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The 6 Biggest Wastes of Time We Regret Sooner or Later

The 6 Biggest Wastes of Time We Regret Sooner or Later

24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year. Time is the same for everyone, no matter who you are or where you are. So why is it Steve Jobs or Elon Musk seem to accomplish so much more in the same time frame? Apparently I am not the only person who seems to be stumped by their super-human capabilities. There are hundreds of articles available just documenting their day to day activities.

As the CEO of this company, I wish to learn the secrets to their success. Then I will be able to utilize them for the good of my own company. To get this knowledge, I’ve read every article available covering their work ethic, daily schedules, and the like.

After reading 100 articles I began to see a pattern: they only do things that make meaningful contributions to their future. They practice their skills so that they become better, exercise daily to keep themselves fit and healthy to better lead their company, read excessively to expand their knowledge and strengthen their minds. You hardly find them doing things that don’t serve a greater purpose. Doing things that don’t serve a greater purpose is like chewing gum, you chew constantly, but it never makes you full and tires out your jaw.

Making the most of your time is about what you choose to do.

Before completing a task, you need to ask yourself how valuable the task is to your future. How will the completion of this task leverage your life? Will it make you a better person, or help you to achieve your goals? If the answer is no, then consider where your time may be better spent.

For example, socializing is not a waste of time, it’s vital for our mental health. But the value that we create from socializing can vary immensely.  You can spend time with close friends to strengthen bonds and lift your spirits by being around like-minded people.  You can also spend time with people you aren’t close with simply for the fear of missing out (FOMO).  A lot of the times, it ends up that you weren’t really missing out on anything and you could have spent that quality time somewhere else.

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Always remember it is the intention that matters.  Do you know why you are doing something?  You’ll be surprised that most people almost never ask themselves this question.

Once you are able to understand your own actions, you will realize we engage in pointless tasks constantly that are just time sinks.  Now that you know the difference, you can focus on meaningful tasks.

We do a lot without realizing they are just a waste of time.

1. Working hard to avoid our problems

Imagine there is a line in front of you and you have to cross it. You find it difficult to do so and instead of crossing the line, you walk from one end to the other, juggling along it. But no matter how far down you walk, if you never try, you will always stay behind it.

This is like approaching a problem. You can try to avoid it, but the problem will remain the same. In the end, you end up working harder than if you just faced the problem to begin with. Worse, avoiding the problem just ends up causing bigger problems down the road.  Time is precious.  No matter how hard you try to avoid an issue, it still exists, and eventually you will have to face it. 

2. Talking about our emotions, but not solutions

Expressing emotions is important, and its natural to express your feelings.  That’s what makes us human, but it is more important to think about your intention.

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Are you in the habit of just expressing your emotions over and over again without thinking of actions to solve the issue?  This seems like a temporary release of negativity, but the negativity will come back because the underlying problem is still there.

Instead of simply expressing emotions, realize how and why you feel certain way to help you reflect and understand yourself. Understanding the “why” will let you figure out the “how” and “what”, empowering you to make changes to your actions. Expressing your emotions constructively can also help others understand you better— but after you express them, remember to take action towards a solution.  Otherwise you might start to sound like a broken record.

Emotions can give you the power to push through to make changes, or they can dominate you and trap you within a cage.  In the end it’s your intention that can help you break through.

3. Arguing for the sake of winning

You are trying to decide on a concept at work, and you think that your idea is the best. Your coworkers have ideas on how to make the concept better, but you just talk over them to keep expressing that the concept is perfect the way it is. The back and forth goes on for hours, and in the end everyone just gives up and loses interest. You may have gotten your way, but you have lost everyone’s respect.

As we get older, we begin to realize there is not always a right and wrong answer. Everyone has their own perspective, and one single story can take on many sides. There’s no point in arguing to try and make people see things your way, especially if you refuse to see theirs.

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Do you even know why you are arguing in the first place?  Arguing in general won’t help your situation, and winning the argument won’t benefit anything but your ego in the end.  All that will come out of it are hurt feelings, and perhaps damaged relationships.

4. Far-fetch your worrying

Worrying about something that hasn’t happened is like waiting under an umbrella on a sunny day waiting for the rain. It’s normal to worry about something important to you.  But over-thinking will never benefit you.  It will make you feel anxious and panicky, which only makes matters worse.  Have you ever heard of self fulfilling prophecy’s? This is a sure way to make them come true.

Imagine you heard a rumor that upper management is thinking about downsizing. Immediately you assume that your job is at stake, and start over analyzing anything that could cause you to get terminated. You nearly make yourself sick with worry, when it is only a rumor. No one has gotten fired yet, and you don’t even know if it’s true. And yet you are destroying yourself over something that hasn’t happened.

Worrying within a reasonable scope helps you prepare for incidents that may come up and the solutions for them.  Prepare enough so that you know you have control over the situation, and there is very little reason to worry.

5. Allow yourself to stay with the wrong person

Being with the wrong person is like trying to feed dog snacks to a rabbit. No matter how much you try to give, the other person just won’t be interested. The sad truth is, if you are not what that person really wants, you will never make them happy no matter how hard you try.

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Your partner seems to have lost interest. They spend most of your time together glued to their phone, scrolling through Instagram. You notice that they like a lot of pictures of the opposite sex, people who look very different from you. So you try to change. You try to look like the people in the pictures to win their interest back. Instead of winning them over, they break up with you because you’re not the person they fell for.

Of course you can try and change yourself to be the person they want, but in the end you will just end up losing yourself. And more likely than not, they still won’t like you back. You’ll lose sight of who you are, and have to put all of the pieces back together again to gain a sense of self. And this hints us to the last thing that isn’t worth our time.

6. Living your life to impress others

Imagine you have met someone new and you really want to impress him/her. You pretend to agree with all of their ideals in order to make them like you. They catch on to your ignorance and lose interest in you. If you had instead shared your real interests and engaged them into a discussion about that instead, they may have stuck around.

You can’t please everyone and being a people pleaser is pointless. The more people you try to make happy, the more people you will disappoint. What may end up impressing one person, could severely offend another person. So really, there is no point in trying to impress anyone. You are just wasting your efforts and time on people who were never worth it in the first place. Focus on yourself, and work on yourself to be better. This investment in yourself will eventually attract others to you.

Time is limited, and our most valuable asset. You should treat time like an investment. Make sure that the tasks you invest your time into now will give you a return in the future.

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the present and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the moment when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or plans for the future?

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of living in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.

The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.

The Importance of Living in the Moment

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.

Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:

Better Health

By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present can also improve psychological well-being[1].

Improve Your Relationships

Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?

Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them extremely difficult.

How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.

By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.

Greater Self-Control

You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier[2].

Why Do We Worry?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.

When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.

Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.

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Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.

3 Steps to Start to Live in the Moment

Step 1: Overcome Worrying

In order to overcome worrying, we need to do two things:

Calm Your Mind

When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.

The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.

In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.

Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.

People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.

If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.

Step 2: Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment

In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.

Racing Mind

Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.

You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.

If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.

Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past

None of us want to be in unpleasant situations, or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.

So how do most people cope with painful emotions?

By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.

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In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.

Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.

A Wandering Mind

From the moment we are born (likely sooner) until the time we die, our body and mind are active performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.

Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.

Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities[3].

Outside Influences

Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future[4].

Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy.

Step 3: Practice Mindfulness

So how can we live in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?

Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.

Understand Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.

When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality[5].

You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.

This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.

To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.

If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.

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You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.

Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.

You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.

This practice is highly effective, and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article: What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

Mindful Breathing

While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity. That’s it.

You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.

Here’re some breathing exercises you can try to learn: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

Mindful Walking

Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking. But are we really?

Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?

Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.

You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.

In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.

You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.

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Mindful Eating

Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.

The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level[6]. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.

Live in the present with mindful eating.

    Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss[7].

    So how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:

    • Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
    • Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
    • Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.

    You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

    Mindful Activities

    Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.

    Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.

    You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.

    Final Thoughts

    Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness, as well as get you closer to achieving your goals.

    Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.

    Practicing mindfulness may be a bit challenging in the beginning, but I can assure you it will get easier.

    The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. This is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ultimate reality.

    More About Living in the Present

    Featured photo credit: Smile Su via unsplash.com

    Reference

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