How to Stop Playing Whac-A-Mole With Your Time

productivity time management Feb 16, 2021
Whac-A-Mole Game

Have you ever reached the end of your day and wondered, “what did I do today?”

You obviously did something…but what?

Most people, but not you after reading this article, operate in reactive mode.

In other words, they are busy reacting to things happening instead of proactively doing what they need/want to do.


This carnival game was created in 1975 in Japan. A typical Whac-A-Mole machine consists of a waist-level cabinet with a play area and display screen and a large, soft, black mallet. Five holes in the play area top are filled with small plastic moles, which pop up at random. Players score points by whacking each mole as it appears. The faster the reaction time, the higher the score. (Source: Wikipedia)

If you’ve ever played Whac-A-Mole, you know the longer you play the game, the more you look like an utter lunatic as you swing the mallet back and forth trying to whack the moles.

Watching someone play it is hysterical.

Sadly, this is how many people go through their days.

And when they finally arrive home or leave their home office, they are exhausted but can’t remember what they actually did.


Our brain is a wonderful, miraculous part of our body.

But it can’t remember everything, and it tends to inflate or deflate reality.

In other words, it likes to make up stories. Probably to protect us.


Instead of wondering what you did over the day or hoping you remember, track your time.

There are two ways you can do this:

  • Use your phone’s calendar. As you do stuff throughout your day, create an entry into your calendar as soon as possible so you don’t forget.
  • Write an entry in your bullet journal or any notebook, even a notes app on your phone.


If you’re completely honest with your tracking, it’s going to give you clarity about how you’re really spending your time. This truth can set you free.

And speaking of honesty, if you scheduled one hour for research for your book or article you’re writing, but you actually spent an hour scrolling through TikTok or YouTube, that’s what you write: what you really did.

I suggest that you leave the original event you scheduled and then add what you really did. This will serve as a visual reminder of what you planned vs. what you actually did.

How might doing this change your choices?


The point of this time tracking exercise is for you to understand how you’re actually spending your time to make the necessary changes.

Spending time scrolling on social media or watching Stories on Snapchat, TikTok, LinkedIn, or YouTube, is fine…unless you’re supposed to be doing something else.

Seeing the truth is the first step to changing your habits.

The next step is to set yourself up for success. This will take persistence, patience, and perhaps even pain. But it’ll be so worth it.


At the end of your workday, sit down with your bullet journal or any notebook, but not your device yet, and think about what you want to do tomorrow.

Just write.

And understand that not everything you write down will get done or even needs to be done. But doing this exercise will help you gain clarity about what you should do.

Once you’ve completed this exercise, then the planning begins.

Open your calendar and fill in the gaps you probably already have on your schedule.

Be realistic. Avoid scheduling every minute of the day. Allow your schedule to breathe. Your Internet will go down when you least expect it. That call will run late. You will get an expected phone call.

Now, it’s time for adulting.

When the time for “research” comes up, put your phone on do not disturb, put it on mute, disable vibration mode if you haven’t already, and place it face down.

Using a laptop, close all tabs except the one(s) you’re going to use.

If you have a wearable like an Apple Watch, your iPhone would have put it on do not disturb automatically, but if not, turn it on, and then put the Watch in silent mode.

Then do what’s on your calendar…only.

Nothing else.


If you’re not feeling it for whatever is on your schedule, then sit there until the event's time is over.

I’m serious.

So, if you’ve scheduled an hour to write and you aren’t feeling it, then you sit there for the duration.


  • pick up your phone.
  • open another tab on your computer.
  • talk to anyone.
  • start tinkering with stuff on your desk.
  • do anything other than writing or sit there.


This will build your self-discipline muscle.

When you sit down to plan your tomorrow later that day, you’ll remember what happened because you wrote it down, and you’ll realize that either you allocated too much time to do the task you scheduled or that you didn’t really want to do it after all, or something else.

And when you brainstorm for tomorrow, you’ll get better at planning.

Eventually, you’ll get much better at planning.

And it all will have started when you committed to tracking everything you do with your time all day.

The truth will really set you free.


Are you a time tracker?

If not, will you give it a go?

I hope you enjoyed this article. Thank you for reading it.

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