I’ve always hated the saying, “There aren’t enough hours in the day.” Why? Because it’s bullshit. There are 24 of them, in fact. If you don’t have enough time to plow through your to-do list every day, you’re not managing your time. Don’t blame the clock—blame yourself.
You can get an insane amount of work done in 24 hours. A few years back we built a mile-long stone staircase in 24 hours on the farm—with the help of some Death Racers. Some of the stones were the size of Volkswagens.
I like to say there are no excuses, just choices. You choose to get up late, you choose to waste time, you choose to sit in traffic. Make better choices and you will get more done. The result will have profoundly positive effects on your life for long after your projects are completed.
If you aren’t hitting your daily goals (and then some), you’re doing something wrong. Here are five common reasons you’re not getting shit done—and how to put time back on your side.
Productivity Suck #1: You Use Your Phone as a Crutch
When your work gets hard, what do you do? Focus harder on the task at hand?
Get doubly stoked about solving the problem?
Unfortunately, when most of us hit a wall, we pick up our phones. Instead of accepting the mental challenge, we choose to distract ourselves with email or Instagram.
A 2017 University of London study concluded that actively checking your phone decreases productivity both at work and at home. In fact, the researchers found that interruptions as brief as 2.8 seconds are enough to disrupt your concentration and cause you to make errors.
And previous studies have found that, after checking email, it takes as long as 20 minutes to regain your concentration.
Mindlessly scrolling through social media and envying other shiny, happy people is time you could be using to lay the groundwork for your own success and happiness.
Put time on your side: Check email no more than once a hour. Delete the apps that are your biggest time-wasters. (So long, Candy Crush!) Set time limits for yourself and stick to them. Make sure those allotted times don’t interfere with work or time at home with your kids. You know—the things that matter.
Productivity Suck #2: You Wake Up Late
If your work day starts at 9 a.m. and you’re waking up at, say, 8 a.m., you’re already so far behind. Sure, it might be enough time to get through your morning routine, but you’ve let hours slip away that could have been spent on important stuff.
The most successful people attack the day at the crack of dawn. They understand that when you get up with the sun, you aren’t missing a single moment or opportunity.
I’m a fan of physically challenging myself early in the morning. It gets my body and mind primed for work. If you go to bed at a reasonable time and get your necessary hours of sleep, why the hell would you need more zzz’s when you can do some burpees instead?
Put time on your side: Whatever you want to accomplish, write it down, mark it on a calendar, and tell everyone you know. Then set your alarm two hours earlier than you normally would—put the clock across the room, so you have to get up to shut it off. Start your day with a short workout and then get to work.
Productivity Suck #3: You Binge-Watch Netflix on the Weekends
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the leisure activity that takes up the most amount of time is watching television, with the average person spending 2.8 hours per day planted in front of their screens. That’s 84 hours per month. What a waste!
I don’t know where the idea of weekend laziness came into play, but let’s put that idea to bed. Your weekends should be spent bettering yourself, setting goals, and getting after it every minute of the day.
Maybe you want to get ahead in your career. You have dreams of raises and promotions and big ideas. Now imagine that while you’re watching hours of streaming television, your coworkers are strategizing, networking, and learning. That’s scarier than any plot twist on new a TV show.
Put time on your side: It’s easy—turn off the TV and get off the couch. Work on a project, learn something new, spend quality time with your family … in other words, do things that matter. Don’t overcomplicate it. Put down the remote, stand up, and you’ll figure it out.
Productivity Suck #4: You Put Perfection Over Progress
Shit happens. The things you want to accomplish in this life aren’t going to happen effortlessly. There will be small hiccups and major roadblocks along the way.
If you let yourself get hung up on perfectionism and get discouraged by failure, you’re never going to accomplish anything. Even worse, you’re going to miss important lessons that will ultimately help you grow.
Alina Tugend, who wrote a book called Better By Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong, put it succinctly: “If we try hard to avoid mistakes, we aren’t open to getting the information we need in order to do better.”
Put time on your side: You’re going to screw up—at home, at work, at school, and in relationships. That’s a given. But what’s important is to acknowledge your failures and move on. What matters is that you learn from it, make changes for the better, and continue down the road all the wiser.
Productivity Suck #5: You Make Excuses
I don’t care if you’re tired or sick, or if you worked extra hard yesterday. I don’t care if you’re poor, struggling, or have baggage. There are a million excuses that can be roadblocks to success—but only if you let them.
Everybody has a story. Some of these stories are nightmares. But your past shouldn’t be the thing that holds you back—it should be the thing that pushes you forward. I dealt with my parents divorce at a young age and the financial troubles that followed. But I’ve never used it as an excuse. If anything, it forced me to do more—to be better—so that my kids don’t have to go through a similar experience.
Put time on your side: Cold outside? Great, that makes your morning run more challenging. Tired? Listen to a song that pumps you up. Thinking about having a lazy day? For Spartans, there’s no such thing. Once you start making excuses, you’ll find ways to keep making them. When your motivation is flagging, don’t underestimate the power of taking one small step. It’s highly likely you’ll take another.