5 time wasters that are actually highly productive

I’ve been running a lot of Stress Less, Achieve More workshops lately, and one of the lightbulb moments we often have, is that what feels productive isn’t always the case, and what feels like time wasting, can actually be highly productive.

Here are five examples:

1. Thinking time – As one delegate put it recently: “I always feel like I’m wasting time when I stop and think. I feel like I should just get on with it.” But thinking is where we define the work, decide the what, when, why and how of work, and often makes the difference between us doing the work and the work doing us.

2. Recharge time – Whether it’s time to rest, have fun, indulge, or let your mind freewheel – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If it recharges you, it restores your capacity to do your best work, it could be the most productive thing you can make time for.

3. Asking silly questions – I used to hate asking questions, for fear of making a fool of myself and wasting someone else’s time. Now I’ve learnt to start with “can I ask a silly question?” and the answer is always yes. More often than not, it’s not a silly question at all. If nothing else, it gives me clarity instead of confusion. And once in a while, the blindingly obvious turns out to be brilliantly helpful.

4. Letting someone else do it slower… or even badly – My daughter is insisting on doing her own seatbelt at the moment and I have to admit there are times when we’re running late, I can’t bring myself to sit patiently for the longest 5 minutes and I have to take over. But the more I can give her time to do it for herself, the more she learns and the more independent she becomes.

The same goes for delegating. The early days of letting someone else learn the ropes are painful. It’s great when others can do what they can do, so you can do what only you can do, but getting there takes time.

5. Blank space in the diary – When time is limited, it’s tempting to cram something into every nook and cranny, the way a budget airline pack people in like sardines. It feels inefficient to leave gaps.

But gaps give us room to manoeuvre, and margin to adapt to the unexpected. Building margin into our day is precisely the thing that helps us to stay productive in a fast changing, unpredictable world. And if you’ve had the budget airline experience, you’ll know that breathing space itself adds massively to the quality of our day.

Over to you. What have you been denying yourself because it feels like a waste of time? What one thing could you choose to give yourself time and permission for this week? Let me know in the comments below.

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