Have you ever experienced wasting your time without realizing it? You started working on something, but in the midst of it you were distracted by something else. The next time you checked the watch, one hour had passed and nothing got done. Or, perhaps, you didn’t even touch the thing you were supposed to do in the first place. Instead, you were just “busy” with something else.
I call such time “black time” and it is an enemy of productivity. You may try to save time by doing only a few things and do them efficiently, but once you are caught by black time you will lose your entire time surplus and may even fall into time deficit. That’s why it’s important to eliminate black time if you want to be productive.
In this Internet age, one important cause of black time is unplanned browsing. I experienced it a few days ago while researching for the post Brain Workout: 10 Free Mind Games to Exercise Your Brain. When I was researching resources for chess, I wanted to check the current world ranking. There I found some interesting players whose profiles I then checked on Wikipedia. Many articles later I realized that 2 hours had passed! Similar thing could happen with instant messaging, playing game, watching TV, and many other activities.
So how can we eliminate black time? I haven’t eliminated mine yet, but I’m minimizing it and I hope I will reach the point where I can completely eliminate black time. From what I learn, here are some tips to minimize and eliminate black time:
1. List your potential black-time activities
Different persons have different set of activities that can cause black time. For me, unplanned browsing is one such activity. So list yours. By making a list of potential black-time activities, it will be easier for you to recognize them.
2. Set a to-do list of the day
While you might have a longer list of things you want to do, choose only some of them to be done today. This list is useful because it helps you identify whether or not a certain moment is black time (see #3).
3. Recognize black time
The next step is to identify black time. Your list in #1 should be helpful here. Since you already wrote down your potential black-time activities, you will be more aware of their presence. Your to-do list (#2) is also useful. If what you are doing is not in your to-do list, there’s a good chance that it’s black time. Of course, there are exceptions. For instance, taking necessary rest or doing something unplanned due to emergency is not black time.
There is one easy way to help you recognize black time. Just ask yourself: “Is it black time?” In most cases, you can easily answer this question with yes or no.
4. Get out of the black time
Once you identify that you are in black time, you should take action to get out of it. Here is a suggestion on how to do that:
- Stop what you are doing
- Take a deep breath for a few moments. Doing this helps you shift your focus away from the black-time activity.
- Check your to-do list
- Pick one thing to do
- Start doing it
This way you quickly replace the black-time activity with a useful one.
It’s is not easy to eliminate black time, but you can start minimizing it. Do you have tips to minimize black time? I would love to hear them.
Photo by cell105