Lost in Transition

May 22, 2015
Joe Buhlig
~2 mins

I read a lot of articles about time management and how to “reclaim an hour a day!” Most of those seem unrealistic. But in an attempt to find more time I discovered a single area that needed a lot of improvement.

Transitions can be time suckers

Focus is a struggle for me. When I have “free time” between tasks, it’s easy for me to fill it by checking Twitter or Instagram. I like to “just check” too much.

I decided to only check them 3 times a day. It’s a lot like scheduling times for email. I quickly found myself wondering what to do. If I wasn’t checking my phone, what could I do?

I was shocked when I realized this. I’ve never admitted to being “addicted” to my phone, but I couldn’t avoid the label if I was lost without it.

The volume of time that I had been wasting between things disturbed me. Every time I moved from one place to another or one task to another, I was checking my phone. And it wasn’t just a few seconds being lost, either.

I started using that time to think through things at work or plan ideas for the blog. I would use it to review a few projects in OmniFocus or do a quick brain dump. Those transition times became moments when I could do something meaningful.

Where to look

The time between tasks isn’t the only time to reclaim. When I started looking, I found a number of transitions stealing time from me:

1. Between tasks

When you complete a task, how long does it take to make the decision to start the next one?

2. Between contexts

When you decide to change your environment do you notice right away and start working on the next list or do you take your time switching?

3. Between projects

When you complete a project it’s good to take a break, but not too long of a break. It’s easy to delay starting the next thing.

4. Making decisions

Sometimes it’s good to take your time deciding. In most cases, though, you need to trust your intuition and just make up your mind.

5. Waiting periods

Anytime you find yourself waiting on someone or something, can you do a quick task? It’s good to stop and smell the roses, but if you’re looking for time this is an easy place to find it.

What to do about it

Getting Things Done is easily one of the best ways to handle this. The framework helps you make decisions up front so that you can quickly move to the next task, context, or project.

When making decisions, trust yourself. You usually have a gut feeling when you have to decide something. Start following that gut feeling and let it learn with you. You’ll start to make good decisions faster.

When waiting for things, decide up front if you’re going to do something or enjoy the moment. If you decide to stop for the moment, great! But don’t always reach for your phone. If you’re going to do something, use your task management system to help you make that decision faster.

And start looking for these times. It’s interesting how many transitions we go through in a single day. Cutting the time between things can give you a greater sense of accomplishment and help you find that magical hour a day you’ve been searching for.