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7 Ways To Guard Against Time Thieves

Monica Ricci



Randall “Memphis” Raines (Nic Cage) and his Gone In Sixty Seconds team of master auto thieves stole 50 high dollar driving machines in a single night. That’s what I call some serious time management. Can you just see yourself managing the same feat?

“Um, sure Memphis, I’ll go get that Ferrari right after I check Facebook, drop the kids at karate, write a blog post, and run by the dry cleaner.” With so many demands on us, we can sometimes find personal productivity as elusive as Bigfoot. If you struggle to manage your time and accomplish tasks, you might be your own worst time thief. Put an end to the thieving with these seven helpful tips that will shift your productivity into high gear.

Be a Good Guesser

We tend to overestimate how long a task takes if it’s something we don’t enjoy and we underestimate how long something we enjoy will take. Hence the old saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun!” Being realistic about how long things take means you reduce the risk of running late or leaving things unfinished.

Leave a Buffer

Another important tool in your time management toolbox is buffer time, especially when it comes to travel. Whether you’re driving across town or flying cross country, building in a bit of buffer time to allow for unexpected delays can be a lifesaver. Again, we tend to be optimistic when scheduling, but things such as traffic delays, accidents or stopping for gas can throw a monkey wrench into your plan. Estimate accurately how long a task or trip will take, then add just a smidgen more time to give yourself a cushion. Just in case.

Set Deadlines

If you’re like most people, you’re hyper-productive the week before vacation. You’re focused, on-task and you’re a productivity superhero because you’re working toward a hard deadline. Boost your everyday productivity by creating deadlines. The most effective deadlines are either reward-based (when I finish writing my blog post, I’ll take myself out for lunch) or involve reporting to another person. Let’s face it, you can set a deadline on your calendar and ignore it, however it’s difficult to weasel out of a scheduled meeting with someone because you missed the deadline. Ouch. Accountability is a great time management tool.

Eliminate Distractions

In the age of endless email and social media, ongoing distractions are perhaps the most troublesome challenge to personal productivity and time management. Distractions turn 20-minute tasks into all day affairs, so turn off wireless connectivity on your computer (or unplug your modem), turn off the tv, put your phone and text message alerts on silent, and leave the house or office if you must. If you absolutely need Internet connectivity while you work, use an app such as Anti-Social ($15 for PC or Mac) or LeechBlock (free add-on for Firefox) to temporarily block your access to social media sites and any other sites you add to the list. 

Establish Boundaries

Friends, coworkers, clients, even bosses can be time thieves if you let them. Establish boundaries on your time by only taking phone calls and checking emails when you have time to engage. Another way to set boundaries to protect your time is to set up a separate email account for personal correspondence so you don’t waste time on personal email during work hours. Finally, on phone calls and at the beginning of meetings, be sure everyone involved is aware of how much time is available to meet and when you need to be wrapping things up.

Avoid “Overfill”

Overkill is when you take something too far. However, overFILL is when you fill a finite amount of time with more obligations than you have time available. Parents are famous for trying to cram more into a day than they have hours for. Tempting as it may be, overfilling a day is a recipe for disaster and results in stress, rushing, careless mistakes and missed appointments. If you tend to overfill, make it a policy to never agree to anything unless you have your calendar in hand.

Use Your Assistant

Not everyone can have a human assistant on call, but you do have an assistant and I encourage you to use it. It’s your calendar. When you consistently block time in your calendar for tasks and appointments you create a physical manifestation of your boundaries, buffer time and deadlines and your calendar will show you when you’re getting dangerously close to committing overfill.

Monica Ricci founded Catalyst Organizing Solutions in 1998 and has been helping people change their lives ever since. She is the author of Organize Your Office In No Time and was named one of the nation’s “Organizing Elite” by Forbes Magazine. Monica is a Certified Professional Organizer and she sits on the committee that created her industry’s only professional certification program. She is also a winner of her industry’s highest honor, the National Association of Professional Organizers Founders Award. She appears frequently as an industry expert on both radio and television and is the former host of the radio show Organization Nation. Monica can often be seen on the HGTV show, MISSION: Organization.More from Manilla.com: