Time Thieves sounds like a sinister bunch. A group of shadowy figures moving through time and space. Stealing seconds here. Minutes there. Hoarding time away in a distant outpost. Now, I’m not referring to the Dean Koontz book, or pitching a sequel idea to Inception. And this is also not to be confused with the movie Time Bandits (they’re awesome). Time Thieves exist in many forms. They are those intangible things in life that suck up a lot of our time and energy with nothing to show for it. What are the Time Thieves? Email, Facebook, and office meetings all fit the bill. They eat up a good chunk of our days and lives, while adding very little value in the process.
Time is a precious commodity. Once you start viewing your time as such you will start to realize that it needs to be heavily guarded in a castle, surrounded by a moat, filled with fire-breathing dragons, tucked away in a tower surrounded by the greatest snipers in history, kept in a force field vault (I realize I’m mixing genres, but whatever, it’s my blog), triple locked in a chastity belt, which is guarded by the smoke monster from LOST. You need that level of protection from Time Thieves.
Email has gotten out of hand. I blame Microsoft Outlook for creating a cultural Pavlovian response to email – which has since carried over to the text alert sound on our phones. Bing! Time to check email. Bing! Oooohh, I’m sure this is super important. Nope, it’s not. Bing! I’ll just check it for a second. Bing! I realize that I’m in the middle of something right now and I’m really churning out some good stuff, but you know what, I’ll just drop all of that and find out what Bob from accounting wants. Oh, it’s nothing? Shocker. He’s just asking if I know where we keep the extra rolls of toilet paper. Thanks for including me in facilitating your most important of paper work. That’s an action item we can all get behind.
Now that you’ve had a break in your concentration, how long will it take for you to get back to that highly productive place you were just in? Fifteen minutes? Thirty minutes? An hour? More time lost due to a frivolous interruption. If you view emails as requests for your time (which is what they are), you will drastically cut down on the frequency that you check it.
My least favorite of the social media platforms. I’m not on Facebook because it never appealed to me for the first 10 years it was around, and now that I’ve come this far I figure why bother. But my biggest turnoff to Facebook is the over-sharing that comes with it. If you share every single moment of your life with Facebook, what will we talk about when I see you in person? How many of those “friends” are actually your friends? Facebook is probably the worse of the Time Thieves. You can easily lose a day by constantly checking your news feed to see what your friends and family are, or not, doing with their lives. Do you really want to see what your friends had for lunch? Do you really need to read another inspirational quote layered over top of a sunset photo? Or, the friend who posts a new cell phone selfie every morning. Seriously? These are the people you associate with? Stop checking Facebook and see/talk to your real friends and family in the real world.
Of the other social media my favorite would be Twitter because it’s smart and concise. If you can’t say something in 140 characters or less, it’s probably not worth saying or you’re not creative enough. But don’t get me wrong, you can waste just as much time on Twitter (or any other social media) without even trying.
My experience with office meetings is that the vast majority of them were a waste of time (luckily I don’t have to deal with that anymore). But yet they still keep going on like a perpetual ferris wheel of despair. Meetings are necessary on a periodic basis but weekly, or even daily meetings are insane. If you’re having daily meetings, you need to have your head examined (or maybe you’ve already had a lobotomy and this is why you schedule meetings on a daily basis).
Combating Time Thieves
So what do you do? If you work in an environment like the one mentioned above, make an investment in yourself and buy two copies of Rework. Keep one for yourself to read, and give one to your boss. If your boss doesn’t realize that their one-hour meeting with 10 people isn’t a loss of an hour, but in fact 10 hours (1 hour x 10 people = 10 hours of lost productivity), then you can’t help them and they are doomed to float out their existence on a ghost ship of meetings. Either get out of there as soon as you can, or you’ll go down with the ship.
If you have a Facebook account, unfortunately you can never delete it. Sorry. The best you can do is deactivate it. If that’s not an option, you can hide all of the toxic people on your feed (and limit it to the ones that really matter) and then set a 10 to 15-minute timer and limit yourself to that amount of brain soup per day. That’s really all the time you need each day to get caught up.
As for email, take a page out of the Tim Ferriss playbook and start by cutting back on checking it to 2-3 times per day at designated times (like 10 am and 2 pm), and see how much of an impact it has on your life (for the positive).