How Not to Waste Your Day

Here are some excellent ways you can really make sure you don’t fulfill your potential.

Check your emails every 5 minutes regularly, but not often

What we do…

You know you want to.  You could get an important email from a friend, or a daily deals website, or a gadget store, or a fashion retailer, or a …., or a …….

What we should do…

Let’s face it, most of the time the emails you get during the day are a big distraction from the work you’re doing.  If you’ve set up your email program to check for emails every 5 minutes, chances are that you’ll get some sort of distracting email every 5 minutes to take your mind off the task in hand.  I know, it happens to me regularly.

If you only got those email once every hour how would that improve productivity?  You won’t know until you try and I would suggest you try. If you can’t stand and hour then try 45 minutes, 30 minutes.  But increasing the time is certainly going to improve your productivity.

But what if you regularly get important emails from clients and / or colleagues?  In this case you need to be even more organized.  Set up a free email account (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail etc.); a “ham” account. Use that email address whenever you register for some sort of newsletter, shop, forum etc.  That way you can save your “important” email address for those emails that you do have to check for every 5 minutes, while checking your “ham” account in the morning and at night.

If it’s already too late and you get too many irrelevant emails to your main account, reverse the roles.  set up a new account for important work emails and only check the old account twice a day.

Chances are that people reading this are like me and have a lot of email addresses to monitor.  Now I’m not sure whether the way I’m doing it is the best but I have recently set up a new email program on my computer to connect to the email accounts that don’t need to be checked often.  I only fire up this email program once a day so those email aren’t likely to distract me.

Don’t do tasks just because you’ve been asked to.

What we do…

Spend time on low priority tasks that other people want you to do rather than the tasks you need to do.  Make sure that whenever you get an email or phone call that has some sort of task on it that you need to complete, you put that straight to the top of your list and do it immediately.

What we should do…

Make lists.  Prioritise things into important and unimportant tasks.  If you look objectively at a task, you can assign it a priority and a due date.  And once you’ve done so, and added it to your list it’s out of the way, out of your mind, and you’re able to concentrate on your current top priority tasks.

But here’s a little tip that is made in the book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen.

Once you’ve ensured that your email habits are sensible you will only be checking emails at sensible intervals.  Each time you check emails factor in a few minutes to do the following.

If an email contains a task that will take you less than 2 minutes, do it straight away.  That way it’s out of your mind and shut away in the “done” pile.

If an email contains a task that will take longer than 2 minutes, write down the task, assign it a priority and/or due date and add it to your to-do list.

Just like completing a task, this allows you to free your mind from worrying about all the tasks that need to be done and concentrate on the one you’re doing.

I must confess to being slightly obsessed with to-do lists and project planners.  I’ve tried a lot of them and the ones that have stayed with me and I still use regularly are:


This works on the “Getting Thinks Done” principles and really does give you a superb handle on what needs to be done at a given time.


Great for planning projects, especially if you need to add images, checklists and attachments to your tasks.


Not so much a to-do list, but great for saving and storing things that need to be done.


Don’t go on Facebook, Twitter, read the news, etc.

What we do…

I’ll just check my…. account.  It could be that some client or customer had contacted me via Twitter or my Facebook page.  Oh, no contacts, but while I’m here I’ll just check up on what’s happening.  And just quickly get my daily bonuses on […insert Facebook game..].  And just… And just…

What we should do…

I’m not sure about this one. I confess to not being cured of this myself and I don’t really know how to ensure I don’t spend too long on Facebook or reading the news.  Personally I have stopped playing any Facebook games.  But I can’t say I am immune to reading more news than I really need to.  If anyone has any suggestions, please comment.

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