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Waste of Time

The Importance of a Waste of Time - The Downside of Productivity

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In today’s busy world, we often feel like every single second unaccounted for is a waste of time.

We constantly drive ourselves, our employees, and even our families toward productivity.

Even young kids are expected to be busy, either with homework, chores, or any number of planned activities.

But, is this way the right? Are we ABSOLUTELY heading in the right direction with constant time management and productivity optimization?

…is that a gnawing pit of self-doubt in your gut…

What if I were to tell you that those moments wasted are not only important but truly essential to real productivity?

Things may not be as clear-cut as you think.

When it comes to the importance of wasting time, the downside of productivity actually can’t be overstated.

If it seems to you that every effort you make to stop wasting time and really increase your productivity, backfires, seeming only to create more stress, you are not alone.

So, we are going to look at the downside of a concept most people think of as a positive: productivity. And we’re also going to explore a concept most people think of as negative: wasting time.

It’s not rocket science, but it may take some effort to learn to let go of your addiction to productivity. You will find, after learning how and why to waste time, you likely achieve more than before. In more ways than you are expecting.

Let the waste of time begin!

How Can A Waste of Time Help Me??

Inbox Zero: Ground Zero for an Epiphany

Hyperproductivity and overly structured days spent on monotonous, seemingly regenerating, lists of tasks are bad for human beings. But, in this digital age, it seems that those tasks are as unavoidable as they are self-regenerating.

Picture your own email box. You’ll get it.

It seems that every single thing we do to increase our productivity backfires:

  • Open email, answer all the important ones
  • Close email, get to work on urgent daily…
  • Open email, reply came in
  • Close, no… wait, another reply
  • Close email, get back to… no, wait, urgent email
  • Answer urgent email, get to working on the… no, wait, the phone rang and now you have 26 replies, 2 reply-alls, and 4 “notes” which all require your attention right now.
  • Realize lunch was an hour ago, smash your sandwich into your face while “multi-tasking” at your desk, and …er, wait – another email…

It’s not just self-replenishing. It seems the more time you spend chasing productivity, the less productive you become.

You are productive, your employer is happy with you. But, it isn’t enough because there is always more to do. However, at least every moment is accounted for, so, at least you aren’t lollygagging about, wasting time.

This concept gave birth to a program named Inbox Zero, by Merlin Mann. That story is also a perfect foil for this reminder that we need to stop, smell the roses, and allow time to waste — or we are hurting our own ability to produce. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Why Is Psychology Important for Understanding Why We Need to “Waste Time”

According to psychologists, it is important to simply “watch the clouds roll by” occasionally.

You just need to know how to do this in ways that are beneficial. If you wanted to know why psychology is important, this is one of the many reasons.

According to our current work climate, being busy and productive is nearly tantamount to being a good person. We confuse activity with morality, and this is something that is already well known through the works of the German sociologist Max Weber. He insists that it’s a mistake to equate non-productive behavior, or resting, with laziness.

By doing this, we exhaust even the youngest among us with overly-planned days and a relentless drive towards productivity.

In addition, F. Diane Barth LCSW wrote in Psychology Today that wasting time — even experiencing a bit of boredom — is good for you.

She writes about a friend who’s so busy with the job and kids she has little time for herself, her husband, or her friends. Referring to the works of Max Weber, she notes how we confuse being busy with being good.

Elise, like many of us today, suffers from what the German sociologist and economist Max Weber describes as a confusion of activity with morality. With the coming of the industrial revolution, Weber says, we began to equate being productive with being good. Today we have almost come to believe that the busier we are, the better we are.

But Elise’s constant productivity is taking its toll.

“Elise is married to a wonderful man, but there are signs that their relationship is suffering,” Barth explains. Also, her oldest daughter “is clearly rebelling against Elise’s emphasis on productivity.”

She will no longer go to her normal extra-curricular activities and has become a drinker and eater. Meanwhile, the other child is an “excellent student” who keeps as busy as “her mother could possibly wish.”

But, she also has anorexia and will need to be hospitalized.

Wasting Time Works

As Copyblogger notes, “[i]n 1962, Time magazine called David Ogilvy “the most sought-after wizard in today’s advertising industry.”

This “wizard,” whose name would long outlive himself, took a rather progressive view of creativity and what we would call productive. You see, he felt the most creative person on earth is useless if they can’t sell their product. And if you don’t allow your brain to work at full capacity, by literally “wasting time” and allowing that creative process to happen.

Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process. You can help this process by going for a long walk, or taking a hot bath, or drinking half a pint of claret.

Suddenly, if the telephone line from your unconscious is open, a big idea wells up within you.

Merlin Mann, on the other hand, has a very different approach to the productivity conundrum: Inbox Zero.

Image CC by 0, via Pixhere

Inbox Zero, Merlin Mann, and Hyper-Productivity in the Modern Age

Merlin Mann rocketed to the forefront of digital productivity early on when he presented Inbox Zero to Google employees.

The idea was simple.

And, it was productive.

It was time management.

participaction

Email had become, and still is in many cases, a time suck and task dispenser of overwhelming proportions. All day long, immediate and urgent, or silly and inconsequential, emails roll in.

Some have a task required, some a response, but all of them take time. Time and constant attention, making it appear that you spent your whole day chasing the bottom of a never-ending chasm, er, email inbox.

As Oliver Burkeman reported in The Guardian, when presenting Inbox Zero, Merlin Mann explained that it was a method of handling email. And, it was truly simple. The idea was that, often, people’s inbox was stressing them out to the point that they were being less productive.

The idea was basically that every time you enter your email box, you systematically handle each email until your email box is empty, (Inbox, Zero).

Entering your email meant staying until you had answered, listed, prioritized, and completed every task.

Then, you get out, and get on with “life.”

The Book That Never Got Written

It was a productivity tool. It was well received and spawned many blog posts. But, after Merlin Mann was contracted to write a book about his Inbox Zero insight, the book didn’t happen. Not one year later. Not two years later.

After those two years, Mann would write a (now deleted) blog posting explaining that, for all his obsession with spending his time well, he had missed the important things in his life. Including moments he would never retrieve with his daughter.

Productivity is not worth sacrificing your life for, and it would appear that this one-time productivity whiz learned that the hard way. In fact dogged determination to increase productivity, and ignore the personal costs may be harming you in more ways than you know.

The Importance of Psychology in Wasting Time

Quartz’ Olivia Goldhill told Mann’s story in an article on Quartz titled “The Psychological Importance of Wasting Time.

She introduced the article on Twitter with the cheeky, “I’ve wasted a fair bit of time recently, and that’s ok.”

According to Olivia Goldhill, “[t]he problem comes when we spend so long frantically chasing productivity, we refuse to take real breaks.”

When our health, family, leisure time and self-development all fall away, sacrificed on the altar of productivity.

“We put off sleeping in, or going for a long walk, or reading by the window—and, even if we do manage time away from the grind, it comes with a looming awareness of the things we should be doing, and so the experience is weighed down by guilt.”Olivia Goldhill, Quartz.com

She presented the opinions of a psychologist who focuses on workplace behavior, Michael Guttridge.

He said, “There’s an idea we must always be available, work all the time.” In today’s workplaces, this is all too familiar a feeling.

“It’s hard to break out of that and go to the park,” Guttridge said. However, those downsides of productivity that we have been talking about are fairly obvious here.

While we attempt to maintain focus on being productive, we find ourselves chained to our desk.

Staring at the computer while we are constantly drawn off task anyway. Often we get used to using our breaks to run virtual errands (or get sucked into social media). That habit doesn’t help you, either

Virtual Errands

“Running Virtual Errands” is not “Taking a Break”

Social media, shopping websites, political updates, whatever our poison – “we tell ourselves we’re ourselves we’re “multitasking” while really spending far longer than necessary on the most basic tasks,” says Goldhill.

We live at our desk. No, seriously, we even eat at our desks, which is pretty unsanitary in general, just chasing 20 more minutes of productivity. So, instead of walking away from our workspace, we handle our online errands there, too.

We may get some chores done — paying bills or ordering groceries — but we have drained our reserves instead of refilling them. We have missed an opportunity to take a real break.

There are so many benefits to simply taking a break, but not all time wasted offers a benefit.

Weight of Word

What’s in a Word? The Weight of a “Waste of Time” Synonym

Have you ever heard that the Inuits have 40-50 words for “snow?” The importance of snow in their life is reflected in the sheer volume of words. Likewise, the importance of wasting time is quite clearly indicated in the number of words and slang terms that English-speaking people have for it. Some are clearly negative, such as “lazy,” “trifling,” or “lagging.” Others are more ambiguous, like “dawdling.”

Whether it is a word with negative or positive connotations, there are plenty “waste of time” synonyms. How many? At least 40. And that isn’t counting the 14 easy to find synonyms for wasting time, or the endless terms we have for someone who wastes too much time.

Synonyms

A List of Synonyms for “Wasting Time”

Actually, there is a lot more than the 40 contained in the above sterile thesaurus link. I asked a large group to come up with their favorite terms and synonyms for wasting time. The results were great, often longer than one word, and international, to boot.

chilling shooting the breeze dithering
goofing off fiddle-faddling gathering moss
loitering killing time wool-gathering
lollygagging holding up the wall lint-picking
selective participation holding down the couch vigorous thought experiments
dawdling lagging day-dreaming
lazing around skulking about slacking
going potato malingering banana shenanigans
“Shamming” R&R cold busting
building cloud castles stalling kicking it

Do you know what the only antonym to “waste of time” is?

Time management

Like everything else in life, all of one thing is not good, “all work and no play,” as it were. So, the secret is finding the balance between the two that allows you personal success, but also quality of life. Psychology tells us that human beings must have a balance of activities to be healthy, including downtime.

The Importance of Time

The importance of time with a capital “T” is bearing down on us every day. As Burkeman put it:

“Given that the average lifespan consists of only about 4,000 weeks, a certain amount of anxiety about using them well is presumably inevitable: we’ve been granted the mental capacities to make infinitely ambitious plans, yet almost no time at all to put them into practice.” Oliver Burkeman

With so little time, and such infinite possibility to plan ambitiously, and massive pressure to be productive with that time, it is little wonder that our attempts to force ourselves into “work mode” for far more of our time than is healthy is causing us so much stress and anxiety.

From the moment we wake up, we are obsessed with time, all the way down to seconds. Clocking in late is a sin, moments wasted are, too. We watch the clock like some sort of never-resting orchestra director, arms never dropping the beat. It rules our lifes, it rules our children’s lives, and in the same way the moon pulls the tides, it affects our productivity.

In The Household Economy, Robert Burns wrote:

“We need time. We need time to work, to eat, to sleep, and to accomplish all the daily chores of living. We also need time to know and understand our mates, our children, and our friends.”Robert Burns, The Household Economy

He then went on to say, “ Most of our relationships, in fact, require more time than we have, and it is difficult to avoid the feeling that we could never have enough. Nor is our list of demands on our time complete. We have ignored the time we need to be alone, a necessary but invariably short- changed period.”

That was in 1977. In 1977, every quarter in your pocket equaled out to a little more than a dollar, now, in purchasing power.

Every one dollar, $4.11 cents in purchasing power. The normal work hours were about the same as a 40 hour week then, too.

But now, we work those hours for about a quarter or so the purchasing power.

It’s no wonder we work at home, long hours, or freelance 16 hours a day. Time, to us, is dollars because we need about 4 times as many of those dollars as our parents to have the same lifestyle they had.

Image CC by 0, by Buenosia Carol, via Pexels.

Is the Value of Time Money?

He could not have imagined the integration of our lives with our professions. Smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other devices. We even count our steps with bracelets that have replaced our watches and are stopping some of our early heart attacks.

Then there is the 24 hour, 7-days-a-week availability is often required in a global economy that moves at the speed of WiFi.

Simply adding that lack of separation between our personal and professional lives to the value of our time is a recipe for paradoxical low productivity. We are putting in so much of that time it backfires.

Without proper attention to our lives, we are not getting enough human contact with our loved ones. We aren’t taking enough time off, we aren’t going outside enough. We probably aren’t taking very good care of ourselves either. Our relationships suffer. Our personal growth suffers.

So, no, the value of time isn’t money. Time far outweighs money, it’s the most precious commodity we have. Yet, our economy has forced us to equate the two.

Return to Inbox Zero, For a Moment

Oliver Burkeman wrote an exhaustive article about Merlin Mann and the fall of Inbox Zero.

As part of that, he told us how the “streamlined” productivity tool had influenced the people using it.

Predictably, the dedicated, don’t leave the screen until you have processed every email (as more come in) had an effect. Perhaps less predictably for those who feel that a “strong work ethic” (read: addiction to productivity) is the best thing we bring to the table, that effect was a net negative.

“And yet the truth is that more often than not, techniques designed to enhance one’s personal productivity seem to exacerbate the very anxieties they were meant to allay. The better you get at managing time, the less of it you feel that you have. Even when people did successfully implement Inbox Zero, it didn’t reliably bring calm.” Oliver Burkeman

The kind of calm required for mental health and real productivity.

Despite whittling every tiny splinter of time out of your day for productive tasks, you remain chained to a desk, stressing and doing less in more time.

He went on to explain the “allure of the doctrine of time management,” simply put, control, and one day to have it over everything:

“The allure of the doctrine of time management is that, one day, everything might finally be under control. Yet work in the modern economy is notable for its limitlessness. And if the stream of incoming emails is endless, Inbox Zero can never bring liberation: you’re still Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up that hill for all eternity – you’re just rolling it slightly faster.”Oliver Burkeman

You can’t have control over everything, and you can’t have limitless hours to work.

You can, however, get endless emails, and feel like that Greek legend, Sisyphus:

damned to roll the same boulder up the same hill, every day, over and over, forever.

panic email reading

Importance of Time Yet Again

If you are so successful, why are you still working 70 hours a week?

That question is the title of an article written by Laura Empson for the Harvard Business Review. She discussed the problem from a different perspective.

Through her research, she has heard the same kinds of stories over and over again. The stories of people in white collar jobs who despite knowing better, chronically overwork themselves thinking more time working means more success.

Overworking Harm

Chronic productivity-focused overworking is harmful

This kind of thinking can cripple the quality of your work, according to Empson, and your health.

So, productivity is harmed, yet people in professional jobs continue to measure their worth by time punched on the clock.

And they continue to try to drive themselves for that extra inch, most likely doing much less than they could have done in less time.

We all have to push it, occasionally, to meet a deadline or make a deal. If you find yourself squinting at the setting sun and realizing you hadn’t left your workspace all day a bit too often, chances are you are working harder than you have to with a tired, underperforming brain.

She encourages people to stop and rest. Because, while we may find reward in working hard, working too hard can, in fact, hurt us. And, it can make us make mistakes. Recognizing the signs of being overworked, in yourself and in your office, and making adjustments, is essential.

Working hard can be rewarding and exhilarating. But consider how you are living. Recognize when you are driving yourself and your staff too hard, and learn how to help yourself and your colleagues to step back from the brink.

Still locked into that 4,000 weeks? It seems such a short time for a life, right? Perhaps we should get back to something healthier, like the importance of wasting time. For your health, of course.

Image CC by 0, via Pixhere

The Importance of Wasting Time

Coming back around to Olivia Goldhill’s exhaustive article on wasting time, she had this to say about those intrepid self-lovers who somehow allow themselves the luxury of this novel idea.

It’s not as though we need to work so hard. As Alex Soojung-Kim Pan, author of REST: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, writes in Nautilus, luminaries including Charles Dickens, Gabriel García Márquez, and Charles Darwin had quite relaxed schedules, working for five hours a day or less. The truth is, work expands to fill the time it’s given and, for most of us, we could spend considerably fewer hours at the office and still get the same amount done.

And there it is.

Do you really think that if you spent another hour at work, you’d get another hour’s worth of work done? Of course, you wouldn’t.

The result is a fractured, exhausted stab at doing what you intended. And, you get what you get: whatever it was you managed it while exhausted.

Skipping

Skipping breaks at work

So, it’s not anathema to success to work shorter, more productive hours. It is also not in any way bad work ethic to take reasonable breaks during your workday.

Fritter

But, is it important to fritter time away?

“Wasting time is about recharging your battery and de-cluttering,”.

Taking time to be total, gloriously, proudly unproductive will ultimately make you better at your job.

But it’s also fulfilling in and of itself, and healthy.

Psychology says so. Science says so, also, working too long indoors is causing a boom in vitamin D deficiency related illnesses.

Actually, Psychology Today made it crystal clear, wasting time may be the best thing you do today.

It may allow you to become a better employee, a better partner or spouse, or a better child or parent.

It can help you remember that you need to use that time not only to work, but to stare at the clouds and find shapes.

It takes both to be healthy. So, yes, it is important. Stop skipping breaks. Set a timer. Go.

The Physical Benefits of Sitting in the Sun

Many of us are pushing ourselves so hard, we don’t get any time in the sun. Being in the sun stimulates vitamin D production, which we need to stay healthy.  Vitamin D is essential to your health, and a risk factor for being low on vitamin D is staying indoors.

Chances are, you are not overworking yourself in the park.

Much of America is vitamin D deficient, as in 75 percent. And it isn’t just Adults. It’s our kids. Those kids we are raising to know the value of every dollar, er, minute. According to Scientific American:

“Three-quarters of U.S. teens and adults are deficient in vitamin D, the so-called “sunshine vitamin” whose deficits are increasingly blamed for everything from cancer and heart disease to diabetes, according to new research.”Scientific American

‘Waste’ your valuable time sitting in the sun letting your mind rest for a few minutes a day is a great place to start. Now you know you are taking an active role in preventing the damage caused by your cave-dwelling lifestyle.

Some people have increased risks associated with being in the sun. If you are one of them, make sure you talk to your doctor about how much sun is good for you, first.

How Much Time in the Sun do You Need for Vitamin D Health?

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the time we need to spend in the sun varies. The biggest factor in the time you should spend outside is your skin pigmentation.

If you are very light skinned — “[p]ale skin, freckles, burns very easily, hardly tans” — you should spend between five and ten minutes in the sun a day.

If you have light skin “that tans a little,” you should spend about ten to 20 minutes in the sun.

For those whose skin is better described as getting an occasional sunburning, but tanning well, between 15 and 25 minutes in the sun.

If you have naturally dark skin, and very rarely sunburn, they recommend 20 to 30 minutes a day in the sun.

Day Dreaming is Worth the Effort

No one can be their best without slowing down, without allowing their brain to wander.

In fact, if we fail to dream, the Ulitmate Championship of meandering thoughts, it can erode our ability to remember. When people fail to enter REM sleep, the phase in which dreaming occurs, they fail to remember what they were taught before they fell asleep. This isn’t to say that dreaming and wasting time are the same, just to reinforce that your mind requires downtime.

Yet, despite this absolutely understood need for humans to engage in banana shenanigans, we still try to fill as many hours on that clock as possible with work. Believing, somehow, those 12 hours of fractured, distracted, multi-tasking, controlled chaos nets you more productivity at the end of the day than 8 focused hours. All because our time is so short, and so precious.

But by doing so, we strip our time of meaning and true personal growth, all for a few more dollars. 4,000 weeks isn’t long enough to live two lifetimes; so you need to make sure there is time for you to live your life during this one.

Image: CC0 Public Domain Skitter Photo via PxHere

How to Waste Time, And How Not To

If you search for “how to waste time” you will find, inevitably, article after article that offer you apps, websites and internet games.

But, when you laze about, wasting precious time, you need to do it in ways that are as beneficial to you as possible. That means not at your desk, not staring down that screen, and putting down your device. Ok, maybe not putting down your device, after all, you are going to want pictures, music, or to find the perfect park. But, before we cover what you should do to waste time, let’s talk about what you shouldn’t be doing.

There are 8 things that successful people never waste time doing, according to Success.com, you may be surprised by them.

Productive, successful people don’t do the following:

1. Get sucked into social media 5. Hang out with negative people.
2. Go through the day without a plan. 6. Dwell on past mistakes.
3. Do emotionally draining activities. 7. Focus on what other people are doing.
4. Worry about things they can’t control. 8. Put themselves last in priority.

Avoiding social media time-sucking:

To avoid social media on my breaks, consider deleting the facebook app from your phone.

Drastic, but not exactly scorched earth.

You can still log onto Facebook regularly through your phone’s browser, during the time you give it.

No more constant pings to drag your attention to your device and the latest political post you wished you hadn’t seen.

Turn off the notifications on your social media apps. You are going to check them, and likely a couple times a day. But, without them calling you in every few minutes, you’ll have way more time to kill time.

The Value of Wasted Time

Taking the time and achieving the state of being completely, gloriously, and unashamedly unproductive makes you not only better at your job, but better at life. And honestly, anything that takes the sting off of adulting is quite worth the time. Especially when it is making you a better person, too.

“Wasting time is about recharging your battery and de-cluttering,” said Michael Guttridge. Lallygagging is about bringing that balance to yourself. Letting your brain rest so it is functioning at full speed all day while you work. A short session of holding a bench down so you can come back refreshed is an investment. Daisy sniffing is about taking time to arrange things in a way that makes you feel better

Daydreaming and park-walking are about leaving your workspace — yes, even for an entire hour for lunch. It’s worth it. When you get back, you’ll do more with a fresh brain, recharged and able to function. And, it’s worth it.

So, How To Waste Time?

First and foremost, get outside and take breaks away from your desk.

And, if you have children in your life, teach them to take real breaks, too.

Make time to go take a walk, sit at the park, or actually use that patio you haven’t really had much time for.

Take a walk away from your workspace.

Walk to somewhere safe, (preferably in the sun)  and sit quietly for a few minutes. Use the time to play a guided mindfulness session on headphones, if you are in a secure location.

Mindfulness

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a form of deep breathing mental exercise.

Meditation, by any other name.

It has nothing to do with any form of religion.

It is more about focus, and learning to calm racing thoughts.

And, it works. According to “Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies”:

“Mindfulness brings about various positive psychological effects, including increased subjective well-being, reduced psychological symptoms and emotional reactivity, and improved behavioral regulation.”Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health

If you are counting the time you are driving in your car as time in the sun, don’t. As US News & World Report reminds us, that glass blocks UV rays. So do most modern windows.

Yes, you feel the warmth of the sun through them, but without the UV.

Any time spent doing something you love is time spent on yourself, so, time well spent.

All of us need to recharge.

Give yourself permission to bask in a moment here and there. Get away from your desk.

Some ways to effectively waste time, during the workday and beyond:

  • Plan a card game with your friends, remember them?
  • Go to the school and see those kids you like singing their hearts out
  • Give yourself permission to eat a healthy meal, and eat it leisurely.
  • While you’re at it, outlaw eating at your desk, but still actually eat. And, at regular intervals.
  • Meditate, or practice mindfulness, regularly.
  • Stare out the window at nothing for 10 minutes.
  • Take a walk, to work, or somewhere to eat your lunch.
  • Listen to music.
  • Enjoy a long bath with Epson Salts or a bath bomb.
  • Visit a day spa, budget permitting, or get a relaxing massage
  • Do some art, especially if you loved it and stopped

Image: CC 0 Public Domain Negative Space via Good Free Photos

In Conclusion:

We all know that there is a finite number of minutes in our life.

But, we are forgetting that when we push ourselves past a healthy level of productivity seeking, we become our own worst enemies.

Overworking yourself makes you sick. Being inside from sun up to sun down can make you very sick.

Avoiding regular breaks, and working unreasonable hours, your brain tires. When fatigued, you make mistakes and it harms your productivity. It also puts you at risk of mental exhaustion. So, despite your best intention, your choice not to “waste time” on the self-care of a real break at work — to increase productivity — is actually damaging it.

Employers who value you know that breaks are worth it.

Take real breaks at work, it pays off in all sorts of ways.

Walk away at the end of the day, and stay away from it as much as you can.

Set at least one day off for self-care, yes, even if you are freelancing. Try to seek out employers and clients who not only understand this, they make it possible.

This kind of company is good at protecting its resources and understands you are one of them.

When wasting time, seek out opportunities and people that make you smile, things that give you joy.

Because, while you may think you are just doing your favorite thing, you just may find some of that peace that people sought at the bottom of Inbox Zero.

There are enough success stories out there of how outsourcing freed up time, saved costs, and brought highly experienced workers into the business to complete specific tasks. You don’t need more proof; just decide.

The most important time management tips from great leaders such as Warren Buffet, Tony Robbins and Tim Ferris revolve around delegation and outsourcing wherever and whenever possible. Outsourcing is the next step to grow your business more effectively.
Where do you start and what must you know to start outsourcing?

The word Top 10 written in vintage letterpress type

Here are 10 things to focus on to make outsourcing a success:

1. Know the Task You Want Outsourced

Outsourcing, like any other business aspect, requires a goal, a plan, and execution. Start with what you need to outsource. An easy and practical way to do this is to make a list. If you already have a list of all the tasks that must be done but you don’t have the time, expertise, or people to do it, then start with that list.

You already know what you are good at and what your functions are in the business. Look at the list and remove all the tasks that you should be doing yourself. If you have people that work for you, then delegate tasks to them that are relevant to their skills. You may have the right people, but the work-load is too much, and these people need to be focused on certain things. These overflow tasks are the first things you can outsource to make things more efficient. Another kind of task perfect for outsourcing is sporadic or seasonal tasks. Lastly, there are tasks that you can do but just don’t want to do. Often these kinds of tasks can be outsourced, too.

2. Identify Your Perfect Freelancer

Identifying the perfect freelancer for the task is as important as qualifying people who work for you in-house. Create a profile of what you want in the freelancer. Write down the skills required and at the desired level of expertise.

  • Language Ability. What language is required? As an e-commerce business or international company, you may need freelancers that speak different languages.
  • Write and Speak. What level of writing and speaking skills in English is needed? If you are outsourcing customer service, then the accent and fluency level are very important. A writer must be excellent in writing English, but speaking and accents are important for voice roles.
  • Software Skills. Be clear on what software and other tools they will need to be proficient with to be successful in supporting your work. You want someone who can be effective from the beginning.
  • Previous experience. What previous experience will set you up for success in picking the best fit. Do they need to understand your industry or target market. How much experience is required based on the difficulty of work you are assigning.
  • Hours per Week. Before you interview the freelancer, have at least an idea of how long a task will take. Decide how many hours per week you need the freelancer for. It’s better to overestimate rather than underestimate how much time is required for a task.
  • Time Zones. Outsourcing isn’t restricted to local candidates. You can outsource internationally. Keep in mind the different time zones especially if you need to communicate with the freelancer within your business hours. The benefit of time zones is you can run your business 24 hours per day.
  • Your Budget. How much do you want to spend? How much is it worth to you to free up your time and to outsource tasks? Research rate ranges. Remember, you get what you pay for. Decide if quantity or quality is more important to you.

hiring or outsourcing concept handwritten on whiteboard

3. Find the Best Outsourcing Platform

What to save more time? Another time management tip is to leave the hiring to someone else. An important time management strategy stem from the basis of you do what you do best and let others do what they do best. Interviewing is a skill and a time-consuming process when done right. Besides, where do you find the perfect freelancer who you can trust? Like with any other worker, you want to build a relationship of trust. Due to the short duration of some projects, there’s not always the opportunity to build that kind of trust with freelancers. By the time you get to know each other, the project is completed.

Outsourcing through freelancer platforms solves this problem. They qualify and screen freelancers beforehand – so you don’t have to. You, as the client, build the relationship with the freelance marketplace.

Three benefits that distinguish outsourcing marketplaces from each other are:

  • Specialization or specific region served. Some marketplaces specialize in specific industries, skillsets or service areas; for example, e-commerce, customer service, and state-specific legal writing. Countries have their own local outsourcing networks and project boards. Other networks are international.
  • Screening method. The intensity of the screening methods for freelancer access differs as well. At some freelance marketplaces, the applicants go through an intense screening process. Others are more casual and instead have voluntary tests that freelancers can complete to show their competence.
  • Replacing freelancers. Life happens and sometimes the freelancer needs to leave before completing the project. There are a few marketplaces who will immediately introduce you to replacements. The majority freelance platforms leave it up to you to find a replacement, however. Some may have protections in place to avoid any payment issues, while others will not provide much assistance.

4. Ask Key Interview Questions

Come to the interview prepared. List beforehand the questions you need to ask the freelancer during the interview. If relevant, ask for a portfolio of work done before.

Questions to consider are about their skills, work experience, what they struggled with, and where they performed well.
Find out when they are available. Can they work in your preferred time zone? Are they amenable to working certain days and hours? Will they be available to complete your project within a specific deadline?

Sometimes it’s more appropriate to hire the freelancer for a paid trial and decide then if the freelancer is qualified to take on the entire project.

5. Set Clear Communication Expectations

The freelancer should adapt to how you prefer to communicate. Make this clear during the interview. This way you will know in advance if the freelancer can’t comply.

  • What is your preferred communication method? Do you prefer to communicate via Skype, email or phone?
  • Is it important to communicate within your business hours? Is this possible for the freelancer if he or she is in a different time zone
  • How often do you want the freelancer to report to you? Daily? Or only when tasks are completed?
  • What kind of feedback do you require?

Applicant for a job opportunity or businessman with many financial assets assembling a word PORTFOLIO with white cards with letters on them on textured rustic wooden plank.

6. Go Over the Portfolios

The quickest way to discern if this is the freelancer you want is to look at a portfolio or ask for work samples. Previous work will immediately show you how a freelancer works and if it is in the style you are looking for.

Live links indicate more current work and actual work the freelancer did. During the interview ask the freelancer about the scope of the projects done for other clients. Freelancers may not always be able to share this information. Sometimes, what they share may not really be their work. It’s more important to focus on how they describe work done rather than physical proof that may have come from anywhere or anyone.

7. Define Ownership of Work

It’s generally assumed that when you pay for the work, the ownership transfers to you. However, it is a good practice to make that clear before the freelancer starts working on the project.
The general term used is “work made for hire.” Legally, there may be some finer points with a certain type of project. Therefore, if the project is of a sensitive nature, it’s better to get a written agreement done up, and consult an attorney if necessary.
When ownership transfers to you, freelancers need your permission to use the work as a sample in their portfolio. Especially if you want to see portfolios, consider granting this request.

8. Clarify Follow-Up Support

There are certain projects that tend to need follow-up support. Projects of a technical nature, for example. Agree on upfront with the freelancer what kind of support you want to be included in the contract. Preferably, have this in writing to avoid any future misunderstandings.
For instance, freelance projects or tasks that are of a writing or design nature sometimes need editing. Clarify the number of edits included in the rate or hours specified.

milestone -  Red text on typography background - 3D rendered royalty free stock image. This image can be used for an online website banner ad or a print postcard.

9. Make Use of Project Milestones

Milestones benefit you and the freelancer. They allow you to have specific checkpoints to:

  • Review the status of the project,
  • Pay for work completed thus far,
  • Solve unforeseen issues and create a new plan, and
  • Keep to deadlines.

Depending on the kind of project, some freelancers require an upfront payment, usually between 20-50%. With milestones in place, you have better control over tasks completed and payment schedules. Another payment milestone can be set for halfway through the project and then a final payment when it is completed to your satisfaction within the agreed upon terms.

10. Take the Step

Freelance marketplaces combined with the internet have changed the way we work. Outsourcing is the norm of the day. Outsourcing is an industry that continues to grow. The manufacturing industry outsourced about 43% in 2017. One survey reported that 65% of companies who outsource will continue to outsource and outsource even more of their business operations moving forward.

No longer is it necessary to have in-house workers for every possible need your company may have. Moreover, the skill level of freelancers is often higher than full-time workers. Freelancers have a greater opportunity to specialize and to hone their skills in a specific arena. This isn’t always possible with regular workers. Join the outsourcing trend.

Take that step today, with confidence. These 10 things above will help you make your outsourcing a success. Start small. Make your list of tasks to outsource. Find your freelance marketplace and outsource one task. Soon you’ll be outsourcing projects more than you’d ever thought you would.

Connor Gillivan is the author of Free Up Your Business: 50 Secrets to Bootstrap Million Dollar Companies, a serial entrepreneur, and the CMO and co-founder of FreeeUp.com. When he’s not bringing together hundreds of freelancers and business owners, he’s mentoring entrepreneurs through his site, ConnorGillivan.com. He currently lives in Denver, Colorado.

If you’re like one of the thousands of people who have a long commute to work on trains or buses, you may be wondering how to create a product work commute. There’s such a good opportunity for effective commuting time, because the commute time to work doesn’t have to be wasted time. A productive work commute could be getting work done that you usually don’t have time for once you get to your office or preparing yourself for a more effective workday. We have put together a list of ways that you can make your commute time a productive work commute and get more done before you’ve even started your work day.

Here are some ideas. Keep these in mind and pick the best ones for you depending on if you are on the train, bus or someone else is driving and even the options for you while you are driving. Here are the Eight ways to maximize your commute time to work.

1. Create a to-do list

Creating a to-do list first thing will give you a sense that you’ve already accomplished something. Using your commute to plan your day ahead will give you a chance to prioritize your tasks for the day and set realistic goals for yourself. Use apps like Evernote or Wunderlist or if you prefer a more old-school way of organizing things nothing beats writing your list using old-fashioned pen and paper. Using your commute time to write a plan for the day will mean that you already know what your priorities are when you arrive and you won’t end up rushing around doing many things that aren’t the highest priority or wasting work time getting off to a slow start trying to figure out where to focus.

2. Check your emails

With the age of 4G and smartphones, we can be online anywhere in the world. So use your time commuting to check your emails before you get into the office. Sometimes when we get into the office we can be bombarded with so many other things to do that we forget to reply to important emails or we end up with a backlog of emails that we normally end up replying to at five pm on a Friday. Use your commute to work to get caught up on all your emails so you don’t end up trying to sort it throughout the day.

Use the commute time to get organized too. Use this time to sort your emails into categories or days of the week to represent when you will work on those emails. Set up rules to remove junk mail or some other needed organization to manage your daily distractions.

3. Read

Reading is something that grows your knowledge base, that gets you thinking in new ways, an opportunity to learn from someone else’s experience. It expands your vocabulary, your knowledge and it’s fun to escape from reality every once in a while!

However, reading is something a lot of us don’t get the time to do. Usually, we end up trying to read before we go to bed and end up nodding off halfway through the second page. We just don’t make the time for this important way to expand our mind or needed escape.

If there’s a book you’ve been meaning to read for ages, why not use your commute time as a good time to catch up on your reading list? If you are in the car, get the audio version. I am a huge fan of getting to my book list with my commute time using Audible.

4. Learn a new language

Your commute can be a great time to learn a new language. Perhaps you’ve booked a holiday somewhere that you’ve never been before and want to make sure that you can get by in a foreign country, or perhaps it’s something you’ve always wanted to do but don’t have the time. With apps like Duolingo, you can use your commute to brush up on your French, Spanish – whatever you want, on the go!

Again if you are in the car, get the audio version and make the best use of your commute. Learning a language is a great way to expand your brain function by stimulating memory, improve listening skills and create some excitement around new future ventures.

5. Social Media

This is not an option while driving-but as a passenger or on the bus-this could be the perfect time.

Yes, social media may not actually be considered productive, but the urge to check out Facebook, Twitter or Instagram can sometimes get in the way of work and we end up wasting our working hours scrolling through these pages. If you use your commute time to get your fill of social media sites then you will be less likely to check on them throughout the day, leaving you with more productive time later on and allow you to focus on family, friends and other projects when you get home. It’s sort of a non-productive way to be more productive for the rest of the day.

6. Reflect

Commute time is a great time to think about what is important to get done, what is working well and what needs improvement. Commute time is a perfect time to set an intention. Whether you are headed into work or leaving work you have an opportunity to be purposeful about your actions and activities and create the experience you want for the next part of your day. This can create greater focus, greater connection to the purposeful use of that time and help you avoid distractions before they arise. Often, people tend to blow off reflection because they “don’t have the time”. Commute time is the perfect time for such activities.

7. Exercise

How do you do that, you are thinking. Actually, if you live close by-why not ride your bike and get your commute in and get some exercise. This is a great way to be in a great working state of mind when you arrive. Invest in an electric bike if you are a bit further away so you get the exercise but don’t want to get too sweaty. Also, keep in mind, many companies have a shower so start thinking outside the box, rather than making excuses.

8. Relax

Sometimes what we really need is downtime. This could be a great time for deep breathing that can be done while driving or not driving. Listen to your favorite music and shift your mood and mindset on a time to wind down and recharge.

Maybe you weren’t looking for a more productive commute time, but now you are more conscious and have some great way to create more effective commuting time. Commute time can be considered a waste of time but now you know how to make more effective commuting time.

You have many options, the key is that you choose it intentionally versus just passing the time. Purposeful use of your time will get you your desired result for your commute time to work and commute time from work. So re-evaluate your commute time.

Feature Image: Stock photo

Businesses are always looking for ways on improving productivity while maintaining or cutting costs to help increase their profit margins. There are many factors which can interfere with it, but there are also many ways to improve productivity in the workplace.

Factors Interfering with Productivity

It’s important for managers and business owners to understand what affects productivity so they can fix the problems. Productivity is linked to a company’s success, so if problems persist, sales can drop because the company is unable to fulfill its orders or the promises they’ve made to clients. Here are some of the most common factors which can cause decreases in productivity.

Poor Morale

If employees at a business are not happy about working conditions or with management, then it can affect their motivation in the workplace. Some of the reasons your staff may not be happy include:

  • Being overworked due to staff shortages or downsizing.
  • Outsourcing work to other companies.
  • Hiring management from outside of the company.
  • Poor leadership.

Unhappy employees are not productive and, sometimes, work stoppages can occur if they find their working conditions unbearable.

Illnesses and Health Conditions

A major factor in productivity losses for most businesses is employee absenteeism due to their own or family illnesses. In the United States, the CDC claims that losses due to illnesses account for approximately $225.8 billion per year or $1,685 per employee.

Unfortunately, many employers do not help themselves because nearly 40% of businesses do not offer paid sick leave. Without sick leave, employees often go to work sick and spread colds, flu, and other contagious conditions. However, this problem, known as presenteeism, costs businesses more in lost productivity than absenteeism.

A study by a group called the Global Corporate Challenge found the costs of presenteeism to be ten times higher than absenteeism. Employees who went to work sick often worked at only 75% capacity, which resulted in $1,5 billion in losses for businesses in the US.

Working for Bad Bosses

When employees are unhappy with an immediate supervisor, then productivity in the workplace can drop. A bad boss isn’t always someone who yells at employees or doesn’t have experience as a manager. It can be someone who doesn’t give employees credit for the work they do, or someone who blames others for mistakes they’ve made, or someone who doesn’t keep their promises.

Working for a bad boss can cause employees to stay home instead of going to work, which can increase absenteeism. Also, when employees are at work, they may not be able to get much done due to constant criticism or micromanaging by a supervisor.

Outdated Equipment

It’s difficult to be productive when the tools you’re given to work with are old and outdated. While the equipment in the office or a factory may work, it may not be as efficient as more modern, up-to-date tools utilizing modern technology.

In a study conducted by Microsoft, 90% of consumers said they would take their business to another company instead of working with one using outdated computer technology. An outdated system can lead to losses of data and security breaches, which can directly affect a company’s productivity.

 

improve productivity

Improving Productivity

Finding solutions to productivity problems can help retain clients, find new ones, and increase profits for businesses. After trying solutions that haven’t worked, insight psychology may sometimes provide obvious answers. However, if not, try one of these suggestions for improving productivity in the workplace.

Keep Everyone in the Loop

When there are changes within a company, it can be disconcerting to employees if they don’t know what is happening and why. They may be concerned that downsizing in their department may mean they will lose their jobs, when in fact, it could be happening because the business is expanding and moving some people to another department.

Not knowing what is happening can cause morale to drop due to employment concerns. The easiest way to prevent morale problems is effective communication in the workplace. Upper-level management can relay information to supervisors who can then pass it on to their teams, or they can send company-wide emails to share information about company changes when they occur.

Offer Sick Leave

While it may seem like a paradox of value to spend money to save money by implementing a paid sick leave policy, not having one is usually costlier for businesses. Companies save money by decreasing absenteeism, decreasing presenteeism, and increasing productivity.

Healthier employees are more productive, there are less on the job injuries when paid sick leave is offered, and there is less turnover. People may change jobs if another company offers better benefits and replacing staff becomes costly because it increases training costs. So, to increase productivity in the workplace and cut costs, employers should consider having a paid sick leave policy.

Provide Management Training

To prevent morale and productivity problems due to bad bosses, companies should train those they hire or promote to management. Also, they can offer further management training throughout their tenure with the company. Most employees consider further training opportunities an incentive and will look for employers offering continuing education programs.

Supervisors can be trained in how to communicate with others, to improve their management styles, and to improve hard skills they’re lacking. It’s important for managers and supervisors to have the same skill sets as their employees in case someone on their team needs help with a client or with an equipment malfunction.

Update Technology

Your employees cannot be productive with equipment that is falling apart or cannot handle some of the necessary processes to complete customer orders. However, replacing equipment or tools can be expensive, so it can be tempting to get by with what you already have.

Making investments in equipment is investing in your company and is necessary to succeed. Along with improving productivity in the workplace, having technology that helps your employees do their jobs can also improve morale. Protecting your company’s and clients’ data will usually give your customers more confidence in doing business with you and improve your company’s reputation.

Image Source: Adobe Stock

What is mind mapping anyway?A mind map shows the relationships between the parts and the whole. It is often started around one idea or concept and associations, ideas, words, pictures, and relationships are formed around it.

Mind mapping is a popular brainstorming and thought collection and organization tool on the market. It actually increases retention by up to 95% more than traditional note taking because the structure of Mind Mapping is fashioned after the way the human brain actually thinks.

Mindmapping and problem solvingThe cool thing about mind mapping is it is a process of thinking not only a physical tool. It is a process. I make this point because too many people are looking for new tools to solve their problems. The tools won’t solve their problem but it may help to change their thinking and their approach to data capture, problem-solving or brainstorming.

Einstein said that a problem can not be solved by the same level of thinking. Mind mapping helps you to change the way you think, to structure and cluster your thoughts even if they don’t come out that way.

Here are 4 reasons why you should adopt mind mapping in working with your team. Mind mapping should be taught in leadership training courses and management training in order to improve leadership and team collaboration.

1. Memory aid and retention:

Keywords will trigger you to remember the whole thought behind the branch. Pictures can act as a memory trigger. You can include all keywords that are relevant to a topic and help you to remember all the key components. Because of the structure, colors and pictures, the brain is open and more receptive to information because of the type of stimulation. Because it is visual, it is easier to grasp and remember.

2. Problem solving

Defining the problem and agreeing on the problem together is often the biggest challenge. This method allows this process to open discussion and get to the root causes. It aids in decision making in looking at all sides of the situation.

3. Brainstorming:

Mind mapping is right brained tool inspiring creativity. The process and structure allows all topics to stimulate other ideas and fill in around the topics. Everyone can follow and participate in a fun and interactive way.

4. Speed

Collect group contributions quickly without having to worry about grammar and style conflicts. One can quickly and easily see the dynamic of the discussion and because of the structure can quickly get up to speed on the project and see the big picture.

The information is synthesized on one page for fast and easy comprehension.

Rules of Mind Mapping

  • Use images for visual cues
  • Use a single topic for each branch
  • Use colors to differentiate
  • Don’t overcrowd
  • Use keywords versus sentences
  • Leave space for thought development

Mind maps can look very different depending on the users’ preference and the mind mapping tools used. Here are some mind map examples:

Mindmapping Mindmapping Mindmapping Mindmapping

I create mind maps the old fashioned way – on paper. But by using mind mapping software, you can move things around easier and collapse parts of the map for better visualization as needed.

Mind mapping software:

Coggle, Mindmapple, and other free tool examples can be found on

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/8-free-mind-map-tools-best-use/ and https://lifehacker.com/five-best-mind-mapping-tools-476534555

Great books to read on the subject:

Conclusion:

Mind Mapping is an incredible asset for project managers, other leaders and individuals alike. We all need to be the ultimate organizer and keep timelines, dependencies, and responsibilities on track whatever we are doing, collaborate and coordinate as well as brainstorm new ideas. All of these skills can be enhanced through mind mapping.

Procrastination is worryingly common and extremely damaging to most of the working and studying population – or is it? Depending on how you approach it, it is one of the main causes of low self-esteem and, in the worst cases, depression. In other cases, it is the springboard to creativity and getting more done. You get to decide what this habit creates for you.

procrastination books

There are many ways to overcome or approach this habit of delaying and get your work done, and avoid stress and self-deprecation. Motivation is the key when you’re planning to re-evaluate your ways and how you think about Procrastination. Obviously the motivation or inspiration you are seeking in the moment is missing or the fear you feel or the pain you are experiencing is greater than the motivation – talking you into waiting, pushing it off or not doing that dreaded task at all. The best and motivation comes from within yourself, however, more often than not, we have to settle for the outside motivation with the consequences of not getting it done. Here are some resources to inspire you, provide you methods, tips and tools as well as new ways to think about and approach this habit. If nothing more it will be a nice diversion.

Procrastination TEDx Talks

1.  Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator by Tim Urban

In this witty and informational TED Talk, Tim Urban brings an anecdotal attitude to the common yet irritating problem of procrastination. Both hilarious and educational, the few minutes of his talk will bring relatable content for serial procrastinators, but also a further understanding of their own habits and an incentive to quit them for a more productive and healthier lifestyle.

2.  An End to Procrastination by Archana Murthy

90% of teenagers are struck with procrastination. Procrastination creates a cycle of stress and anxiety. Archana Murthy shares her understanding of procrastination and its hold on her life. She talks about the types of procrastinators. She provides a solution that works for her, maybe it will work for you too.

3.  The vaccination for procrastination by Bronwyn Clee

Procrastination is the source of wasted time and energy. Bronwyn Clee provides 5 steps to put procrastination behind you and your procrastination.

4.  Procrastination is the key to problem-solving by Andrea Jackson

Head down and bum up productivity is demanded from today’s society. She has suffered from the guilt of procrastination until she realized it is a necessity to her creativity. Procrastination is not the enemy of success and achievement. So embrace productive procrastination.

5. The fundamentals of procrastination by Neel Deshpande

An 11th grade teenager on Procrastination. He provides quick tips and tricks guide to making your day-to-day business much more efficient.

Procrastination Podcasts:

  1. 5 Strategies to Conquer Procrastination by Jeff Sanders

This open-minding episode of The 5 AM Miracle Podcast is one of Jeff Sanders’ best ones so far, and not only because it tackles this universal problem. The five strategies shared by Sanders during the episode are straightforward, simple, and, most importantly, doable. With a motivational attitude and relatable anecdotes, this episode is definitely worth listening to if you want to bring positive changes into your life.

  1. Iprocrastinate Podcast

This podcast is sponsored by the Procrastination Research Group (PRG, who have been researching procrastination for over 20 years. The research comes from around the world with an aim to seek an understanding why we become our own worst enemy at times with needless, voluntary delay.

  1. Procrastination on NPR

Can procrastination make you more productive? Procrastination expert Timothy Pychyl and self-professed “structured procrastinator” John Perry discuss the latest research on this type of behavior and how to prioritize what’s really important.

  1. Stop procrastinating now

This podcast assumes you know what do and how to do it, your challenge is that you just don’t do it. I talk about that in my programming. This podcast is dedicated to mastering your mindset and getting around those excuses.

Procrastination Books:

10. Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It Now by Jane B. Burka
Burka is an expert in procrastination and she will change your outlook on your lazy and time-wasting ways. Whether you are a student, a teacher, a researcher, a doctor or simply someone trying to get a project done, this book is perfect for you. From an in-depth explanation of procrastination and its effects on the mind, to an attack plan to fight it, Burka’s book is the read that will change your way of looking at your own life.

11. The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done by Dr. Piers Steel (2010-12-16)

Piers Steel is considered as the leading expert on procrastination. He shares in his most popular piece of work all of his knowledge on procrastination and how to fight against it. The Procrastination Equation brings real psychological research into your daily lazy decisions, explaining the depth of the reasons why you put off important tasks and actions and waste precious time daily.

12. The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing by John Perry
John Perry shares his theory about Procrastination. Perry feels that he is more productive due to his procrastination so many other things get done in the procrastination process. He always gets the procrastination project done but also a host of other smaller projects and tasks that otherwise might not have gotten the attention if he was so focused in the original task.

Check out my interview with John Perry on iTunes.

13. The Procrastination Cure: 21 Proven Tactics For Conquering Your Inner Procrastinator, Mastering Your Time, And Boosting Your Productivity! by Damon Zahariades

Do tasks build up and create overwhelm and frustration for you. Is this an ongoing challenge? Is procrastination affecting you and those around you? Good news! There is a cure! There are 21 proven tactics to boost productivity and do away with the procrastinator you once were.

Now you have a better insight into how to beat procrastination and boost productivity. You have been able to reflect on how the habit of procrastinating impacts you, how to use it to your advantage and how to avoid it and get around or breakthrough your procrastination.

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