If biting your fingernails took up eight hours of your time every day, would you, could you, give it up? What if the way you're using email or web search is robbing hours and hours of your life? A recent round of surveys about how we're spending our precious time online shows that most of us are doing the high-tech equivalent of chewing our nails to the quick every day without even realizing it. From getting sucked into social media to throwing away whole hours surfing the web like it's 1999, today's technology should help save time, not waste it.
Here's a look at some of our biggest time-wasting tech habits, along with quick-fix solutions to take back your time right now.
Time Suck Trap #1: Search insanity
According to recent internet use statistics, people waste as much as 70 minutes a day surfing the web for information. Why? Maybe we're just stuck in a Google rut. Collectively, we visit Google 7.2 billion times a day and make around 3 billion queries. Yet half the time, it seems we never find what we're looking for in the first place.
Time-Saving Solution: Try a new search engine.
The folks at Bing recently dared me to take this new BingItOn Challenge. Like the old Pepsi blind taste test, it pits web search results from Bing against results from Google. It's unbranded, and there aren't any ads, so you don't know which is which. You put in five queries, then declare a winner based on your preferences. Bing bet that I would be so surprised by the results that I would change to Bing as my primary search engine. "Bing it on," I thought, as skeptical as ever.
But guess what? They were right. Bing won. Again and again and again. What I like most about Bing is that the results seem more relevant, more tailored to me and my interests. While replacing any bad habit with a good one takes a little time to get used to, I've already saved about 30 minutes a day by using a new search engine to track down information during my busy day.
Time Suck Trap #2: Social media madness
Americans spend an average of — get this — 100,000 years worth of time each month on Facebook. Add to that Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and mobile games like Words With Friends, and it's easy to see why we can't get anything done.
Time-Saving Solution: Automate social media posting.
Use a social media dashboard like Hootsuite to post to all your social media sites at once. It also lets you preschedule social media posts so that you can batch it all into a few hours to go out over a month's time or even longer.
If that's not enough to keep you from reading, Liking, commenting, and pinning all your time away, use an application like RescueTime. It measures all the different things you do on your computer, then gives you detailed reports about how you're spending your digital day. You can also use it to block yourself from sites that you're tempted to visit but know you shouldn't.
Time Suck Trap #3: Email overload
Has your inbox become a landfill, overflowing and overwhelming? The average inbox receives 100 emails per day. Of those 100 emails, only 42% are considered important.
Time-Saving Solution: Manage your mailbox.
This is another example of how it pays off to use modern technology to help manage modern technology. I use a service called Sanebox. It sifts, sorts, and stacks up email according to what's important. It's easy to customize, and it learns from your actions, automatically putting your newsletters in one box, store promotions in another. My favorite feature is that it sends suspected spam to the Black Hole where it belongs. But don't worry, it doesn't ditch an email unless you say it's okay.
Sanebox says it saves people an average of two hours per week from digging through their inboxes (though if you get a ton of emails like I do, I think it saves closer to four).
Time Suck Trap #4: News blues
Now here's an interesting habit I had no clue was wasting so much of my time — fishing around for news. According to the Pew Research Center, people spend about 70 minutes a day getting news from TV, radio, newspaper, and now online news sites.
Time-Saving Solution: Centralize your news.
You can get all your print and online news, everything that you need to feel informed, in about 10 minutes using a new app called Wavii (download Wavii for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch). This service lets you keep up with everything you care about in a personalized news feed and automatically creates status updates for your favorite politicians, celebrities, gadgets, and more.
If you still prefer to listen to the radio for news or just like to have music playing in the background all day, use the ultra-time-saving service TuneIn. It lets you hear what's happening right now from anywhere in the world, all in one place. The free service gives you a simple and streamlined way to listen to the music, sports, news, and podcasts you like. You just personalize your favorites once, so you don't have to waste time channel surfing every time you want to listen to something you like. You can use this in the car and on your smartphone or tablet, not only when you're sitting in front of a computer.
Time Suck Trap #5: Dings, rings, and annoying things
Every time you get a notification alert — those dings, rings, clicks, or popup instant message (IM) bubbles on your smartphone or computer — it takes your attention away from the task at hand. Even if they don't make a sound (maybe your smartphone screen just lights up when you get an email or new Facebook comment or it's your turn to Draw Something), those distractions kill your concentration and drain your device's battery.
Time-Saving Solution: Turn off alerts.
It sounds so very simple, and it actually is. Whenever you download a new app, it asks you whether to allow push notifications. Hit "don't allow." If alerts are already on your device, go to the start or settings menu, find the notifications center in the drop-down menu, and select "no" for everything you don't want to bug you throughout the day.
It's fine to schedule time to play Words With Friends, IM with your BFF, or scan the latest cute kitten videos on YouTube. But set boundaries and time limits on those activities so that you get in, get out, and get on with a more productive digital day.
What are your biggest time-draining tech habits? Do you have any quick-fix, time-saving tech solutions to share? Let us know what saves you time.
This post is sponsored, in part, by Bing.
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