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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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    Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

    Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

    There’s a dark side to the conveniences of the Digital Age. With smartphones that function like handheld computers, it has become increasingly difficult to leave our work behind. Sometimes it seems like we’re expected to be accessible 24/7.

    How often are you ever focused on just one thing? Most of us try to meet these demands by multi-tasking.

    Many of us have bought into the myth that we can achieve more through multi-tasking. In this article, I’ll show you how you can accomplish more work in less time. Spoiler alert: multi-tasking is not the answer.

    Why is multitasking a myth?

    The term “multi-tasking” was originally used to describe how microprocessors in computers work. Machines multitask, but people cannot.

    Despite our inability to simultaneously perform two tasks at once, many people believe they are excellent multi-taskers.

    You can probably imagine plenty of times when you do several things at once. Maybe you talk on the phone while you’re cooking or respond to emails during your commute.

    Consider the amount of attention that each of these tasks requires. Chances are, at least one of the two tasks in question is simple enough to be carried out on autopilot.

    We’re okay at simultaneously performing simple tasks, but what if you were trying to perform two complex tasks? Can you really work on your presentation and watch a movie at the same time? It can be fun to try to watch TV while you work, but you may be unintentionally making your work more difficult and time-consuming.

    Your brain on multi-tasking

    Your brain wasn’t designed to multi-tasking. To compensate, it will switch from task to task. Your focus turns to whatever task seems more urgent. The other task falls into the background until you realize you’ve been neglecting it.

    When you’re bouncing back and forth like this, an area of the brain known as Broadmann’s Area 10 activates. Located in your fronto-polar prefrontal cortex at the very front of the brain, this area controls your ability to shift focus. People who think they are excellent multitaskers are really just putting Broadmann’s Area 10 to work.

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    But I can juggle multiple tasks!

    You are capable of taking in information with your eyes while doing other things efficiently. Scientifically speaking, making use of your vision is the only thing you can truly do while doing something else.

    For everything else, you’re serial tasking. This constant refocusing can be exhausting, and it prevents us from giving our work the deep attention it deserves.

    Think about how much longer it takes to do something when you have to keep reminding yourself to focus.

    Why multitasking is failing you

    Multitasking does more bad than good to your productivity, here’re 4 reasons why you should stop multitasking:

    Multitasking wastes your time.

    You lose time when you interrupt yourself. People lose an average of 2.1 hours per day getting themselves back on track when they switch between tasks.

    In fact, some studies suggest that doing multiple things at once decreases your productivity by as much as 40%. That’s a significant loss in efficiency. You wouldn’t want your surgeon to be 40% less productive while you’re on the operating table, would you?

    It makes you dumber.

    A distracted brain performs a full 10 IQ points lower than a focused brain. You’ll also be more forgetful, slower at completing tasks, and more likely to make mistakes.

    You’ll have to work harder to fix your mistakes. If you miss an important detail, you could risk injury or fail to complete the task properly.

    This is an emotional response.

    There’s so much data suggesting that multitasking is ineffective but people insist that they can multitask.

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    Feeling productive fulfills an emotional need. We want to feel like we’re accomplishing something. Why accomplish just one item on the to-do list when you can check off two or three?

    It’ll wear you out.

    When you’re jumping from task to task, it can feel invigorating for a little while. Over time, this needs to fill every second with more and more work leads to burn out.

    We’re simply not built to multitask, so when we try, the effect can be exhausting. This destroys your productivity and your motivation.

    How to stop multitasking and work productively

    Flitting back and forth between tasks feels second-nature after a while. This is in part because Broadmann’s Area 10 becomes better at serial tasking through time.

    In addition to changing how the brain works, this serial tasking behavior can quickly turn into a habit.

    Just like any bad habit, you’ll need to recognize that you need to make a change first. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to adjust to a lifestyle of productive mono-tasking:

    1. Consciously change gears

    Instead of trying to work on two distinct tasks at once, consider setting up a system to remind you when to change focus. This technique worked for Jerry Linenger, an American astronaut onboard the space station, Mir.

    As an astronaut, he had many things to take care of every day. He set alarms for himself on a few watches. When a particular watch sounded, he knew it was time to switch tasks. This enabled him to be 100% in tune with what he was doing at any given moment.

    This strategy is effective because the alarm served as his reminder for what was to come next. Linenger’s intuition about setting reminders falls in line with research conducted by Paul Burgess of University College, London on multitasking.

    2. Manage multiple tasks without multitasking

    Raj Dash of Performancing.com has an effective strategy for balancing multiple projects without multitasking. He suggests taking 15 minutes to acquaint yourself with a new project before moving on to other work. Revisit the project later and do about thirty minutes on research and brainstorming.

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    Allow a few days to pass before knocking out the project in question. While you were actively work on other projects, your brain continues to problem solve-in the background.

    This method works because it gives us the opportunity to work on several projects without allowing them to compete for your attention.

    3. Set aside distractions

    Your smartphone, your inbox and the open tabs on your computer are all open invitations for distraction. Give yourself time each day when you silence your notifications, close your inbox and remove unnecessary tabs from your desktop.

    If you want to focus, you can’t give anything else an opportunity to invade your mental space.

    Emails can be particularly invasive because they often have an unnecessary sense of urgency associated with them. Some work cultures stress the importance of prompt responses to these messages, but we can’t treat every situation like an emergency.

    Designate certain times in your day for checking and responding to emails to avoid compulsive checking.

    4. Take care of yourself

    We often blame electronics for pulling us from our work, but sometimes our physical body forces us into a state of serial tasking. If you’re hungry while you’re trying to work, your attention will flip between your hunger and your work until you take care of your physical needs.

    Try to take all your bio-breaks before you sit down for an uninterrupted stint of work.

    In addition, you’ll also want to be sure you’re attending to your health in a broader sense. Getting enough exercise, practicing mindfulness and incorporating regular breaks into your day will keep you from being tempted by distractions.

    5. Take a break

    People are more likely to head to YouTube or check their social media when they need a break. Instead of trying to work and watch a mindless video at the same time, give yourself times when you’re allowed to enjoy your distracting activity of choice.

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    Limit how much time you’ll spend on this break so that your guilt-free distraction time doesn’t turn into hours of wasted time.

    6. Make technology your ally

    Scientists are beginning to discover the detrimental effects of chronic serial tasking on our brains. Some companies are developing programs to curb this desire to multitask.

    Apps like Forest turn staying focused into a game. Extensions like RescueTime help you track your online habits so that you can be more aware of how you spend your time.

    The key to productivity: Focus

    Multitasking is not the key to productivity. It’s far better to schedule time to focus on each task than it is to try to do everything at once.

    Make use of the methods outlined above and prepare to be more effective and less exhausted in the process.

    If you want to learn more about how to focus, don’t miss my other article:

    How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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