Three simple steps to escape time sinks

Do you suffer from BSOS (Bright Shiny Object Syndrome)—that disease of distraction derailing your intention to do something important?

Many people have BSOS. I do, and I find that those innocent little distractions tend to keep me longer than I ever wanted to stay.

Welcome to the world of time sinks.

Three simple steps to escape time sinks

Once I get over being angry with myself for—once again (argh)—succumbing to a lesser “Yes,” I usually can get on with the task at hand… albeit with far less time than I had planned. Those little distractions gobble up my time like a swarm of piranha on a fresh carcass of flesh.

Someone cleverly said, “Things always take longer than they do.” I’ll bet he was a BSOS sufferer, too.

There’s good news for those of us with BSOS, though. Escaping time sinks is not as hard as it seems. I found three simple steps to be quite effective:

  1. Identify the time sinks. For me, this is easy: TV, Internet news sites, and email. Television is my go-to relaxation activity, especially when I’m exhausted. Unfortunately, it’s a passive distraction. It never ends nor does it turn itself off. Internet news sites are only slightly better in that I have to actually take an action to stay longer than I want. But, I admit, I can fall prey to the “click bait” of the news feed as much as anyone. Email, of course, is the granddaddy. It never ends, yet always rewards me with new messages even as I race to achieve an empty in-box.
  2. Predetermine your budget. Don’t say “No” to your distractions. Determine “When,” instead. For each of your major distractions, decide how much is enough by setting a time-budget. Establishing “precommitments” before the distraction occurs locks you into “a virtuous path,” as noted willpower researcher Roy Baumeister describes it.
  3. Set a timer. Most of us carry the most important productivity tool with us everywhere we go: our smartphones. Yet, how often do we make use of its timer? I love my Apple Watch for this. With one tap, I can set a timer for each of these indulgence activities.

While these steps are simple, it’s important to apply them only to your most critical time sinks. Watch TV, but decide when and for how long. Read the news feed, but only when planned and cut it short when your budget timer buzzes. Handle email, but decide when is enough. Your time sinks may be different than mine. But this can work equally well for meetings, phone calls, or wherever else you stay longer than you want. Watch what happens, for instance, when you ask a meeting organizer if the meeting objective could be accomplished in half the time.

I’ve found it’s better to manage my BSOS rather than fight it. Determining “When” is far easier than saying “No.” I’d rather spend a small, but fixed amount of time on a distraction indulgence than lose the war against distraction entirely.

Comment below: What strategies do you use to overcome BSOS?

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