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Last Updated on September 20, 2017

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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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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