I guess almost every occupation has inbuilt time wasting activities. Unnecessary meetings, for example. In another life I experienced – as a classroom teacher – I was aware of many time wasters, and not just some of the activities indulged in by my students.
I, too, was guilty of being sidetracked by time wasting activities in my daily routines. Overall I think I managed them at quite a reasonable level. It’s amazing how accountability to parents, colleagues and a principal can be a strong incentive to perform.
As a writer, however, I generally don’t have anyone peering over my shoulder ensuring I keep on task. I’m accountable to only myself. There’s the problem; it’s so easy to allow time wasting activities and distractions to get in the way of productive writing times.
In recent months I’ve been aware of the growing problem I have with an enormous volume of email traffic. It was severely getting in the way of essential, on task writing activities. I wasn’t making the progress I desired, so I had to do something drastic. Several years ago I solved the problem in a limited way by categorising incoming emails into folders. This streamlined the way I dealt with less important mail by placing them in their own folders waiting for attention when time allowed.
Since then the problem has escalated to a new level. Dealing with my incoming mail was taking increasingly larger slabs of time every day. Some emails sat waiting in their folder for months without being read. That was not good. The ever growing number of unread documents was beginning to really bug me. In fact, I was almost becoming depressed.
In a few weeks I will be travelling for an extended time, a significant portion of the journey will be without internet access and limited access for the rest. It horrified me to think of how many thousands of emails would be waiting for me on my return.
Dealing with the problem:
Over the last week I have been steadily unsubscribing from a whole range of newsletters that were causing the issue. Many of them are very worthy and interesting, I’m sure. In order to get some semblance of productivity back into my life I had to take this drastic action. After all, I can resubscribe again if I really need to. It will also mean I won’t have a massive problem to deal with when I return home from my travels.
That has to be a good thing.
Do you feel guilty while wasting time during your writing day?
I’ve just read the results of a survey where workers across many different occupations indicated that the average worker wasted 1.7 hours per day while they were at work. That’s 102 minutes every day. And for that to be an average, some were wasting far more – some as much as 3 or more hours per day. While employers might find these results staggering, many respondents indicated that boredom and not having enough to do were high on their lists of reasons. That must give employers some room for creative thinking, planning and changes to the work day and environment. You can read a report of the survey here.
Do you find yourself wasting time during your writing day?
I do. I check my email, Facebook, Twitter and favourite websites several times during the day. Generally this is a waste of precious writing time. I’ve learned to… let me correct that… I’m learning to limit how many times each day I access my email and social networking sites. I’ve streamlined my email in-box so emails now go into categorized folders. Some need to be dealt with quickly, others can wait and some newsletters may get read if I have time.
Unless it is research, or the distraction moves your writing project along, it is wasted time. But when I do read my emails or check those social networking sites I am trying not to be too guilty about it. Writing is a lonely occupation and I need some contact with the outside world each day. I find some of my Facebook friends, for example, quite stimulating and they are also very encouraging. I need that. They cheer me on – and I cheer them on with their WIP.
It’s all about priorities I guess.