Time sometimes really does seem to slip away?
We lose time often not because we are busy doing something important, but because our mind is stuck in its naughty bad habits. If you can identify your habitual time wasters and change them even just a little bit, you will free up more thinking time, more energy and the ability to get a lot more done. Here are a few top time wasters and how to address them:
Fantasising about the future (positively or negatively)
There’s a difference between this and visualizing goals or a positive future. The difference can be determined by asking yourself two questions:
Is what I am thinking about realistic?
Am I going to do anything about it?
Visualising goals is a very powerful process if the goal is one you aim to achieve and if you are prepared to do what it takes to get it.
If you dream about living in a massive house by the sea but have no plan of action and no intention of doing anything to get it, then it is a fantasy. Fantasising is not only a waste of time, it can also negatively effect you emotionally. If you are always thinking about wonderful things that never happen, your brain is constantly being set up for disappointment.
The same is also true of negative fantasising. Thinking about negative possibilities doesn’t make you any better able to deal with them should they happen, so why distress yourself? Your brain is an amazing resource and it reacts better to emergency situations if it hasn’t been programmed with lots of fake negative scenarios in the past.
Fantasising positively or fantasising negatively become thinking habits. You don’t always consciously start them, you may just realise you are doing it. Breaking this habit takes practice and the best way to do it is to interrupt the fantasy and go do or think about something else. Do another task, take a walk, and make a cup of coffee – anything that will interrupt the pattern.
This is not always easy as your brain can get addicted to those thoughts, even if they are negative. Mindfulness and meditation are really helpful for breaking these thought habit.
Going over, in your head, conversations or situations that have already happened
Your brain has a tendency to bring up unsatisfactory situations again and again and make you remember them. The positive intention of this is for you to learn from them and inform your future behaviour. If you are used to ruminating in this way, your brain will keep reminding you, often in the middle of the night when you want to sleep! This is a waste of your time and energy and a key way in which people procrastinate and fail to move on.
Pay attention to the learning your brain is trying to give you rather than focusing in on the detail of specific situations and people. Is it always confrontational situations you could have done better in, or situations where you weren’t as kind as you could have been? If there is something you want to do differently then go and learn how to do it by reading, getting some training or finding a coach. Once you take action your brain will calm down because it knows you are listen to it.
Too many open loops at one time
Open loops are ideas, activities and decisions that you have started or opened but haven’t completed or closed. The minute you think about something you open a loop.
People often start things and don’t complete them, or start a decision-making process and don’t make a decision, or have an idea that they never take forward or close down. Having too many of these loops open is like having too many applications running on your computer: it drains the battery and impacts processing. People get exhausted by having too much open in their minds and it wastes time because yogurt overwhelmed, can’t prioritise and don’t have a clear plan.
Instead of getting frustrated or upset by them take some steps to close the loops by:
- Taking action
- Decide when you will deal with the thing and close the loop until then.
- Deciding actively to stop something (and actually doing that!)
- Deciding actively to put something off and start it later. It helps to give yourself a date to pick it up again.
Some of you will be very imaginative, constantly coming up with new ideas and thoughts. Keeping an ideas book or somewhere you can log ideas to come back to when you have space is an excellent way of preventing your creativity from driving you mad, and wasting your time. Closing some loops will give you much more energy and brainpower to focus on what is really important.
About the authors
John McLachlan and Karen Meager are the authors of the highly acclaimed book Real Leaders for the Real World (£12.99, Panoma Press) and ‘Time Mastery’ (£12.99, Panoma Press) and founders of Monkey Puzzle Training and Consultancy, a leading UK training company in NLP. Karen has an MBA specialising in strategy, financial strategy and human development.
She is a UKCP registered Psychotherapist (DipNLPt), one of less than a handful of internationally accredited NLP Master Trainers, coach and leadership development specialist. John is one of less than a handful of internationally accredited NLP Master Trainers, a qualified therapist, clinical hypnotherapist, coach and leadership development specialist.