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Fauxductivity: My 5 Favorite Time Wasters

Fauxductivity means feeling “productive” but delivering no results. Being “fauxductive” means being unnecessarily busy. Instead of focusing on things that matter, we focus on time wasters.

Here are my 5 favorite time wasters that make me feel busy and productive (but don’t move the needle anyway):

Social Media

Browsing the Twitter or Facebook feed for hours certainly wastes my time. Instead of writing an article or making a difference in this world, I wasted the time reading and watching what others have accomplished.

Frequently checking the social media feed also makes it hard for me to perform Deep Work and get into the flow. Maybe it’s just our brain’s tendency to seek something new or the fear of missing out (FOMO).

At first, I thought I should always stay updated so I know what’s happening in the world and in my field. I also thought that there are times I should be distracting myself so I won’t go insane in my work. I also thought I was being “productive” because I’m gaining “valuable” knowledge from the social media feed.

The thing is it provides more harm than good. It becomes hard to focus especially when there’s a post (clickbait or anything interesting) that demands my attention. One thing leads to another and before I know it, I’ve already wasted an hour. Also, just one idea from those posts can linger even after logging out.

But what will happen if I stopped checking social media for a week? The world will still be fine and it’s likely I won’t be missing anything important.

For many of us, social media became a habit. My solution is to limit my time by spending only a few minutes with it. It’s also helpful to take a break sometimes from social media for a week.

News

Through TV or internet, we tend to watch or read news. Maybe it’s also about our tendency to seek something new always. It could also be about we’re looking for something to talk about and be the leader of discussions.

But most of the news are irrelevant to me. What good would it bring me if I stay tuned to news about politics? I’m not a politician and I’m in no position yet to influence a lot of people. I can’t do much about it even if I add intelligent comments to the news and discussions.

Before, I always read the news to stay informed. However, most of the information out there are just irrelevant to my goals. Maybe they could help me in intellectual discussions. But they won’t bring any satisfaction or results to me.

I still watch and read the news. But mostly I focus on weather. If I noticed that the winds and rainfall are far from normal, I read the news. If there’s a super typhoon coming, I want to know about it and if it will affect my area.

That’s it. If I missed some important news that has large impact to the world or my country, I’ll hear about it from family, neighbors, and friends.

The key here is to focus on information that’s important and relevant. I’m now saving some time.

Research

Digging deeper and knowing all the pros and cons of something made me feel productive. But often the result is that I only gained more information and I did nothing about it.

For example, I was doing a research about how to make a website. I started reading one article. Then I clicked a link and read another one. After an hour, I think I’ve read over a dozen articles about the best tools for building a website. Another hour I spent in reading articles about “why do you need a website.”

I wasted all that time instead of actually building a website. Worse is weeks passed and I still have nothing to show. I felt productive but nothing actually happened.

I wasted all that time looking for more information because I want to avoid mistakes. I thought more information will help me create a better decision. But I realized that I should apply an 80/20 approach.

I don’t need all the information out there to make a good enough decision. What I need is the critical few that could have the most impact.

Also, before I read something I should be clear about why should I read it. Will I use it for something urgent and important? Will I make a decision after reading it?

More information is not always better. Some information out there are misleading or simply not accurate. It’s better to make a quick decision, limit the risks, and get feedback as soon as possible.

Networking

I mostly did this through social media. I followed a lot of “influencers”, liked a lot of posts, and commented on a lot of blogs. I did all that because I was hoping “they” will notice me and mention my blog to their thousands of followers.

I also hoped that I would gain valuable connections in the process. But it didn’t happen. Why? Those bestselling authors are busy and there could be a lot more interesting and valuable blogs and articles out there. Why should they pay attention to me?

Instead of “networking,” I should just focus more on doing interesting and valuable things. If my work is interesting enough or highly valuable, surely they will notice. I’m still spending some time trying to connect with other people. But I put more focus now on building something that deserves their attention.

I could also do this in the “real world.” Instead of connecting with random people because of some hidden agenda (and their potential value to me in the future), I should just focus on improving my work and doing interesting things.

If my work starts getting more attention, I believe more people (and valuable connections) will naturally come.

Blogging

Yes, this could be one time waster. Let me explain.

I realized blogging is a waste of time if I don’t know what it’s for. Before, I was producing lots of blog posts with no specific goal in mind. It made me feel productive and I was feeling more of a blogger as I publish more content.

However, it didn’t bring any results. It didn’t bring me even a single dollar. It also didn’t help me get closer to my goals.

At first, it’s all right to try blogging just to see if it’s interesting. But if it starts taking a considerable amount of time, there should be a goal in mind. Just like what Nicky Parsons said about Jason Bourne and other agents (The Bourne Supremacy [aff)]:

“… They don’t do random. There’s always an objective. Always a target.”

That’s why every time I write something, it should fall into one of the following reasons:

  • I should get paid
  • I’m promoting something (an affiliate product, ads, etc.)
  • I’m building a portfolio to show to potential clients
  • It will help me gain more exposure (especially when a popular site republishes my article)
  • It reinforces my learning

If I can’t think of any good reason why I’m writing something, I should just stop and do other things.

*****

It’s not enough to feel productive. What matters is I’m accomplishing something and my activities bring me closer to my goals.

I’m still far from perfect. But avoiding the time wasters most of the time helps me become actually productive.

This post was inspired by Nat Eliason’s article and The 4-Hour Workweek (aff).