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Last Updated on June 11, 2020

How to Stop Wasting Time and Be More Productive

How to Stop Wasting Time and Be More Productive

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

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Carl Pullein

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

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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