“If our thoughts shape our world, then we can decide every moment is valuable and then make it so.” – Lori Deschene
How many times have you looked back on your day and wondered where the time went? How often have you been so busy that you didn’t have time to simply live?
Similarly, how many times have you had to start over after putting hours, days, weeks, or even years into a project or venture?
In any of these cases, it’s easy to feel as if you’ve wasted a significant amount of your time on Earth.
But that’s only true if you make it so.
The truth is, your time and experiences are as valuable as you perceive them to be. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is completely up to you.
Valuing Day-to-Day Moments
How many of you reading this actually enjoy running errands or doing chores?
If you didn’t raise your hand, I don’t blame you. These daily maintenance tasks can leave us feeling like we’re stuck in a hamster wheel. Go to the store, buy food, come home, cook, wash dishes, clean up…and do it all again tomorrow.
It’s easy to feel as if you’re just going through the motions. That you waste inordinate amounts of time running these errands on a daily basis. That there’s so much else you could be doing with your life.Advertising
While there really is no escape from having to complete these daily tasks, you can escape the idea that completing them is a waste of your time.
Instead of approaching these tasks thinking “Okay, once I get through this, I’ll have time to relax,” aim to get as much as you can out of each experience.
Grocery shopping can become boring if you always buy the same old stuff. But there’s nothing that says you can’t spice things up a bit (see what I did there?). Actively seek out new ingredients for a recipe you’ve never tried before. Put a little extra effort into what used to be a monotonous task, and you might end up actually enjoying yourself. Ironically, this will all end up taking more of your time, but you’ll almost immediately see the value in such time well spent.
Doing laundry, sweeping the floor, and scrubbing the bathtub are most likely not on the top of your list of exciting things to do in life. But, of course, they must be done. And if you change the way you approach these seemingly menial tasks, you’ll find much more value in each of them.
Think of all that goes into these chores. It might not be glamorous work, but it is strenuous. Keeping your home spotlessly clean requires you to have a consistent vision of what you want each room to look like, and persevere through a ton of adversity – in the form of your kids, pets, and spouse. Understand how meaningful it is that you’re constantly fighting against the grain, but still have the intestinal fortitude to press forward.
You’ll probably learn some tricks along the way, too: better ways to keep grime away; an easier way to fold t-shirts (believe me, there is one); the best way to get your kids to clean up after themselves. These are all skills you picked up along the way while completing these Sisyphean tasks that seemed to be a complete waste of time.
That is, they seemed that way until you took the time to see the value in each of them.
Valuing Failed Efforts
When I first started writing on the web, I had no idea what I was doing. I pitched articles that had absolutely no value to my clients. My ideas were boring. I was overwhelmed by the many published writers and bloggers with hundreds of articles under their belt. I remember thinking I just “didn’t have it.”
If I were to have quit back then, then, yes: all of the time I spent trying to become a writer up until that point would have been a complete waste. I wouldn’t have learned anything, and certainly would not have grown professionally.Advertising
Instead, I started thinking: “How can I learn from these shortcoming? How can I use these experiences of failure in order to grow?”
I learned that failure is not an end in and of itself; it’s simply a bump in the continuum toward success.
Once I began to tie my failures into my journey as a writer, I began to see the value in each of my failed attempts.
I stopped deleting rejected pitches. Instead, I started reading over them to see how I needed to improve.
Rather than completely erasing drafts and starting from scratch, I began reworking them section by section until they were as close to perfect as possible.
Instead of completely ignoring a client after being rejected, I began contacting them to get insight into what they were really looking for, and how I could change my approach to better suit their needs in the future.
I’ve definitely faced setbacks along my journey as a writer. But, because I’ve improved the manner in which I approach these setbacks, I can honestly say that, as long as I’m writing, I never feel like I’ve wasted my time.
A Changing Wind
So far, I’ve discussed fairly minor incidents that might set you back a couple hours, or at most a few days.
But what about the setbacks that seem to erase years of your life?Advertising
I’m talking about those of us who have graduated college only to discover their degree is useless. Or those who have been laid off after twenty years at the same office. Or those who realize they’ve been stuck in a rut for years, but are afraid it’s too late to make a change.
When these revelations hit you, it can be a hard pill to swallow. You’ll probably feel as if you’ve completely wasted your life, and there’s no way to get back on track.
Well, it’s not true.
As with everything I’ve discussed so far, you’ve only wasted your time if you allow it to seem that way.
Throughout my college years, I studied literacy education. I wanted nothing more than to help struggling students become proficient readers every day of my life. I was, and am, good at it.
But, in a market in which hundreds of applicants vie for a single position, and those that do get hired are the first to be laid off when budget cuts roll around, I finally decided the educational field wasn’t for me.
I could easily look back on my time in college and working as a tutor and substitute teacher as a waste. I’m not working in the field, so how can I say my past experiences in the educational industry are useful to my current situation?
Thinking that way would be a complete disservice to my past efforts, and my current abilities.
Instead, I choose to focus on the strengths I’ve gained over the years, and leveraging them in my current occupation as a writer.Advertising
I absolutely love reading and learning about anything this world has to offer. That hasn’t changed. Learning new information provides me with more material to include in my writing.
I enjoy explaining complex ideas in relatable and memorable ways. I don’t need to be in front of a classroom to make use of that skill. In fact, as a writer, I have more time to ensure my explanation is comprehensible as possible before I publish it.
I feel fulfilled when I know my efforts have helped improve the lives of other people in some way or another. Writing on the Web allows me to reach many more individuals than I could ever imagine reaching in the confines of a single classroom.
Just because I never truly reached my initial goal of becoming a full-time teacher doesn’t mean my journey was a complete failure. I may have had to redefine how I use the skills I’ve learned along the way – but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost those skills entirely.
There will almost certainly come a time in your life when you need to leave the past in the past. But you should never forget what you’ve learned along the way.
Time is life’s greatest teacher. If you learn from its lessons, you’ll never waste a moment of your life.
Featured photo credit: Hourglass / Mustafa Awwad / Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com
Last Updated on September 17, 2018
How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive
Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.
Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.
All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.
Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?
Table of Contents
How bad really is multitasking?
It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.
Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.
This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.
We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.
So what to do about it?
Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity
Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:
1. Get enough rest
When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.
This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.
When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.
2. Plan your day
When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.
When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.
Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.
3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing
I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.
I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.
Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.
4. When at your desk, do work
We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.
Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.
5. Learn to say no
Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.
Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.
By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.
6. Turn off notifications on your computer
For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.
Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.
7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work
Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.
You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.
The bottom line
Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.
Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.
Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.
Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com