“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 January 2, 2019
Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress
The end of the year is the time when everyone tries to give you advice on how to live healthier, look better, and earn more money.
It’s understandable if you find yourself lost among all the tips and opinions. Sometimes you no longer know what you truly want to achieve next year – and what’s just imposed by society.
To help you out, we’ve made this article about the things you should remove from your new year’s resolution list – instead of adding to it – to make your daily life more harmonious and peaceful.
So just make sure you cross these off your New Year’s to-do list – your body, mind and soul will be thankful.
1. Stop Buying Meaningless Gifts
We all know the sense of obligation – when we have to buy a gift for an event or celebration that’s already tomorrow, but we still have no idea of what to give.
Take these tips close to heart for all upcoming holidays, including birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.:
Stop focusing on the material objects
Instead of focusing on what material object to give, think about the emotion you want to evoke in the gift recipient, and then pick a symbolic gift that can support or represent that emotion. For example, you can gift coziness by presenting a “comfort set” with warm socks, tea, candles, etc. Or give motivation by presenting a beautiful planner or notebook.
Plan gifts in advance
We know this is easier said than done. But if you try to plan which gifts you’ll need in the upcoming months (try making a list three or four times a year), ideas will more likely come to mind and you’ll avoid that last-minute shopping. Not to mention, you’ll be able to keep an eye on sales to get the best prices.
Suggest a better way
If you’re tired of exchanging gifts for birthdays and holidays, initiate a different approach. For example, draw names among family members and agree that each one only buys a present to that one person they got. Alternatively, you can agree not to share gifts among adults, and only give presents to kids of the family. Or, ask friends to donate to charity instead of buying a gift for you.
Go for common experiences instead of exchanging gifts
You can agree (with your partner or the extended family) to go on a common trip, dinner or another activity, instead of spending money on gifts.
Sometimes you’ll have to be the one who initiates breaking the rules that have been accepted in the family for years. But if you suspect that you’re not the only one in the group who’s tired of gift-hunting, you’ll surely find support for your suggestions.
2. Don’t Exaggerate with Diets and Fitness Resolutions
It’s no secret that TV shows, article headlines, and ads (not to mention our healthy diet-obsessed friends) make us feel like we need to look better, slimmer and younger than we actually are. But going on yet another diet or starting a fitness plan with the wrong motivation rarely leads to great results.
If you are like many people, you have probably signed up for an annual gym membership at least once in your life – only to drop it one month later.
How do you balance a good resolution for a healthier life without pushing yourself into commitments that won’t last?
Here’s what you can do:
Set a healthier pattern
For example, do meat-free Mondays or reduce meat consumption to three days per week (less saturated fat for you and better for the environment). Or choose to eat only healthy food at least three days a week or only on weekdays (e.g. make sure your meals contain vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products, and protein). This way you’ll already have a healthier diet while still being able to treat yourself with a snack on weekends or parties.
Get a fitness watch
Fitness watches like Fitbit or MiBand are tiny accessories that will count your steps, calories burnt and will serve as an excellent motivator to move – or to take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Find a physical activity that you enjoy
Even if you are not that fond of doing sports, you can definitely find an activity that you’d do with pleasure. Think about what you’d like – from taking up Nordic walking to pilates or even exercising at home.
Try intermittent fasting
This is an alternating cycles of fasting and eating. For example, stop eating at 8 pm and restart not sooner than 12 hours later. This approach has been proven to have numerous health benefits, in addition to weight loss.
Skip cabs or driving to work and opt for cycling or walking instead
You’ll burn calories, breathe some fresh air, and save money – win-win!
3. Put a Cap on Your Daily To-Do List
In today’s busy world, planning your day in a stress-free way is actually an art in itself. It’s natural to want to be a loving parent, a diligent employee, an active member of the local community and probably several other individual roles.
But playing all these roles requires energy and meticulous planning. How not to lose yourself amidst all the appointments and responsibilities? And – most importantly – how to still find time for relaxing and recharging yourself?
These daily planning tips will help you have more stress-free days:
Leave bigger intervals between meetings
If you schedule too many appointments or chores in a day, you’ll probably end up late at some point, and as a result – more stressed. There are many different reasons why people are late, but poor planning is a major factor too.
Plan time to relax
As weird as it may sound, you should try and schedule your resting time. For example, if you only have one free evening this week, and a friend tries to squeeze in a meeting, feel free to say no. Don’t feel obliged to specify the reason for your refusal, just say that you are busy.
Try to be a little pessimistic
We’re often packed with plans or running late for errands because we tend to be overly optimistic – about the traffic, the time it takes to do things, etc. Instead, try an opposite tactic — assume you’ll hit traffic or the meeting will take longer.
Try waking up earlier
Sometimes even waking up 30 minutes earlier can give you the much-needed head start for several errands of the day. But remember to get enough sleep every night, even if it means going to bed earlier.
Plan your day the day before
Chances are your day will be much better organized if you pack a lunch and lay out an outfit before going to bed.
Designate a time for checking emails and social messages
If you start checking your messages between appointments, you risk getting lost in a sea of messages that need replies. Designate a time for this activity or do it in case you arrived early to a meeting.
4. Let Go of Unhealthy and Time-Consuming Habits
If there’s one thing we should get rid of in the new year, it’s the habits that steal our time, provide instant gratification but don’t offer any value in the long term. Or even worse, leave a negative impact on our health.
Here are some common (and pointless) habits along with tips on how to get rid of them:
Binge-watching TV series
Even if most online television platforms offer you lists of “Best TV Shows to Binge Watch”, being addicted to series is a major time-waster.
You can manage this addiction in several ways, for example, watch one episode per day (or a few per week) as a reward, only after you’ve finished an assignment or done a house chore. Or try replacing this habit with exercise or reading a book – this will be hard at first but should stick after a few weeks. You can also try to track how much time you spend on TV or movies – seeing how much of your life you are wasting might urge you to do something about it.
Running on coffee
Being a coffee addict is kind of a stylish addiction nowadays, but it’s not that innocent as it may initially seem. Besides addiction being a problem in itself, drinking too much coffee (more than 500-600 mg of caffeine a day) may lead to nervousness, insomnia, an upset stomach, a fast heartbeat, and even muscle tremors.
As a solution, try switching to tea or edible coffee – a more sustainable, healthy, and productivity-enhancing alternative. For example, Coffee Pixels are solid coffee bars that generate a more even energy kick throughout the day without the coffee-induced abstinence and dehydration.
Fighting procrastination requires some serious willpower. If it is a problem in your daily life or work, try ”eating the frog” in the morning – get over your biggest or hardest tasks first, then tackle everything else.
Alternatively, use time tracking software to monitor exactly how much time you waste on unproductive actions, websites or apps. Once you know exactly how much time you’re spending unproductively, try to limit your time on social media, for example to just 20 minutes per day.
If nothing else works, try bribing yourself — promise yourself to do something fun or pleasant when you finish your assignment.
Whichever habit you want to give up, consider using some habits building tools to make a contract with yourself and reward yourself for milestones achieved.
5. Stop over-consuming
We live in the age of consumerism – huge manufacturers with their promise of a comfortable life on the one hand, and growing environmental threats – that are the direct result of our modern lifestyle – on the other hand. There’s only one solution – try to consume less whenever and wherever you can.
Before making additional purchases, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I really need it? Did I need it yesterday?
- Can’t I buy it used or borrow it from friends?
- Can I rent it?
- Can I make it myself?
- Am I buying the most sustainable version of this product?
For example, check if the brand you chose is conscious about the environment, for example, are the products they manufacture energy efficient? Do they try to use less packaging?
Also, if you often find yourself buying too many groceries, promise to buy only the amount that fits in one shopping bag (that you bring along). If you often forget to take your shopping bag with you, get yourself a 2-in-1 wallet with a built-in shopping bag for more eco-friendly shopping.
6. Learn to Unplug from Your Phone
Today’s world is crammed with information, and many people struggle to keep focus on what’s truly important. There’s just too much going on in the world – too much to read, to watch, to know, too many conversations to participate in.
But how to refuse the temptation to check the phone and start using social media in a controlled, not a compulsive way?
Some tips for managing your phone-dependency:
Spend only a limited amount of battery per day
For example, start your day with 50% battery life, and manage your phone usage so that you’ll make it till the evening.
Block distracting apps and notifications on your phone and computer
Choose one-hour, two-hour or longer blocking sessions and enjoy the positive impact this will have on your mood and productivity.
Set your phone on flight mode
When you start doing an important task that requires full focus, set your phone on flight mode so that nobody can disturb you.
Leave your phone at home or in the office when you go for lunch
You’ll see that the feeling of being unreachable for a moment is actually very liberating.
The Bottom Line
As a new year begins, we’re all excitedly looking forward to what adventures await ahead of us.
But this year, promise yourself this:
Instead of having a never-ending list of tasks and commitments, focus on the truly meaningful ones. And cross-out all the rest without feeling guilty.
Less is more. Make this year count. We’re all rooting for you.
Featured photo credit: Brooke Lark via unsplash.com
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