Time is Time – The High Cost of Procrastination

Feb 21, 2012 by

If you’re like me, you probably feel like you simply don’t have time to do all the things you want or have to do in a given day.  We’ve all regurgitated the tired excuse that there’s simply not enough hours in a day.  We sleep less, eat less, exercise less and neglect ourselves in countless other ways in order to squeeze in that last task or meet that looming deadline.

time and procrastination

Source: sheelamohan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of my biggest goals for 2012 is to make better use of my time.  Having a toddler at home can make for some pretty difficult working conditions.  And when he finally goes to sleep, work is often the last thing I want to do when I finally get a break from baby-duty.  Then I remind myself that as challenging as this can be, it is still better than putting him in daycare several days a week if it can be avoided.

A pretty harsh reality recently fell upon me with the realization that mismanagement of time has had a profound effect on my bottom line.  Truth be told, time is time.  Five minutes is five minutes.  Five minutes wasted 12 times a day is an hour lost.  That’s five hours a week.  At a billable rate of $50/hr, that’s $250 a week in potentially lost revenue.  That adds up to about $12,500 over the course of a year. 

What would $12,500 do for your organization?  If you’re a large entity, that’s probably a relatively small amount of money all things considered.  But for the rest of us, that is a pretty decent chunk of cash.  For me, that would cover all my operational costs for most if not all of the year.  Or, potentially bring me closer to hiring a part-time employee, which is essential for the growth of any business.

So I began examining my processes, habits and other things I’d been doing.  I’ve been looking for ways to get more productivity from my time, without sacrificing time with the kids, sleep, or time watching Sons of Anarchy 🙂

The biggest realization I had was that there were a lot of chunks of time here and there that were being squandered.  Ten minutes here, 15 minutes there… I’d often find myself not digging into a project or starting an email or blog post or whatever the task was just because I knew I’d have to quit after a short while.  It sounds silly, but that time adds up.  Unless you’re talking about activities that require undivided concentration and are difficult to get back into – stuff like website programming – it’s not a big deal to start something and save your work even if you know you’re only going to get a little ways into whatever it is you’re starting.

Or, if it’s something you really don’t want to dig into for 10 minutes before going to lunch, take lunch early.  Or clean your workspace or do some sort of activity to prepare you to sit down and get right to work when you get back.  The idea is to make use of as much of your time as possible.

One of the things I’ve realized is that I have way more time at my disposal than I’d realized.  After monitoring my own behavior for a little while, I realize that I was literally wasting time on various items that can be compartmentalized to a more efficient activity.  Time spent on items like email and Facebook and guilty pleasures like Craigslist can be huge time-sucks.  If you have a browser tab open with Facebook constantly open, you’re going to be more apt to refresh it every time you glance up and see it – and God help you if there happens to be a little red number next to the logo meaning there’s likely something to respond to.

Instead, close that browser tab and check Facebook when you’ve completed a task – sort of a mini reward.  Scroll through the last couple hours worth of posts, realize that you’d missed absolutely nothing of any importance whatsoever and then get back to work.

With email, I am almost completely conditioned to check the message as soon as it hits my inbox and immediately respond if necessary.  Between the time spend in front of my laptop, and the fact that my cell is with me non-stop, I generally am at least aware that new messages await as soon as they sender hits ‘send’.  But now, I try to simply skim emails when I receive them to gauge importance and subsequently respond to them in batches when it is less of an interruption.

Truth be told, this is all a work in progress and I am constantly looking at the way I do things in order to be more efficient – which is going to be essential as my workload increases.  Do you have any tips for being more productive?  Share them by leaving a comment below!

2 Comments

  1. Try to focus on the things that actually make you money. This will lead you to be more productive. Those litte things still need to be completed, just do them in down time instead of taking away from productive time.

  2. Hi Randy,

    Thanks for the comment. I’ve heard the phrase that says “not all hours are created equal.” I think your remarks tidily reflects the big issue – that these things still need to be completed. It can be tempting to prioritize trivial tasks because they’re easy… or because it feels good to have accomplished something. I know I’ve fallen into that trap a time or three 🙂

    MJ