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Top 5 Time Bandits
Ever wonder what's quietly siphoning your time? Here Stack offers the most common time-suckers.
- Gabby colleagues. The people who drop by your desk to chat may be good company, but they're one of the biggest time-wasters in the office, says Stack. She recommends giving a silent signal that lets others know you're working on a priority assignment and cannot be disturbed, like a sign in your doorway. She also suggests turning your chair so it faces away from the entrance to your office or cubicle. "When someone walks by, most people look up. For someone who's looking for someone to bother, that can be an invitation," says Stack.
- E-mail. "People have developed an obsessive-compulsive relationship with e-mail," says Stack. "They check each one as they come in. They hear the bing and they can't resist." Instead, turn off the sound and create set times to check e-mail -- Stack recommends three times a day.
- Television. Want an extra four hours in your day? Turn off the TV. That's how much time the average American spends in front of the tube. "That's the equivalent of an associate's degree," says Stack, who recommends going TV-free for a week. "See what you do with the time. I've had people say they picked up a hobby, started exercising, cleaned out the attic -- things that you've been meaning to do but put off," she says.
- To-do lists. Used properly, a to-do list can increase productivity. But Stack says that people get so infatuated with crossing things off their list that they avoid the bigger projects. So you buy the baby shower gift, pay the electric bill, but the 50-page report remains undone. "We get a sense of satisfaction when we can cross things off our list. But if you did nine things but the tenth thing was the most important, then that's not productive," she says.
- Doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. "We don't take advantage of the time when our energy is up," says Stack. "There is a certain period when we're in a peak productive zone. It's really important to focus on the things that are complex during those times -- like budgets, data analysis, writing." Unfortunately, this is exactly the time people are most likely to socialize, because they feel good. "We flit around and don't focus," says Stack. "If you're a morning person, don't waste time catching up with friends or reading the paper. Hit the ground running. It will take you so much longer to do it when you're brain dead."