Do you like secrets? Yeah, I like them, too. I have a secret—well, not like my dark secret I admitted to about a year ago—but a secret, nonetheless. Do you want to know what it is? Of course you do, everyone likes secrets. This is where I insert a strategic pause to give you a moment to think about it. Okay, okay, I’ll tell you, but you’ll have to promise not to tell anyone else. Deal?
All right, then. For a long time my friends have noticed I don’t waste time. This is not one of those self-appreciating statements you hear from someone who wants to put himself on a pedestal for all to admire. I just don’t like throwing my time away on useless pursuits. I never did.
You must be thinking, “Boy, Jack, you must really be high on yourself today.”
In truth, I’m being open so you’ll know where I’m coming from when I tell you my secret. Ah, I see I have your attention again. Telling you I don’t waste time is only a fraction of the overall reason for this Freedom Friday post.
Allow me to pose a question: Where do you waste most of your time?
Think about it carefully. I’m sure you can easily come up with several specific things that distract you from being productive. But you know what? You won’t believe it when I tell you what the biggest time waster is. I’m thankful I learned this secret a long time ago in my teens, and I’ve benefited from knowing it ever since.
Fine, I think you’ve had enough of my build.
Here’s the secret to being productive: It’s the in-betweens.
I can see the puzzled looks already.
Here’s an example. You’ve decided you will clean out the shed this weekend. You have the plan in place. You will unpack the deck chairs, organize the garden tools, and sweep the inside of the dirt that had accumulated over the winter. This shouldn’t take more than an hour, tops.
The weekend comes and two hours later, you’re still sweating it out trying to decide what order the garden tools belong on the shelves. Four hours later, you’re done. What happened to the one hour, tops?
Well, in between you had to check your phone to answer your messages. That is, in between placing one chair after another on the deck. That took a whole hour. Next, the garden tools. As you were deciding what to do with the pruning shears, whether they belonged on the left or right shelf, you decided to take a break in between. After all, you couldn’t do all this work without some lemonade—which, you made from real lemons, in the kitchen, away from the work that was going to take you an hour to finish, tops.
And on and on it goes. The in-betweens is where we lose our time. Those moments in between tasks are precious. This means throwing away the distractions, phone, internet, and general laziness, and getting it done without wasting time between steps.
Five minutes here, five minutes there, the next thing you know it’s been an hour and nothing gets done. It happens more often than not. The key is to prevent it from happening.
This is what I do. When I have a task, I’ll estimate how long it might take. I then give myself a hard deadline. Sometimes, I’ll underestimate the time in order to set the fire under my seat ablaze. This pushes me forward as I quickly see the time disappear and I frantically attempt to beat the deadline. It really is an exercise in self-discipline, but a rewarding challenge, nonetheless.
In the end, this is how I write all my posts. I give myself an hour and hope whatever falls on the page eventually makes sense.
Now, your turn. Try it yourself. Find a task and attempt to complete it with a hard deadline. Make it even more of a challenge by setting the deadline less than the actual time it will take doing it. Believe me, the in-betweens will disappear faster than you think and you will have accomplished your goal in record time.
Oh, all right. If you want to tell someone this secret, go ahead. I won’t stop you.
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Where do you think you waste most of your time?
10 thoughts on “The In-Betweens”
I probably waste most of my time either on Facebook or looking up stuff on amazon. I haven’t played Candy Crush in a while, got annoyed with the level I’m on so I took a break. I’ve been in a streak where I’m super behind on my blog reading and writing. Hoping to get caught up that this weekend while I’m at my parents BECAUSE I have time to waste since I came up to relax.
I never thought of it like that. I’m the arch procrastinator: ‘I’ll definately start in ten minutes, just after I checked nothing in particular on the internet.’ But in-between procrastination, there has to be a word for it. Innercrastination, mid-crastination. . . It’s insidious, but now I know it’s there I can do something about. (But first, I’ll just go and…)
Oh my goodness, I’m such an in-between time waster! My other trouble is that I become distracted from tasks by another task – I’m in the kitchen cleaning up, but have to bring something upstairs. Suddenly I’m putting away all the laundry (ha! yeah right) and have completely forgotten about the kitchen! I routinely have to yell “focus” in my head to get anything done. Great post, Jack!
Ah-ha! the secret is out! And I admit that in my deep dark spaces, I hate deadlines. So I procrastinate. but there you have it, you’ve called me out and I must …try…to…do…this next task without ‘over-estimating’ and budgeting ‘in’ the ‘in-betweens’.
Good one Jack! And you’ve got me thinking how I can better my time…. 🙂
(P.S. I’m am not sure how this will turn out. I hope for the less procrastination in me. Wish me luck!)
Focus is a great skill, and time a precious resource. I’ve found having a specific to do list for the day is an important tool to avoiding time-wasting distractions.
My biggest thing that takes me longer to do stuff is the typical thought of “I can do it later”. Which is why every chapter of Trainer Strawberry is finished on the day I’m supposed to post it, and why it sometimes doesn’t get posted.
By the way, I posted a scrip-type-thing that I had wrote for a Super Smash Bros Brawl series I was writing. It’s a work in progress, but I would be really grateful if you could read it and tell me what you think, and maybe give me some advice (you know, like, what could be improved, what should have been worded differently, stuff that every beginner needs to know). Here is the link:
I have been talking about time-wasting lately with my little (& not-so-little) people lately. I encouraged them to make a mental list of activities they could do less in order to be more productive with their precious time. 🙂 I like the deadline idea. Sometimes, especially with writing, we can fool ourselves into thinking we have all the time in the world…but we don’t. Happy Friday!
Yes, procrastination is the real time waster. The trick is to realise when you’re doing it. Right I’m off to make some delicious lemonade from real lemons 🙂
Most of my time is wasted in the (weekday mornings). Not for the reasons you might imagine, though.
It is the decision when to leave for the office. Each of my possible routes is jammed due to one or more construction works. To jam, or not to jam. That is the question.
good advice, Jack, but I suffer from not enough in-betweens thanks to Fred & Lucy who both suffered from OCD and passed it down to their four children. I need to develop some in-between time:) Love reading your posts