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?