There’s some smart and simple advice from productivity writer Grace Marshall: get a stopwatch. Well, if you have a phone, you have a stopwatch, but get it and use it. Time what you do.
Time your distractions
Next time you tell yourself you’re just going to have 5 minutes on Facebook – set a stop watch and see how long you actually spend. It may only take 5 minutes to post your update, but if you start scrolling, clicking and exploring links, how long is that actually taking?
Test those two minute jobs
We all have things we perpetually underestimate. What are yours? For me it’s the bitty jobs. The things I think will only take two minutes (e.g. email file) but actually take anything from 5 minutes (connect to server, wait, find file, type email, press send) to 15 (oh wait, that’s the wrong format, fix that, change the date, add that other bit of information, save it to PDF, check it looks alright, now type the email and send it…) Next time you tackle your simple, mundane or bitty jobs, use a stopwatch and see what you discover.
I think by excerpting this bit I make it sound like a time and motion study but in her full piece, Marshall is relaxed and persuasive about how it’s a small thing that helps a lot.