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The 6 Biggest Wastes of Time We Regret Sooner or Later

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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.

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More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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