10 ways to stop time vampires from sucking the life out of you

Ever feel like there’s an invisible force holding you back from working on the things that matter in your business?

There are. 🙂

I call them time vampires because they suck the life out of you and your business by keeping you stuck running in circles instead of making progress toward your goals.

Now, I’m going to show you what they are and how to vanquish them from your life (no garlic or wooden stakes required).

Just say, “No” to Multitasking!

It is easy to fall into the multitasking trap. We think success looks like answering emails while talking on a conference call while on the treadmill. This type of work behavior is exhausting.  You will burn yourself out. And, it’s been scientifically proven that what you do manage to accomplish during this time won’t be your best work.

We have been conditioned to believe that working on one task at a time is “lazy” and will make our work take longer. 

Wrong! 

When you give yourself one clear task and goal to achieve at a time, you are increasing your chances for success. Not only will you save time, you will boost your productivity. 

You lose time when you switch from task to task. And none of the tasks you’re trying to do at the same time gets your complete attention. The end result is slower progress to produce lower quality output.  

Don’t be afraid to slow down and stick to the “one and done” method. You’ll be surprised how much more will actually get done vs. ending the day with multiple half-completed projects.

Use a gatekeeper

Make it harder for people to get to you. 

Distractions and unwanted interruptions pop-up in our lives like spam in our inbox. So get yourself some security and appoint someone or some policy to act as a “gatekeeper.” Whether it’s a flesh-and-blood admin or Google Voice, the result is the same. An additional layer between you and the rest of the world will filter the interruptions that you don’t want and give you the control to deal with rest on your schedule, not theirs.

Establish “do not disturb” periods

It is easy to be distracted.  A ping from your phone or a chatty co-worker can throw off your entire work groove.

So safeguard your high-productivity hours with a “do not disturb” period. 

This period of time should be dedicated to uninterrupted focus time for you (and everyone on your team). Ban meetings, calls, and email during this period so that everyone can focus on the important tasks they need to complete.

Institute a “Closed door = not now” policy

Establish a company-wide policy that people in closed-door offices are not available for “drop-in” meetings. If you have an open office, a similar system can be set up using red and green flags on desks. 

As much as you might want to promote an office culture of openness, you never want your team (or you!) to feel like they owe it to anyone to be available 24/7.  This system gives people the opportunity to control their time around their personal productivity flow. And that means more success for your whole team.

Fight back against procrastination

Procrastination is hard to avoid. Of course most of us would rather do anything than that one task we’ve been putting off, but we all know the more we postpone the worse the situation gets. 

So just get started.

Commit to work on that unpleasant task for 5 minutes. After those 5 minutes you have momentum - and will see the task through to completion.

Another big reason for procrastination is that we don’t know exactly what has to be done to complete the project. Start anyway. You certainly know the first step you need to take. That’s enough.

Taking action is how you gain experience, get feedback, and see the bigger problem from a new perspective. 

It’s like when you are looking up a hill. All you can see is the top of the hill. But after you take action and walk to the top, now you can see the whole valley on the other side. 

Same thing with that project you’re stuck on. Take action on the first step, and the second step will become clear.

Treat phone calls like meetings

Treat your phone calls like meetings. That’s to say, don’t have one without a clear agenda and outcome.

An agenda will help keep the conversation on track, so you don’t end up on tangents, or post-gaming all the action from this weekend’s big game (or your favorite reality show). You don’t need to write one out and distribute it before (though, that’s not a bad idea). Simply start the call with a quick check-in on what needs to be discussed. Then get to it.

And, like fish in your refrigerator or houseguests, hanging around too long really starts to stink. So keep those conversations short! Aim for 15 minutes or less for most calls.

Eat lunch, but eat light

A rumbling stomach isn’t the soundtrack for success. And a full stomach is a lullaby.

Make sure you fuel your day so you have energy to complete the tasks you need to. Because when you’re hungry you aren’t focusing on much else.

So don’t skip lunch. 

But don’t go wild and eat a multi-course meal or try to get you money’s worth at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Eating too much in the middle of the day will likely put you in a food coma or in need of a nap. So find that good sweet spot that you’re satisfied, but still productive.

Treat phone calls like meetings

Treat your phone calls like meetings. That’s to say, don’t have one without a clear agenda and outcome.

An agenda will help keep the conversation on track, so you don’t end up on tangents, or post-gaming all the action from this weekend’s big game (or your favorite reality show). You don’t need to write one out and distribute it before (though, that’s not a bad idea). Simply start the call with a quick check-in on what needs to be discussed. Then get to it.

And, like fish in your refrigerator or houseguests, hanging around too long really starts to stink. So keep those conversations short! Aim for 15 minutes or less for most calls.

Use idle time

We all have awkward windows of time like waiting for a meeting to start, sitting on public transportation, etc. Don’t close these windows, use them as an opportunity to be productive. 

Have a running list of short tasks you can do during random down time throughout the day.  Your running list should include the little tasks that are always on your day-to-day radar, but not top on your priority list.

Think emails, checking-up on network connections, or getting up-to-date on the latest news.

5 minutes here. 10 minutes there. It adds up to a lot of time over the course of the week.

Avoid open loops

Having a lot of half-done items - or open loops - takes up a lot of mental energy, which is then not available for the thing you’re working on in the moment. So, strive to minimize the number of open loops you have at any one time.

And remember done is better than perfect. Whenever possible, see a task through to completion. Stopping kills momentum. Literally. Physics says so. So when you get into a flow, keep working. 

Getting part-way done and setting something aside leads to a lot of wasted time. By the time you get back to picking up you’ll have to backtrack to remember where you were, and then work your way back up to the level of inspiration you had when you started working on it. 

Think first, act second

Stop with the “Ready, fire, aim” approach to doing things. Spending some time upfront thinking through what needs to be done will save hours in re-work. A good plan will give you the tools you need to reduce wasted time following unproductive paths. 

I appreciate someone with enthusiasm and a self-starter attitude. But if you’re not stopping to look before you leap, you are headed for some dangerous time-sucks and easily avoidable obstacles. So instead of just doing something - anything - for the sake of taking action, adopt a “ready, plan, do” approach and save yourself a lot of time - and trouble - in the long run. 

Make it work

There you go. Think of these 10 tactics as your very own garlic-scented, holy water soaked wooden stake to put an end to those time vampires once and for all.

And they're also ten great ways to find time for your power hour. 

What’s a power hour, you ask? It’s the secret sauce to achieving your goals that all our friends who scored their copy of Get The Right Stuff Done know all about. Join the (not so) secret club here.

Now go out there and be a productivity machine.

September 18, 2019