The 7 Deadly Time Thieves™ are:
Just like the 7 Deadly Sins, any one of these allowed to run rampant will make you miserable and eventually kill you … or at least your happiness and productivity.
And to make matters worse, it is easy to dismiss their impact, tell yourself one of your 200 Lies or become so beaten up that you just accept their presence in your life and start thinking that their effect on your productivity is your new normal.
Do not confuse their impact with the idea of just working out with ankle weights as if the extra resistance they demand is going to make you stronger. That would be a mistake.
Fighting their presence while trying to get things done is not going to make you stronger—it’s going to zap your energy and exhaust you.
So if you’re not supposed to get used to them and just adapt, what are you supposed to do to tame them?
INDIVIDUALLY THEY’RE ASSASSINS
I’ve linked to each individual Time Thief above where you can read in-depth strategies to beat these crooks on their own.
They are all killers, and when two or more are running at the same time, your misery increases geometrically until your day grinds to a halt.
You’re practically guaranteed to suffer AND not get done what you want.
Like other pests, each one attacks a particular vulnerability. And when they work together, they are an army that will have you running in several directions at once, bouncing around like an unconscious puppet, not even aware of the bigger damage that is happening.
The biggest toll they take is on your ability to stay present and aware, to pay attention and remain proactive.
They win when you put your head down and tell another of your 200 Lies that you’ll just plow through now to get something done and then when things are quieter, you’ll take a more active, direct approach to stop them.
Remember the guy with the “Jar of Life” and the bowl of rocks, pebbles and sand?
Put the sand in first, you’ll never get all the pebbles and rocks in.
You’ve got the put the rocks in and pour the pebbles and sand around them.
Which does NOT give you permission to procrastinate—it just demands that you prioritize.
ARE YOU A SNIPER OR A TANK?
Whether you bring your attention to each Time Thief and try to take them out individually or try to blow them all up at one time depends on how you like to tackle challenges.
Neither approach is inherently better—I’ve seen people be effective both ways.
Figure out for yourself how you like to solve problems and then start to work on these.
The only thing to be aware of is that if you attack each one separately, the others may start to pick up some momentum before things ultimately quiet down.
Just like when dealing with physical clutter, it will get bigger before it gets better.
Forewarned is forearmed.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Ignoring the 7 Deadlies or minimizing their individual and collective impact on your productivity and happiness is a common mistake.
Accepting an overflowing email inbox and useless meetings hurts you and everyone you interact with.
People-pleasing only delays the inevitable and the people whose feelings you hoped to control will probably be more pissed off when you drop a ball than they would have been had you just said no in the first place.
And even if THEY are not pissed off, you probably will be as you foster another resentment and/or beat up on yourself for biting off not only more than you can chew but something that didn’t taste that good to begin with.
Vague planning is a waste of time, pure and simple. It’s like trying to read a map with your eyes blurred or without your glasses—you might figure out that you should be heading north but beyond the direction, doesn’t the route actually have more impact on how quickly and directly you get there?
Regardless of your ability to perform magic tricks or circus stunts, trying to juggle two or more tasks simultaneously will only mean that none of them are done as quickly and as thoroughly as they could be.
And not resisting and trying to reshape a culture that allows constant interruptions just validates any story you have about your lack of control over your time and attention—most likely one more of your 200 Lies.
You don’t have to be a saint or a super warrior, despite all the battle language above, to get control over your time and turbo-charge your productivity.
You just need to be aware, deliberate, and most of all, consistent.
If after reading this, you want an extra hour in your week, check out this FREE workbook. Within one week, I can guarantee you AT LEAST an extra hour every week for the rest of your life. Not a bad promise and really, what do you have to lose? Some confusion and exhaustion, probably. And you know exactly what you have to gain—more time. Check it out here.
One of the pioneers of professional organizing and productivity, Andrew Mellen is the best-selling author of Unstuff Your Life!. He travels the world speaking, teaching, and coaching individuals and global brands including the New York Mets, Genentech, American Express, Time, Inc. and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.