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Top 20 Time Wasters and the Top 5 Worthwhile Activities

Top 20 Time Wasters and the Top 5 Worthwhile Activities

As we all shift gears back into September routines, this is a great time to take a look at how you spend — and waste — your time. Check your activities against this list:

Top 20 Time Wasters

  1. Facebook — I don’t think I really need to explain this to any of you. If you’re reading Lifehack, you’re savvy enough to know that Facebook (and other social media) can be a huge black hole for time.
  2. Photo taking, organizing, uploading, and posting — While we all love to share our best moments with our friends, if you start doing this a lot, it can be a huge time waster. Every photo needs to be uploaded, captioned, and share. Unless you are a professional photographer, limit the time you spend on photos.
  3. Momento-gathering — This is an extension of the last item. You can waste a lot of time collecting and organizing momentos. Extra-special pieces are great, but just trash the boring stuff. Momentos can be electronic too, and if they need organizing, they take up your time.
  4. Personal Grooming — Personal hygiene is essential but if you spend more than 5 minutes on your hair, you might think about how to reduce that time.
  5. Exercise — Exercise itself is very important, but you don’t need to spend a lot of time on it. Go for an intense workout in 20-30 minutes, rather than a 2-hour affair. Which brings me to…
  6. Affairs — If you want to keep more than one relationship on the go, well, all I can say is good luck with that! It’s not going to be easy and it’s going to take a lot of time.
  7. Playing Games — It was Plants vs. Zombies for a while. Then Angry Birds… What games do you like to play? While a little bit of gaming is great recreation, just be aware of the time you spend. You might even want to literally log the time and see how much it adds up over a week. Decide how many hours you are willing to waste on your game(s) of choice and then limit yourself. Willpower required.
  8. TV — This is, in my opinion, the worst culprit of all. 99% of the time, it’s not useful, helpful or recreational in the true meaning of the word. Lots of shows try to sell themselves as being informative or educational, but they aren’t. For example, how much do you really need to know about ancient battles? TV is an horrendous time waster. Don’t be one of those people who lose 20+ hours a week in front of the flatscreen!
  9. Watching movies — This is a small step up from TV — at least you aren’t being bombarded with commercials. But one 90-minute movie a day adds up to 10.5 hours per week, and that’s a lot of time lost. Why not make watching a movie a special treat?
      YouTube (or other online streaming video)
      — Need I say more? Either limit your raw time spent or limit the number of “related videos” you let yourself watch. Or go cold-turkey. YouTube is a cruel master!
    • Going for a Coffee — While you may love that espresso every day, how much time does it take to drive to the coffee shop, stand in line or wait in the drive thru, pay and then drive to wherever you were really going? You could save some time by getting really great beans and making your own at home or the office.
    • Being Sick — It is a better investment in your time to eat healthy and keep your immune system strong than lose time being sick. If you are sick, focus on getting well than just “biding the time” watching TV or complaining to anyone and everyone on Facebook!
    • Reading junky books — I hesitate to say this, but reading can be a time-waster. Think about what you’re reading and why. But please, still encourage young people to read anything and everything, just to improve their reading skills.
    • Commuting — Add up the time spent going to/from work every day and see if there is a way to reduce it. Carpool if you can — you can use the time spent riding to do things on the way. Or, see if your employer would agree to let you work one day a week from home, or work 35 hours in 4 days instead of 5. There are many options if your commute is a killer.
    • Shopping — We all need groceries, but do you need to drive across town to that bulk store and spend four hours on a Saturday filling a gigantic cart? Have you done the math to see how much money you are actually saving? Might your time be worth something? How about unnecessary clothes, gadget or phone shopping? Can you save some time going to a closer store rather than driving across town? This is especially important if you get into a habit of driving extra — time lost multiplies when you do something daily or weekly.
    • Online Shopping — This is a variation of the above point, but it bears mentioning separately. So you need to order this-or-that specific product online. Time yourself. Give it 5 minutes — get it done. Don’t be distracted by other products, or “other customers also bought” items. Don’t do any extreme product comparison or research (unless it’s something you’ve never bought before and you really need to). Shopping for apps can be a time-eater, too.
    • Accounting — Depending on your situation, your system and your accounting skill, it might be a major time saver to just pay someone to do it for you. Or, you might be able to streamline your system to do a little at a time rather than losing huge chunks of time in tax season.
    • Organizing/Moving files on your computer — Try to put things where they belong the first time, so that you don’t have to go searching for them later or spend time organizing them. On the other hand, maybe you lose time just “fiddling” with things on your computer — looking through your downloads folder or mucking around with folder hierarchies.
    • Cleaning House — Depending on your situation, it might be a good use of time to hire a maid to come in and keep your place clean. Think about time spent, check on the costs of a maid, and do the math. Before you buy a big house, consider the time it will take to clean it!
    • Obsessions — Whether it’s reading conspiracy theory websites or tracking down your 16th generation genealogy, our hobbies can become obsessions if we do them uncontrollably. Make sure that anything you spend a lot of time on hasn’t become an unbalanced fascination and if it has, try and cut the strings. Get help if you need to.

    So that’s a fairly comprehensive list of time wasters (add any I’ve forgotten in the comments). Remember, we aren’t just saving time so we can work more. With more time available, you can make time for the…

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    Top 5 Worthwhile Things

    1. Connecting with Friends and/or Family. Having a network of close friends you can let your guard down around is extremely important. Don’t turn down your friends to work on your hobby alone. Don’t stay home from your weekly meetup group because you feel grumpy — going out will cheer you up. Doing social things is important for your mental and physical health and should be balanced carefully with work and family. Do the things that make life worth living.
    2. Eating good food, slowly. With all that time you saved by eliminating time wasters above, you have an extra 15 minutes to eat slowly and taste your food. Ideally, it would be great to buy groceries and cook food at home — there are less preservatives and chemicals this way — but if you can’t do that, at least eat the healthiest foods you can find and take your time. Eat more raw veggies, and for pete’s sake, stop for a minute after you swallow that last bite!
    3. Being reliable for your kids’ sake. If you said you’d take them to practice or go see their recital, get them there on time and make them feel like it’s your priority. Let them know they can count on you by your actions and they will feel loved! Isn’t that what every parent wants — for their kids to feel supported and loved? If you don’t have kids, the same principle applies to your spouse, or others close to you. It is always worthwhile to plan a little buffer time around those sorts of important events to make sure that you aren’t rushed or stressed going into them.
    4. Being in Nature. I am a huge fan of spending true recreation time — re-creating yourself — in nature. Go for a walk, or run an errand on your bicycle or on foot. True recreation should get your mind off your daily stresses and let your mind relax, and nothing does that like being in nature. I have heard that the colour blue is a calming colour, and what is more calming that lying on your back under a blue sky? Green is invigorating, and sunlight filtering through green leaves is the ultimate “green experience.” Watching sunsets (or sunrises), cloud gazing, bird watching, or watching boats in the harbour are all great outdoorsy recreation. Time in nature can be combined with exercise, but doesn’t have to be. In fact, time in nature can be combined with any one of the other 4 Worthwhile Things.
    5. Laugh more. Play more. Worry less! Donald Cooper says in his Accelerate Your Business workshops, “trust the process.” All your hard work will pay off. Do the steps you feel are best, and don’t worry. Give yourself time to play. Stay lighthearted — your brain works better this way, and your stress levels will decrease. Forgive the world for not being perfect. Forgive yourself. Stay in the present and see how much you can enjoy this very moment, now.

    (Photo credit: Wasting time concept via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on March 21, 2019

    11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

    11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

    Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

    You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

    But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

    To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

    It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

    “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

    The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

    In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

    Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

    1. Start Small

    The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

    Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

    Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

    Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

    Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

    Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

    It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

    Do less today to do more in a year.

    2. Stay Small

    There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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    But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

    If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

    When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

    I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

    Why?

    Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

    The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

    Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

    3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

    No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

    There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

    What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

    Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

    This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

    This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

    4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

    When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

    There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

    Peter Drucker said,

    “What you track is what you do.”

    So track it to do it — it really helps.

    But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

    5. Measure Once, Do Twice

    Peter Drucker also said,

    “What you measure is what you improve.”

    So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

    For reading, it’s 20 pages.
    For writing, it’s 500 words.
    For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
    For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

    Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

    6. All Days Make a Difference

    Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

    Will two? They won’t.

    Will three? They won’t.

    Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

    What happened? Which one made you fit?

    The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

    No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

    7. They Are Never Fully Automated

    Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

    But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

    What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

    It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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    The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

    It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

    It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

    8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

    Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

    Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

    When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

    The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

    Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

    9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

    The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

    Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

    You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

    But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

    So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

    If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

    This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

    The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

    Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

    10. Punish Yourself

    Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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    I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

    It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

    You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

    No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

    The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

    But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

    11. Reward Yourself

    When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

    Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

    The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

    After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

    If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

    Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

    If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

    In the End, It Matters

    What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

    When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

    And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

    “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

    Keep going.

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    More Resources to Help You Build Habits

    Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
    [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
    [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
    [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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