Nonprofit Summer Exercise 14: Taking Back Time


Exercise 14: Taking Back Time

Chances are, a lot of things are sucking your time. We’ve already taken a look at Other People’s Priorities but these aren’t the only things that keep us from focusing on our work.

Our world is full of distractions. I know mine is. I work from home, and between kids needing attention, household chores that need doing, and the barrage of pings, boops, bings and clangs from my phone, some days I feel I can hardly finish a sentence without being interrupted.

Sound familiar?

Let’s see how we might combat some common problems!


One of the biggest problems we face is not really knowing how our time is truly being spent. It’s hard to take back time when we can’t see the leaks. Start tracking your time, either by keeping a journal or using an app. I love Toggl. It’s free and easy to use. At first, it felt like just another distraction, as I needed to remember to actually use it. But once I worked it into my routine, I found that it helped me understand where I was wasting time, and also how much time it was actually taking me to complete certain tasks.

Take stock of your interruptions. Is it kids? Coworkers? Email? Social media? Noise? Too many meetings? Make a running list and make note of top offenders.

Brainstorm solutions. Solutions that you can actually implement and that will work.

Is your cell phone dinging too much? Try turning off notifications.

Email weighing you down? Ask yourself if dedicating blocks of time to check your email and otherwise keeping it close would work for you.

Noisy workplace? Try listening to some music. Can’t find music that isn’t distracting? Try Brian Eno – he’s my go to for easy listening.

Find yourself staring at a screen and not actually getting anything done? Allow yourself to take breaks. Make them playful! (More on THAT in an upcoming post!)

Too many frickin’ meetings? Ask yourself if the meetings you’re attending are actually useful.

Always being interrupted? Carve out dedicated space and time for yourself to get to work, and devise a plan for how you are going to communicate that. When I had an office (with a door) I maintained an open door policy unless I was concentrating on something. My coworkers knew a closed door meant to only interrupt me if something was on fire. Don’t have a door? Try wearing some big-ass headphones. They don’t even need to be plugged into anything.

Having a hard time keeping track of timelines, deadlines and tasks? Try a kanban board (I love mine!) or sign up for something like Trello (great news… it’s connected to Toggl!)

Implement solutions that will work for you. Keeping a kanban board might stress you out. During off your phone might not be possible. The key here is that there are no easy prescriptions. But your productivity is important, so challenge yourself to find ways of taking back those disappearing moments. They really do add up!