This post was written by Alex Guevara (remember him?), the Director of Brand and Experience at Design Pickle. Alex formerly served as the Head of Customer Success and Director of Training before moving into his current role. Alex was a teacher before joining the Design Pickle team 3 years ago. He currently resides in Phoenix, AZ.
Time vampires haunt us all, whether we realize it or not.
Time vampires seep into our daily tasks (mostly unnoticed) and suck away our time. You’ve likely had several time vampires sneak in and eat your time this week alone.
Let me know if this sounds familiar:
You begin your day and have everything you need to work on all planned out. You’re excited for the day and to complete your tasks, but before you can get half of your tasks completed you realize it’s already 5 pm.
That’s the work of a time vampire. Devious little things, aren’t they?
Time vampires can be disguised in many different ways:
- Distracting tabs that you keep open even though they have nothing to do with your daily tasks
- Catching a case of Shiny Object Syndrome
- Spending your time learning a new software that doesn’t serve your unique skill set
- Google searches that go nowhere
- Spending time on a task that you aren’t that great at or not very fast at doing it
And so many more. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
The worst part about being attacked by a time vampire is that they keep you at your office longer than you intended to be there. This ends up cutting into your family time, exercise schedule, and sleep which in turn leaves you even more unprepared for the next day of work.
Over time, these time vampires can leave you feeling burned out, overwhelmed, stressed out, and lonely.
Those feelings could lead to serious health implications and can also lay the foundation for destroying your business.
You can either be a victim, or you can slay your time vampires like Van Helsing.
Here are 9 tips and tools you should keep in your arsenal to fend off your time vampires when you realize they’re creeping in:
1. Productivity Software
Computers and the internet are great. So many possibilities, and so many more distractions. How can you concentrate when almost ANYTHING you want is easily accessible with just a few clicks?
There are tons of great apps and services out there designed to help you stay focused and on task.
At Design Pickle, we love Kyber as a simple task management tool. It’s slightly more complicated than a to-do list but has some great features. It integrates seamlessly into Slack. When I have a task I need to do, I simply assign it to myself. I can also assign tasks to others. Simply check off the tasks when you’re done.
We’ve heard great things about Rescue Time. If you simply can’t trust yourself to not constantly check Deadspin (guilty), Rescue Time is a simple chrome extension that can literally block you from visiting certain websites during the work day, or alert you when you’ve spent too much time on a certain website.
Many of us use Unroll.me, an inbox manager. It sorts your subscribed emails and gets rid of clutter. It can even put all your emails into a digest so you can read certain emails all at once instead of feverishly checking every email as it comes in. I love The Hustle, but I can’t hustle if I’m reading it when I should be working.
2. Keep a timer handy
My good friend and coworker Jim Pedicone and I both have some pretty serious ADD.
When we get together for a scheduled meeting, it can often turn into a chat about gold prospecting or hardcore punk music (Black Flag vs Bad Brains?).
I came up with a hack that works for both of us.
Before the meeting begins, we state the actual purpose (Pick a web developer). I then set the timer to go off at specific timed intervals (usually 10 minutes), and then start the meeting. During the meeting, whenever the timer goes off, I check to see if we are discussing what we are SUPPOSED to discuss.
If what we are doing isn’t contributing to the agreed upon goal, we stop, reset, and get back to the task at hand. Guess what happens? We pick the developer, on time or even early. What does that let us do? Spend the rest of the meeting debating the best pizza in Phoenix (editor’s note: which can’t even compare to pizza in Ohio).
There are many things our team is good at. Conversely, there are many things we are not good at OR are just too damn time-consuming. Because of this, we outsource or delegate many tasks we either don’t have time for or are just not good at.
For example, all of our finance/accounting needs are handled by the amazing Kristie and her team at AccoutingProse. We don’t ever worry about paying vendors on time or making sure new employees are on the payroll. They do it for us.
Back in the day, our “video production team”, was Russ, an iPhone, a tripod, and iMovie. Not only did video production take a TON of time, it just wasn’t that good. That’s why we hired Janett and Colton, two amazing Video Producers who know what they are doing, are efficient, and are super creative. Peep our YouTube!
Here at Design Pickle, our sole focus is helping folks slay the graphic design time vampire, Count Graphula. Count Graphula whispers sweet nothings into your ear, saying “You can do your own graphic design. It won’t take that much time away from your family or sleep. You’ll still be able to accomplish all the other tasks you planned to work on today…ahahahah”
So many entrepreneurs and marketing teams out either spend way too much time on graphic design or just plain suck at it. Let someone else do it! Hire us, hire a freelance or an in-house graphic designer. Remove yourself from the process. If you’re a natural salesperson, SELL! Don’t squander that gift on graphic design.
4. No multitasking
It just doesn’t work, period.
Multi-tasking may be the most dangerous time vampire out there. Why on Earth would you want to do 5 things poorly at once? Kill the multiple tabs, close your office door once in a while, and for heaven’s sake, don’t eat and work.
5. Anti-Social Media
Social Media is a unique time vampire. Half the time, it helps you connect, gets you new clients, and keeps you up to date. The other half of the time, it distracts you, frustrates you, and possibly turns you into a gratification junkie.
There is a TIME AND A PLACE for social media. Engage wisely. Personally, I turn off Social Media notifications on my phone, It really has helped eliminate my Pavlovian response to check my phone anytime someone leaves a comment.
6. Clean your desk/office
If that U-Line catalog from 2 months back is still on your desk, or if you constantly have to pick things up to find something missing, you’ve been bitten by a time vampire. Keeping your desk/office not only makes your mom proud, it allows you to think more clearly and be more efficient.
7. Fuel UP
If you’re dehydrated or hungry, your body and mind aren’t going to perform at their best.
Not only will being hungry or thirsty cause you to be slow and sluggish, your body will be focused on finding food, not on the work at hand. Eat and drink at regular intervals, and go easy on the caffeine. Personally, I have recurring reminders in my calendar to eat.
8. Visit the Parking Lot
I don’t mean the actual parking lot of your office.
When I was a teacher, my students would often ask me questions or have concerns that while important and interesting, were ultimately not related to the task at hand. They were very distracting and often caused me to go on tangents when I was a rookie teacher (I realize they probably did this on purpose). I learned about the parking lot from a veteran teacher.
When I was asked something that wasn’t on topic, I had that student write it down on a piece of paper called “the parking lot”, and then went back to the lesson. At a designated time, I would visit the parking lot, and address the questions/concerns when it was more appropriate. This helped me stay on task but also helped me remember to revisit these important concerns.
I do the same thing now. Instead of going down a research rabbit hole, or derailing an important conversation, I use the parking lot to keep me on topic and on time.
9. Treat YO SELF
If you’re not feeling good either physically or mentally, you won’t be efficient. Take care of yourself. Eating right, sleep, and exercise are all important to keep the time vampires at bay. In addition, take your vacation time, make sure to do something that makes YOU happy. Remember, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Ultimately, in order to kill your time vampires, the first thing you must do is to recognize that there ARE time vampires and that most likely you have been a victim of one. Knowing is half the battle. Luckily, unlike in an Anne Rice novel, you can bounce back from a time vampire bite, and be even stronger than before. No garlic or wooden stakes necessary.