Don’t die by 1000 paper cuts. Go on a vacation instead.

The average worker takes from 2 to 4 weeks of holidays per year.

But since we don’t wanna take all our vacations at the same time (that would mean working for 11 months straight), we choose to break it down into smaller vacations… 4 days here, 3 days there… a week there.

The reason why we take so few vacation days may be because if we took more, we wouldn’t have time to do the work we’re supposed to do in the time we have left.

But… is this true?

What if we were able to take more vacations while getting the same amount of things done during the year?

Let’s take a look at the average working day.

Typically we work for 8 hours every day.

We may take the first 15 min to “get in the flow” and we read a bit of social media.

We take a look at our task list, but since it’s not clear what should go first, we spend a bit of time scheduling our day.

We feel thirsty but we don’t have water at hand, so we stand up for some water even if we were already in flow state.

We receive a notification, we check it, and get pulled into social media again.

Yes, we may be working in between interruptions and losses of focus, but how many of those 8 hours are we really working?

This is what it’s called death by a 1000 paper cuts.

Since these distractions account for so little each time they happen, we don’t really think of them as the cause of being unproductive.

But what happens when we sum them all for a year?

Let’s say we spend 1 hour distracted every day (which would be conservative). That is 9 days in a year.

If we add one of our already accepted vacation days, we have a full 2-week vacation made out of distraction time.

So what can we do to gain this time back?

  • Reduce the wandering: Every time we’re faced with a difficult task and we are stuck we may resort to using Social Media or checking email. I’m a paid user of Freedom which is a lifesaver. This is an app that blocks everything you shouldn’t be accessing while you’re in a working session. It’s fully customizable and it’s a huge time saver.
  • Batch tasks: If you lose time every day scheduling your day, do it once a week (see how I do it) and plan the entire week. Every task we do needs some mental set-up time and we can use this same time one time for the whole week, instead of using it 5 times, one for each day.
  • Prepare your environment before getting to work: 1L of water next to you, a comfortable temperature so you don’t need to stand up to modify it, peed and pooed.
  • Turn off notifications: I apply this not just to my working life, but to my whole life. I don’t have notifications anywhere. I have to open each app to see if there’s anything new. If you don’t wanna go to this extreme, you can start by using the do not disturb modes for your computer and phone, which you can probably automate so they start and finish every workday at the same time.

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