Where Does All the Time Go? 

Have you ever wondered how it got to be 6:00 pm, and you’ve accomplished only one task on today’s lengthy to-do list? Does that happen to you more times than you would like? The answer to this mystery may lie in identifying what exactly you did all day that tore your attention away from your intended tasks.

In any given work day, there are many distractions that rob you of your time. These time robbers fall into two categories: external (situations, caused by other people, you can’t control) and internal (your own habits and tendencies you can control).

External Time Robbers: These are the things bombarding you daily that you can’t control or predict. Here is a sample:

  • Incomplete information – You receive an email and something important (a client’s date of birth or passport information) is missing. Writers have blind spots when it comes to their own writing. They know what they mean to say and assume the reader gets it. And that is what happened here. So now you must drop what you’re doing and spend time chasing down that missing information.
  • The flood of emails – You have dozens of new emails every day, and the list keeps growing longer. And because there is no organization, you spend hours searching for important emails you can’t seem to find.
  • Poor communication – This simply can be a lack of proper listening on some else’s behalf. Or maybe he or she failed to ask the proper questions. In either case, you and another person are not on the same page, and you must spend time clarifying the miscommunication.
  • Social media – The tendency to be on social media sites night and day is fast becoming a global phenomenon. You have set up your devices to notify you when new posts come in, so your phone is constantly chirping at you. This draws your attention away from the task at hand. And, before you know it, you’ve spent 30, 45, even 60 minutes on Facebook to see what your friends have posted.

Social media is quickly becoming an addiction. It is a behavior, and that’s why it also appears on the Internal Time Robber list.

Internal Time Robbers: What are the time wasters that are within your control? Here are a few:

  • Social media – It is difficult to resist the temptation to look at your social media sites, even — or especially — when you know the notification has nothing to do with work. How often do you have your phone next to you on your desk at work so you can keep a watchful eye on it? Do you regularly check Facebook or Twitter first thing in the morning, before you even get out of bed? How many times are you unable to resist looking at a post when you hear a chirp? These are behaviors you can change.
  • Willingness to do too much – It’s just human nature. You have too much on your plate. Travel is a service profession, so you like to solve people’s problems, and you may find it difficult to say no or to delegate the task to someone else.
  • Poor planning – Sometimes you don’t recognize just how long something actually takes. There is a common tendency to overschedule our days with tasks and to underestimate the time it takes to do them.
  • Personal disorganization – If your desk and your life are in a constant state of chaos, or your entire workday consists of putting out fires, it might be time to do some decluttering and reorganizing.
  • Procrastination – This often happens when you are faced with a task that you are dreading or that seems monumentally big. It is easy to keep putting those things off until they become the crisis du jour, and you can procrastinate no longer.
  • Poor communication – Perhaps you are not a confident writer, and you spend a lot of time worrying over every misplaced comma. You simply might need to sharpen your communication and writing skills.
  • Lack of knowledge – You may realize you are spending a disproportionate amount of time researching destinations and wonder whether you should brush up on your itinerary planning skills.

As with any change in behavior or lifestyle, you don’t have to be a hero and try to do it all at once. It’s important to take things one step at a time. Each change will become second nature, and every success will lead seamlessly to the next.

Today’s Hot Tip Tuesday was based on the Time Management module of The Travel Institute’s Certified Travel Associate (CTA) program.