Advertising

Last Updated on December 4, 2020

How to Stop Wasting Time and Be More Productive

How to Stop Wasting Time and Be More Productive
Advertising

If a colleague came to your desk, picked up your wallet and removed $10 without asking you, would you be outraged? Yet, if a colleague came up to you and started asking you about how your weekend went, you would be perfectly okay with it.

In the first scenario, someone took $10 of your money; in the second, someone took ten minutes of your time. You can always earn more money but you will never earn more time.

We do similar things to ourselves. We feel guilty if we go out and spend money on a new device only to find after a few weeks, we are no longer using the device. But we think nothing of spending two hours crawling through our social media feeds looking at nothing in particular.

For many, the belief is money is their greatest asset, but the reality is your greatest asset is time. It doesn’t matter how much money you have if you have no time to enjoy it. You will never be able to take your money with you when you finally run out of time.

What does wasting time really mean? A good way to measure this is to look at how you are spending your time each day.

If you are going through each day aimlessly—waking up at the very last minute, gulping down some coffee, dashing out of the door to go to a job that doesn’t inspire you or take you towards your goals, spending your lunch break complaining to your colleagues about how you hate your job and returning home at the end of the day to sit exhausted on the sofa while consuming hours of pointless entertainment on your TV or phone… you are wasting time.

If you feel your day has been wasted, then it probably was. You are not making the most of your time each day.

Advertising

Here’s what you can do from now on to stop wasting time:

1. Have a Plan for the Day

The biggest time waste is not having any kind of plan for the day or week. When we don’t have a plan for the day, we just drift through the day reacting to anything that comes our way and not making any progress towards our goals or purpose.

We watch the news and let politicians anger us and then get involved in political discussions with people we don’t know who do not share our views. These ‘discussions’ frustrate us, cause our negative emotions to rise and leaves us feeling angry and empty.

If you stopped and asked yourself why you were getting involved in such discussions, you would probably discover there is no reason at all. It is just a waste of time. You are not likely to persuade a person who does not share your political beliefs to change theirs.

If politics is important to you, then become a politician. If not, stay away from these ‘discussions’. They are not going to change anything and are just a waste of your time.

2. Be Aware of Your ‘Time Suckers’

Being aware of where your ‘time suckers’ are is the first step to making the most of your available time. Starting with the basics, we should be doing work that inspires us. If your current job does not inspire you, investing some time to find a vocation that does inspire you would be a good use of your time.

Watching how much time you are spending on social media is another area to be aware of. Are you spending too much time scrolling through your social media feeds? If so, perhaps you should be limiting the amount of time you spend there each day.

Advertising

How much time do you spend in front of the TV each day? If your daily routine involves coming home from work, mentally exhausted only to turn on the TV and sit there for the next three of four hours mindlessly watching shows you have no interest in; you are wasting your time.

3. Begin the Day with Intention

If you start the day with intention with a set of meaningful objectives to complete each day, you are maximizing your time.

For example, if you wake up in the morning with a plan to spend thirty minutes exercising, one hour studying Italian and a couple of hours meeting with your friends, you are making good use of your time. (And that’s only three and a half hours of your day!)

Health and fitness, education and relationship building are not wasteful activities. All you need do is to look at your calendar before you go to bed, see where you are going to be the next day and add in the activities you want to do that day.

By completing your objectives for the day, you will feel you have had a meaningful day, and from that will flow a lot of positive energy. It will inspire you to do more of the same the next day.

Having a couple of objectives that improves you as a person, elevates your positive emotions and maintains your health is all you need to make sure you are making the most of your time.

Take a look at this guide to find your intention: How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up

Advertising

4. Be in a Proactive State

Maximizing your time each day is all about switching from being in a reactive state to being in a proactive state.

A reactive state is where you allow events outside your control to control what you do and how you feel. Consuming social media, negative news, getting involved in pointless debates and allowing email to control what you do each day at work.

A proactive state is where you start the day with intention. You intend to do some exercise, improve your knowledge and you know what work you will do that day. You don’t allow events outside your control affect your mood and you avoid pointless debates about politics, current affairs or celebrity gossip.

If you do not have a plan for the day, you are going to be in a reactive state.

Having a plan for the day does not need to be overly complex. All you need is to select a few activities that will energize you, activities that you will look forward to doing and will improve your life in some way or another.

Starting your workday with the intention to get a stuck project moving forward again, spending thirty minutes outside in nature with no online distractions, just enjoying the freedom being offline for thirty minutes will do so much for your overall wellbeing and giving yourself one hour each day for education—an online course, a book on psychology or learning to beat match on a CDJ.

Just picking a few of these activities to do each day maximizes your time, improves your mood and gives you a sense that you have not wasted your day.

Advertising

Learn more about how to plan for the day in this article: How Setting Daily Goals Makes You Achieve Big Success

Final Thoughts

The truth is, we do not have a lot of time. Human life is relatively short and wasting time on online distractions, getting involved in meaningless discussions about things we have no control over, and drifting through our days with no plan or objective is like withdrawing $100 from your bank account each day, and throwing it away in the garbage can.

You can’t afford to do that and you can’t afford to throw away those precious hours we are given every day. You will never get them back.

So, from now on, become aware of how you are spending your days, avoid meaningless discussions about things you have no control over; start the day with a plan – self-education, exercise, relationship building; move towards a proactive state rather than being stuck in a reactive state; and be aware of how limited your time is.

More Time Management Tips

Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

More by this author

Carl Pullein

Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

7 Best Free Scheduling Apps That Make Scheduling Easier Why You Need Intermediate Goals And How To Set One 6 Golden Rules to Make Progress Towards Achieving Goals What Are SMART Goals (and How to Use Them to Be Successful) 8 Healthy Sleep Habits To Develop For An Energetic You

Trending in Productivity

1 7 Effective Ways To Motivate Employees in 2021 2 How a Project Management Mindset Boosts Your Productivity 3 5 Values of an Effective Leader 4 How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them 5 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
Advertising

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

Advertising

From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

Advertising

The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

Advertising

But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

Advertising

Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

Read Next