By Jennifer Tuma-Young, author of Balance Your Life, Balance the Scale
We’ve all had days that were perfectly planned out but, for some reason, nothing—I mean nothing—on our to-do lists gets done. If you’re finding that every day is feeling like it’s getting sucked away by unplanned tasks, you’re probably getting stuck in a time vacuum. Eliminating time vacuums will free up space for healthier habits, such as dance class, trips to Curves, nature hikes, home cooking, healthy baking, or even at-home spa treatments. It will also lower the levels of stress hormones in your body.
Here are some other common time vacuums. Are they sucking away your time?
1. E-mail: E-mail is one of the worst time vacuums ever. Items just keep popping up in your inbox, demanding immediate attention. But you can take control by putting a few rules into place.
• Create a folder system within your inbox for messages awaiting a reply. Prioritize the categories and calculate a reasonable response time.
• Create standard replies to inform senders that they may be waiting to hear from you and include the expected wait time.
• Delegate items when appropriate and delete junk or unsolicited nonessential items immediately. Don’t waste time by checking out the latest dancing cat video, no matter how hilarious your friend promises it to be.
• If you’re using e-mail for personal messages or fun, you may want to designate a time of day for e-mails.
• If you’re anxiously awaiting something, you can use your phone to create an e-mail alert system so you don’t always have to log in to the computer to find out if you’ve received the anticipated message.
2. Surfing the web: The Internet has revolutionized the way we do business, find information, connect with friends, share pictures, and even shop. But sometimes you get so sucked in, you can’t get out. To avoid wasting time on the web, view the Internet as you would any other browsing activity. You wouldn’t waste the day strolling around the mall when you are supposed to be at work. The same goes with the Internet.
If staying off-line is particularly difficult for you, log on only during specific browsing times. Set a time limit and use an alarm to remind you when your time is up.
3. Talking on the phone: Who doesn’t love a good girlfriend heart-to-heart? I know I do! But if you have a lot of friends and they call you often, those calls can suck up hours a day. I know—I’ve filled many days with long phone calls. But if the phone is interfering with your fulfillment, or your chatter is on a negative path, perhaps it’s time to hang up.
Learn more about creating balance in your life in Jennifer Tuma-Young’s book, Balance Your Life, Balance the Scale.