Beat the Bandits that Rob Your Time

Pests are the time-wasters and robbers that keep you from being able to accomplish your goals, the "termites" that eat away at your personal foundations. Getting rid of them may seem difficult at first, but it’s amazing how good we are at eliminating time-wasters when forced to. Try these pointers and see what you can accomplish.

1. Confront problems head-on and make decisions quickly. Indecisiveness is a big time-waster and a major pest in your quest to be productive. The ability to make quick decisions is the hallmark of a good leader and efficient person.

2. Complete the tasks you start. Don’t let projects stall; make a running list keeping track of them so you know what’s due next, and break them down into smaller pieces to get them done easier.

3. Keep interruptions from wasting your time. Tame the telephone, and if you need to, go into hiding to get things done. If you work at home, explain to your friends and family what you do, and ask them to limit the interruptions.

4. Create shortcuts to get things done quickly. Find ways to streamline and simplify your life. Even little things like keeping an on-going shopping list, taking kitchen shortcuts, and catching up on news online instead of reading the paper can shave valuable minutes off your daily routine.

5. Combine activities and routines. Get work done while accomplishing other necessary tasks. For example, you can catch up on phone calls while folding laundry, or combine exercise with family time by going on family walks.

6. Make good use of down time. If you’re waiting for something to happen, don’t just twiddle your thumbs: try to complete a little task. Pay a bill, knit, tidy up the car, make dinner reservations — whatever occurs to you.

7. Turn off the technology. You don’t have to be electronically available 24/7. For the sake of your own sanity, unplug during your down time, and be fully present in whatever you’re doing, especially if you’re with loved ones.

8. Know and avoid your biggest timewasters and distractions. Identify your favorite pests, whether they’re television, computer games, or talking on the phone too much, and get a handle on them. You don’t have to cut them out completely, but set some rules on how often you’ll indulge.

9. Make productive use of driving or commuting time. Get some work done while commuting, especially if you’re a passenger. If you’re driving, you can still make phone calls (with a hands-free setup, of course!), use a voice recorder, or listen to books on tape.

10. Eliminate aggravation and save time when traveling or flying. Take steps to make travel as pleasant an experience as possible. Simplify your packing regime, arrive early, and take advantage of options like driving services that, while expensive, are worthwhile in the long run.

Don’t be so controlled by daily events that your productivity goes into the toilet. Learn to eliminate the obstacles in your path, all the wasted pieces of time that fritter away your day. I guarantee that you’ll be amazed and invigorated by what you’re able to accomplish.

© 2008 Laura Stack.  Laura Stack is a personal productivity expert, professional speaker, and author who helps busy workers Leave the Office Earlier® with Maximum Results in Minimum Time™. She is the president of The Productivity Pro®, Inc., a time management training company in Denver, Colorado, that caters to high-stress industries. Laura’s newest productivity book, The Exhaustion Cure (Broadway Books), hits bookstores in May 2008.  Laura is a spokesperson for Microsoft, 3M, and Day-Timers®, Inc and has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, and the New York Times. Her clients include Cisco, Sunoco, KPMG, Nationwide, and MolsonCoors.  Contact her at