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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 August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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