5 Counterintuitive Ways To Stop Wasting Time and Become More Productive

orologio_clock_alarm_icon-3333pxWhat do Steve Jobs, Al Mohler, and You have in common?
You each have the same amount of hours in the day.

We all do. Time is no respecter of persons. It keeps moving. And it doesn’t seem to slow down.

Maybe you’re reading this and you’re an extremely disciplined person.

Maybe you’re as productive as Al Mohler who is president of a seminary, writes books, produces a radio show, travels and speaks at conferences, and is dedicated to his family.

Maybe you crush it.

Or maybe you’re like I was. I was terrible at time management.

Yes we all have different capacities for different things, but we all have the same amount of time. Super productive people have the same amount of time as those who feel like they’re not able to get anything done.

You’ve heard it before: “If I only had more time, I would do this or that….”

We all share the same 24 hours.

Fundamentally it comes down to how we manage the time we’ve all been given; how we prioritize our given tasks and responsibilities.

With all the books and stuff out there on time management and productivity, it can seem like we’re all drowning in self-help tips and tricks and life-hacking advice. This post, however includes some counterintuitive ways to immediately stop wasting time and get more done.

5 Counterintuitive Ways To Stop Wasting Time and Become More Productive

1: Pray Until You Pray

As one who trusts in Christ, I quickly learn that when I don’t slow down, casting my cares on him every day, I eventually become extremely out of balance. As a result, I spin my wheels and just get down right cranky.

It’s a mysterious principle that by taking a deep breath, slowing down, and waiting on the Lord, you’ll actually be more fruitful and productive with your time.

Here’s a great quote:

I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.
— Martin Luther

Read it again.

It goes against every man-centered pragmatic bone in my body, but it’s the only way I’ll ever be effective over the long haul in a way that honors God.

The puritans put it this way: “Pray until you pray.”

Don’t rush through your time with the Lord, you’ll only shoot yourself in the foot and be less productive in the long run.

We need to warm up. We need to slow down and quiet our souls in order to hear and receive from the Lord. Begin by praying and asking God to simply quicken your heart, and give you real, life-giving, God inspired prayers.

It will transform your life, and you’ll get more done for His glory.

2: Take A Complete Day Off Once A Week.

This isn’t about being legalistic or trying to reinstate the Sabbath day. There is, however, a principle of resting from your work. It’s a principle that God honors every time. It’s been built into our world since day 6!

Seriously. Don’t do any work at all.

It may not be practical right now for you, but begin taking small steps in this direction.

If you get two days off from work, use one of those days to catch up on work around the house, or whatever other things need to get done. Then take the next day to simply decompress. Have fun with your family. Go be outside or take a trip somewhere.

This requires faith and following God. Ask for wisdom in how this looks for you, and discover the difference between what “work” and “rest” looks like.

Again, God will honor it.

3: Keep a Daily “5 Minute” Journal

I’ve been using the “5 Minute Journal” by these guys each morning and each evening. After I’ve spent time with the Lord in the morning, I take just a few minutes to think about the day, writing down what I’m thankful for, some things I think would make the day great, and a little self talk about how I believe God sees me.

At the end of the day, I simply look back, writing three things that were amazing about the day, and then two things that I could’ve done differently to make the day better.

Thinking positively as you approach the day, and then a simple review of your efforts, is a great way to clarify your direction.

4: Create Clear Boundaries With An “Ideal Week” Template

Thinking about an “ideal week” will help you have margin AND give you the ability to fully engage in your work. Go through each day, giving it a “theme” to help you focus on one big picture idea at a time. This is especially important if you wear a lot of hats in your work.

Here’s an example of what an ideal week can look like in a simple spreadsheet:

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 4.52.36 PM

Change it up for different seasons of your life. I usually review mine every 6 months and create a new one if needed.

Having clear boundaries will actually make you more efficient in your time. Parkinson’s law, (though obviously not a perfect “law”) is a great principle that says any given task will expand to fill the time given to it.

Do you have a project that’s due in 2 months? Unless you give yourself your own deadline (like say a few weeks), the project will take exactly 2 months to complete.

This is where procrastination comes from….

Procrastination is simply when a task didn’t have an internal deadline and expanded to fill the time all the way up to the end.

For more on Parkinson’s law, check this out.

5: Say “yes” more

I know this sounds crazy.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m a firm believer in guarding your time and saying “no” when it doesn’t align with your priorities.

The key is discovering what things you should say yes to. As these guys say, “yes” is a small word that opens the door to big things.

Another reason you should say yes more is for the sake of testing out Parkinson’s Law.

Try it. Look for something to say yes to, put it in your calendar, and make it a valuable learning experience. What worked? What didn’t work? Would you say yes again? Over time you’ll have learned how to optimize your efficiency and be more productive.

This is actually a much larger topic in my mind that I can’t give the attention it deserves in this blog post. More to come on this later….

Define Your “Why” and Take It One Day At A Time

Let’s wrap this up.

Ultimately, you need to ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. Having a clear purpose statement for your life, will help you know how to prioritize, make goals, and no exactly what to say yes or no to.

But even then, you need a simple plan with the things mentioned above.

Don’t forget…

You have the same 24 hours a day that Steve Jobs had.

So go make your dent in the universe….