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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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    More by this author

    Teresa Griffith

    Teresa is a passionate writer who shares about productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

    How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

    What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

    When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

    In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

    While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

    As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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      Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

      Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

      The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

      But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

      However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

      This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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      Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

      We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

      Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

      Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

      The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

      When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

      When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

      How to Make Decision Effectively

      Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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      1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

      You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

      Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

      Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

      2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

      You don’t have to choose all the time.

      Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

      Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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      3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

      You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

      The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

      Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

      Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

      So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

      More Tips About Decision Making

      Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

      Reference

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