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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
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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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