If one of my biggest struggles in life is managing my time, then a close second is not wasting it to begin with. I chose this month’s topic of “Efficiency” because August is high season for many hostels and it becomes even more important. I also chose it because, like carbs and sugar, I never feel like I have enough of it. So this was as much a challenge for me to discover what keeps me from utilizing my time well, and to identify the tools I’ve learned over time that help me.
For the sake of efficiency and limited time of those reading, I’ve split this topic into two parts. In this first part I’m going to share what I’ve come to realize are some of my biggest “time wasters”. Even just be writing this, it’s helped me to change some of my habits or at least use my time more consciously. If you identify with any of the points below, perhaps it will help you as well. My second post on this topic will delve into my favorite “time savers” and ways of most efficiently using my time. So look out for that next! But until then...below are my worst time wasters.
Discussing Instead of Doing
At times I have been known to discuss something multiple times instead of just taking some form of action. Even a step backwards would at least be a step with (hopefully) something learned. When our freezer broke, I took it upon myself to fix, since I usually try to DIY everything to both learn and save the hostel money. Unfortunately it didn’t work, and I wasn’t sure what to do next. I then got into a cyclical pattern of thinking, wondering ‘Should I try something else, or just call someone?’, without making a real decision.
I’m embarrassed to say our freezer sat broken for months before calling someone, because most repair people wouldn’t even come look at it with any of it taken apart or worked on. As time went on, I was having a harder time remembering how to put it back together until days turned to weeks. Since we don’t use it much and it wasn’t integral to operations, I pretty much just let it go. Eventually I called around and found a guy who was willing to come with it all apart. In the end, after all that, we needed a new freezer, which meant a new refrigerator. Not an inexpensive fix, but had I just called from the get-go I wouldn’t have had so much back and forth with time and energy wasted. Doing things yourself can be rewarding and save you money, but they are often are not the most efficient.
Erroneous Ways of Thinking
I’ve realized that sometimes I think because I’m doing something worthwhile, it’s having a positive effect overall, when that is not the case. Take social media. Though my time on Facebook is often spent on legitimate reads (usually activism articles), this falls into the same issue that I wrote about in my budgeting blog.
With my budget, it was thinking that because I bought the cheapest beer, I was living the cheapest lifestyle possible, without realizing that I was still buying too much beer. It’s similar with a common time waster of mine. It’s easy for me to think, “I’m reading about important social change, that can’t be wrong.” No, it’s not wrong, but it’s also not what I should be doing at that time. Also, that 15 minutes I was going to spend reading one article has now spawned into 45 minutes on other linked articles. Just because they give you all the feels and inspire you to make the world a better place does not mean they are increasing your productivity. I may feel a social responsibility to the world, but I also have a current responsibility to my job and a hostel that deserves fair attention. And, of course, let’s be real. I get sucked into meaningless crap online too.
This erroneous way of thinking doesn't just happen with social media, but with time management in general. I often think, “If I respond to this email quickly, I’m being efficient by getting something done”, not realizing that the email shouldn’t take precedence over whatever bigger task I needed to handle that day. Once in awhile there are truly 2 or 5 minute tasks, and knocking them out is indeed efficient. But more often they grow into bigger tasks that then suck away your time. I’ve learned- and am trying to implement- that my best reaction method is to only respond if it’s truly urgent, and otherwise assign it as a task and come back to it when planning my day.
Touching Email Multiple Times
I remember learning this one awhile ago, yet it’s been so hard to practice. As mentioned above, rarely is anything actually quick to complete, but it should have at least a few quick tasks. One of these is to get it on an appropriate list (urgent/soon/later; 10 min/30 min/1 hour, etc) if you can’t handle it right away. Then later when scheduling your day, you have a full list of what to choose from. Otherwise it will just sit in your inbox, somewhat jogging your memory that it needs action but likely overlooked. Then there’s also the fact that only solving world hunger is more overwhelming than staring at a full inbox, and just barely. The expression “Your inbox will still be full when you’re dead” makes me feel a little better, but for my mental clarity I still prefer to keep on top of it as much as possible.
Empty inbox. This may never happen again, but I'll try.
Not Following What I’ve Learned
My biggest time waster is also the most obvious. Simply that when I don’t use what I’ve learned, I’m not efficient. I’ve seen how ways of thinking or a lack of action can prohibit me from getting things done, and yet I will still fall into these patterns. I’m also aware that when I don’t follow some of my best time savers (next post!) it allows for the time wasters to creep in much easier.
I’ll be perfectly honest, I stayed up really late to write this because I didn’t schedule out my last couple days at work including today. I touched on a lot of random email and small tasks....but didn’t start writing until much too late in the day. So hey, I’m still learning, but just knowing I needed to write this helped me identify some of the areas that suck my time away. Hopefully it helps one of you out there.
Stay tuned for my follow up post, where I detail some of my best time saving and efficiency tips!
Want to hear more from other hostel folks? Put our August Panel Discussion: Efficiency on your calendar. It will stream live on Wednesday, August 26th @ 16:00 GMT. Details posted soon.
What are your biggest time wasters? How do you avoid them? Sign in and comment below!
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