How much more could you accomplish with an extra thirty minutes a day? Would you tackle those conference-discounted theological tomes that still enjoy crisp binding and clean margins? Would you follow up with the names on your lists to call or visit? Would you brainstorm new ministry opportunities?
The only way to get more time is to waste less time. It’s the few minutes here and there that add up to a sizable chunk that you could have used productively. Try these changes to your work habits. You might find an extra thirty minutes a day.
1. Change the home page on your web browser to Google
The goal with this change is to stop distracting yourself with entertaining web content. Is your homepage your Facebook profile? Is it a news site like MSN, CNN, or Fox News? How often do you dive into the internet for something you’re working on, only to take a quick glance-turned-ten-minute-break clicking around at your personal distraction.com? ESPN was my homepage for years, and the headlines tempted me to click on the latest Sports Guy column or article on my beloved Detroit teams.
But why pick Google for a home page? First, it’s not distracting. It’s a simple, white page with not much going on. The Google+ notifications threatened this advantage, but since this latest attempt to dethrone Facebook hasn’t caught on, it shouldn’t be a big deal. (unless you’re a big Google+ user, in which case it might be tempting). Second, making Google your home page saves you a step if you’re firing up your web browser to do a search.
Do you waste time on the web because your current home page deters you from your work? Make a switch.
2. Check your email three times a day
Email is the biggest distracter of all, especially if you have notifications set up on it. The mental process of switching gears from work to email wastes enough time in itself. But add that to all the times you check it and there’s nothing new (or worse, just junk) and the amount of time wasted grows. How often do you waste time checking email?
I suggest you check your email mid-morning, just after lunch, and then an hour before you leave for the day. For me, that’s 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 4 p.m. This is enough of an interval for you to receive actionable messages, but not so long that people will wonder if you’re going to get back to them. It’s also enough time to respond to an emergency.
Between the times you check your email, close your email application. Turn it off. Don’t let it interrupt you from your reading or sermon prep. Which brings us to our third change.
3. Stop multitasking
Imagine you are driving your favorite sports car. For me, a Detroit boy, it’s a Mustang GT. If you want to get to your destination as fast as possible, will you try to change gears more often, or less often? When you’re on the straightaway doing 100 mph in sixth gear, are you going to shift down to second?
Of course not!
But that’s what you do when you multitask. You needlessly shift gears, which results in getting to your destination slower not faster. Spend less time with your foot on the clutch if you want to spend more time with the pedal to the metal.
The negative effects of multitasking are well documented. You can read about it here, here, and here. The effectiveness of multitasking is a myth. How often have you worked on a lot of things throughout the day, but never actually finished anything?
Rejecting multitasking doesn’t mean you work only on one thing each day. It means you work on one thing at a time. Take one action or project all the way to completion, and then go on to the next one.
The sum of these changes is more focus on your work. Distraction devours our time. A little more focus throughout the day can add up to a lot of extra time at the end of the day. How could you productively use the 4:30-5:00 time slot?