On dealing with time-sinks

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“There are some activities that tend to swallow big chunks of your precious time if you let them. I call them time-sinks.”

“Haven’t you eliminated non-essentials?”

“I have. But it’s a matter of proportion. Or, to use a different model, opportunity cost. The more time you give an activity, the less time you have for others.

Time-sinks come in two flavors, big and small.
Either one big time-block – activities that are hard to disengage from.
Or multiple small time-blocks – activities that stealthily compound.”

“What strategies do you use for dealing with them?”

“One strategy is setting limits.

Always have an exit strategy.

It can be a limit per session. ‘I’m going to read for half an hour, then take a break.
It can be a limit per day. ‘I’m going to check social media for no more than 10 minutes per day.‘”

“So you track your time?”

“Yes. Not for all activities. Only for certain time-sinks.

The idea is to identify failure-points and give them special attention.

Another strategy is setting focus.

Let’s say you want to read for x minutes. 
If you focus on finishing the chapter (outcome), and the chapter takes longer than x minutes, you will likely exceed the allocated time.
If you focus on reading for x minutes (process), you’re much more likely to succeed.

So the key is to focus on the process not the outcome.

Another strategy is setting intention.

This is a kind of priming.

If you don’t set the intention, you’ll default to your habitual patterns. Depending on the habits you’ve formed, it can work for or against you.

Make it a habit to set the intention right before engaging in an activity.

You’re essentially setting up a life-algorithm.”

“Can you give an example?”

“For instance:

Set a timer to 25 minutes.
Focus on the process not the outcome. (Priming; Practice: Selective-Focus)
Ignore ALL distractions. (Priming; Practice: Deep-Focus)
Stop / Interrupt yourself after 25 minutes. (Priming; Practice: Discipline)”



About Dani Trusca

Playfully seeking wisdom

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