunch myself. I have gotten more serious about the blog and have added the podcast. On average each blog/podcast takes about 5 hours to produce. That is time I have to find somewhere. After a blog goes live, there is promotion, answering questions, replying to comments, and the list goes on. I am not telling you this to make you feel sorry for me or in the hopes that you will be in awe. I am simply telling you this to allow you to know the time and commitment required to run something like this. I have talked to several bloggers and podcasters and their production time is similar. So the people who produce content like this really want to share information, if they can make a little money on the side or turn it into a full income great, but the driving force is truly helping people.

I am sure your everyday life is hectic. Everyone who is a doer deals with this. Your day may look something like this. Get up, feed the animals, fix breakfast, wash the dishes or at least load the dishwasher, get ready for work, go to work, work, come home, fix supper, dishes again, maybe laundry, hopefully have some time to wind down, get cleaned up and go to bed. That sounds like a ton and you know what? It is, but I still left a lot of stuff out. There needs to be real time spent with family, cleaning house, paying bills, tending the garden, mowing the yard, putting up your harvest, grocery shopping, anything shopping, cleaning up the shop, building a fence,...... you get the picture. When you look at all of the things you want to accomplish and the limited amount of time you have available to do so you realize that you will have to have a crash course in time management. Some people have been blessed with a natural ability to utilize time to its fullest. The rest of us have to learn as we go along.

Setting Priorities

 Setting Priorities is one of the things everyone needs to do and really we kinda do, but we need to make it more formal. As we go through our day we are prioritizing activities all the time. Not only that, we rearrange our priorities list several times as well. Taking the time to write out your priorities is a really good idea. Spend thirty minutes one day and write out all of your responsibilities for each day. Again this list is for daily duties. Then prioritize from number 1 through whatever. Rewrite the list in order then out beside it, write the amount of time you think is required to complete this task. Be sure to include sleep and some relaxation. Add up the times. If you find that the amount of time required is greater than 24 hours, you may have issues. Don't get too worked up yet. Allow the list to sit for at least a day and really two.

After you have allowed this list to sit for  a day and you have done your time audit. You will need to compare the two. How much time did you really spend on each activity. Like I said you will find that you have some of them right on and some no where close. Drive times are normally fairly accurate.

I am not going to be one of those people who bash social media. It is an active part of what I do. I promote the blog and podcast. I share articles that I think would benefit my community. I even share things that make me laugh or smile (we need those from time to time). In this modern day, social media is one of the few ways we can keep up with those who are important to us. My grandchildren are in South Carolina and I am in Alabama. That is a pretty long drive. Due to social media I get to see what is going on in their lives. I enjoy the pictures and stories about what is happening.

Only you can set your priorities, but you have to be honest with yourself. You must schedule enough sleep. You must schedule some time of relaxation that is not sleep. People who do not take time to enjoy life or who don't spend time with their family wind up sick and alone. While you are setting your priorities you will find that you will have to limit something. That is just the way it is.

Time Audit

Take a pad with you for a couple of days and actually take notice of how long your daily tasks take. Getting dressed 10 minutes, cooking breakfast 30 minutes, drive to work 42 minutes. After you have done this for a day compare the actual times to the times you estimated. This will give you a good time picture. You will have guessed some of the activities perfectly and some will probably be way off. That is the point of this exercise. These times will vary based on your current energy level, but they will normally be close.

There are a few more things that you will realize if you do the time audit. You spend a lot, and I mean a lot more time on some activities than you thought. Social media, email, and television tend to be the primary areas where we spend more time than we realize.

The time audit can be either really easy or a real pain in the rear end. I have suggested people do this who come back to me later and say that the time audit took even more time out of their day. To those people I say "You are probably overdoing it". The time audit doesn't have to be very detailed. It can simply be  a list. FB (for Facebook) 8 minutes, drive for your daily commute 42 minutes, etc. At the end of the day add it up. There will be some entries that are things like social media 1 minute and there could be 20 of those in a single day. This will give you a true picture of how you spend your time.

It is actually beneficial to do at least three time audits during the work week and at least one on the weekend, but we will work with what we have.

 Schedule, Schedule, Schedule

This can be fairly loose or can be quite rigid. As an example. The Rural Economist Facebook page is my primary social media campaign. Second is Google +, then on down the line. I answer questions, respond to comments, share posts, you know the full gambit. I take 2 hours at the end of each month to schedule as many things as I can out for the next month. Once I have the bulk of the social shares scheduled I can go into maintenance mode. I allow myself 30 minutes each day on social media in total during the work week. I schedule writing and recording time. I schedule my drive time, etc... After I started doing this I was able to find more time to spend with my wife.

My wife is actually better at the scheduling than I am. We both have a dayplanner. We will discuss some decisions and others we make on our own. Her dayplanner looks a lot more hectic than mine. A lot of that is due to her work schedule.

There will be times that your plan doesn't work, but having a plan in place will make it easier. Extenuating circumstances happen.

Learn to Say No

This is a big problem for both my wife and myself. If you are a doer you will find people are all the time asking you to do or help with something. Benjamin Franklin is credited with making the statement "If you want something done, ask a busy person". Why is this the case? Because a busy person is actually doing things. This is both a blessing and a curse. If you are a doer, the more you do, the more people will want you to do. This is also a reason that prioritizing your activities are so important.

You will find that you will have to say no to a lot of things. Even if something you have been asked to do is important, if you don't have the time to get it done, say no. I know a lot of us can make time, but if that is requiring us to take time away from something else that is equally important, we are not doing anyone any favors.

Be Sure to Take Time to Rest and Relax

I have already mentioned this one several times, but I want to mention it again because it is one of my biggest problems.  When I say rest I really mean rest. A lot of times my wife will be watching television, normally either Flash or Arrow (cause she is just cool like that). I will be sitting beside her with the laptop working on something either research or writing, they are both very important. I have recently realized that I really haven't been taking time to rest at all and she really doesn't either. I decided that I would try an experiment. I haven't told my wife, she will find out about it when she reads this. I stopped taking my phone to the dinner table, I will intentionally leave my phone in the other room. Why do I feel the need to do this? Notifications. If my phone goes off I have an automatic desire to check it to see if it is important. I would bet many of you are the same way. I cannot relax as long as I am tethered to an electronic device.


You may be thinking, "Gregg, this is all well and good, but how is it going to help me?". Lots of ways. First, if you don't know where your time is going you can't fix it. That is why we had to do the time audit. Second,  if you don't know where your time should be going you can't adjust it. Now we are going to get into the practice. People have preached to do lists for forever and a day. You know what? If they are done well, with the right amount of structure mixed with a little flexibility they are great. The problem is that we either don't do them at all or we make them so rigid that as soon as we get off track there is no way to get it back.

When you are making your to do list write out beside each task how long you think it will take to complete. I know we mentioned this above about daily responsibilities, but this is what you are planning for the day. Once you complete it write the actual time needed. This will allow you to adjust the rest of your schedule. If you fail. Don't beat yourself up over it, just start again, slower. Complete a task or two. As you gain experience and confidence you will be able to meet and conquer bigger challenges. That is just the way it works.

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