We all try to make the most of our time by trying all kind of strategies or using way too complicated planning methods. Yet, we barely look at the things we are wasting time on. And believe me, there are a lot of things. In this article I will name 10 time wasters and how to combat them.
Time is our most valuable asset, yet we waste it the most. Wasting time is usually caused by habits that you are not even aware of. It is crucial that you do become aware of those habits and change them. Not all at once, that will probably not work. Just try to change habit by habit. Step by step. Maybe one of the next 10 time wasters is one of those habits you should change.
1. Having a too long to-do list
To-do lists can be great. They give overview and you know what to do. However, most people lose time on having a too long to-do list.
By writing everything down on your to-do list for the day your mind will feel cluttered and overwhelmed. It will result in you focusing less and being more anxious, because you got so many things to do and you feel like you do not have enough time. This, of course, results in you actually wasting time because you do not function optimally.
Write down all your tasks of the day. Prioritize them. Then, make a to-do list based on your important tasks. You can make another to-do list for your unimportant tasks and cluster them. Put the to-do list with the unimportant tasks away and do not think about it anymore until the to-do list with the important tasks is done.
Most people think that they gain status to brag around and tell that they can do multiple things at once. However, the human brain will not be operating optimal while multi-tasking.
When you are multi-tasking your brain is not processing the tasks simultaneously, it is actually switching between tasks really fast. This will result in less focus and if you do it quite often it will also drain your energy and willpower. This will result in wasting time throughout the day.
Prioritize your tasks and start with the most important one. Only focus on that task. Once you have finished it, you move onto the next important task. Repeat. Do not switch tasks while your current task is not finished.
You should cluster your unimportant tasks at the end of the day. But stop wasting time and energy by doing unimportant tasks early in the day. It will affect your focus and willpower in a negative way which results in you wasting time.
3. Checking for notifications
Checking for notifications. Or should I say: checking for social acceptance? I know, that might sound harsh but in reality, it is true.
Nowadays we can contact each other in such a fast way that we feel the urge to be constantly connected to people. We want to check if someone send us something on e-mail, tagged us on Facebook, send us a Snapchat or if someone liked our Instagram photo.
Most of the people are not even aware how often they check their phone during the day. Checking your phone too often is one of the biggest time wasters in our current society.
The notifications do not run away when you do not check them every hour. Your friends will not stop liking you if you do not reply within a few hours. It will all still be there. So, why would you feel the urge to constantly check your phone for it?
Checking your phone for notifications not only wastes time, but it also affects your focus in a negative way. Which will result in even more wasted time, because with less focus you become less effective and efficient.
I would advise you to track your phone usage for a week. There are great apps out there. It will probably shock you how often you touch the device and how many hours you spend on it. Once you gain that awareness, start doing something about it. Stop checking for notifications all the time.
In another article I wrote about how to get connected by using Social Media. Not distracted. You can check the article out if you feel like you waste too much time on Social Media:
Planning. A great way to organize your day. Making a planning can make or break your usage of time. So, why do so many people lose their time on it?
Planning your day is all about prioritization. That, is where a lot goes wrong. When you make your planning, you should first have your priorities straight. And a lot of people do not have their priorities straight before they plan their day. Some people do not even optimize their planning day by day. They just make a planning once, make it a routine, and get stuck.
As I said before – planning is all about prioritization. Make a list of all your tasks for the week, maybe even for the month. Those tasks should be aligned to your work or school and also to your personal goals.
After writing all these tasks down, prioritize them. Then, spread them out over your week. Make sure that you do the most important tasks early in the day. This is when you have more focus and willpower. Finishing an important task early in the day will also give you great momentum for the rest of the day.
Stop wasting time on having a planning that is not effective. Prioritize tasks, plan them out, and execute.
Procrastination is one of the most common forms of resistance. It is also one of the most common time-wasters.
Ever started a diet but quit it a few days later? Have you ever quit a course? Are you a singer who doesn’t sing? A writer who doesn’t write? An entrepreneur who never starts a business? Then you know what resistance is.
In ‘The War of Art’, Steven Pressfield wrote:
“There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is resistance.”
What he is trying to tell you, is that real writers know that it is not about waiting on this surge of creativity or focus. You have to create it yourself. You have to sit down and do the work to gain the focus or creativity.
Resistance is manifested in the form of procrastination, hesitation and fear. You can only combat this by overcoming it. The way to overcome procrastination is to be aware of the fact you are procrastinating and then combat it by doing the work.
I wrote another article about resistance and procrastination by reviewing the ‘The War of Art’. If you struggle with procrastination, please check it out:
Complaining is one of the most toxic things that can affect your mood. Besides that, it is also a huge time waster. In most cases there is no reason to complain. You could use the energy from complaining way better, like putting the energy towards fixing the situation you are facing.
Complaining has something to do with one thing: you do not got things in perspective. If you think you are in an unfair or bad situation, someone can probably show someone else who had it worse and got through it without complaining.
Whenever you are feeling the urge to complain, think about something you are grateful for. It puts things in perspective and that way you do not waste time and energy on complaining.
7. Consuming content (tv, news, social media)
Consuming content is probably the most obvious time-waster of this list. Nowadays we are using technology so much that it is almost impossible to avoid consuming content.
Consuming content can have advantages, if you pick the right content. It can learn you new things, inspire you or give you an insight which you did not have before.
However, consuming (too much) content can, at the same time, have catastrophic disadvantages. Our human brains are not optimized to consume a lot of meaningful information. But, our brains are perfectly fine with consuming meaningless information. That, is where all goes wrong.
A majority of our society gets in the habit loops of consuming content without even thinking about what they are consuming and how often they are consuming it. Consuming content becomes an unaware form of escapism that usually gets totally out of hand.
Try to consume content within planned time-blocks. Plan out when you are allowed to use your phone for example. At the same time, plan out moments where you are absolutely not using any technology at all. You can start by not using your phone the first hour and the last hour of the day. That way you are not losing your focus early in the morning and your brain is also not too active at night which results in a better quality of sleep.
If you want to learn more about how to use social media the right way, you can check out the next article I wrote:
Huh, sounds weird that I listed exercise as a time waster? Well, let me explain.
Exercise itself is crucial for your health and well-being. I am a big advocate of it. However, there are quite some people that waste a lot of time on exercise, because they do not exercise effectively nor efficiently.
Do you know that person in the gym, that just hangs around and a typical workout would take them 90 minutes up to 2 hours? Yeah, waste of time. Do you know that person that does the same walk every day for years, but never picks up the phase or throws in some exercises like burpees on the go? Yeah, waste of time.
You can have a great gym workout in 30 minutes if you want to. But 45 minutes will surely do. You can have a 30 minute run with some high intensity intervals, running hills, and some burpees. You do not need that much time to have a solid workout. You just need to be more effective and efficient.
Now, of course, some forms of exercise may require multiple hours to progress yourself. But, most workout sessions will probably require less. Try to track the time of your exercise sessions. See how much time it consumes of your week. Are you happy with it? Great, keep it the same. Do you feel like you waste too much time on it? Pick up the phase. Change it.
9. Unclear communication
Unclear communication is something that happens quite often without you even realizing it. It is important to communicate clearly. If you feel like you are wasting time on meetings or other stuff, you should realize that it is your responsibility to fix that. Clear communication will do that for you.
Once again: it is not your fault that you might lose time, but it is your responsibility to fix it through communicating clearly.
10. Being unaware
Being unaware is a time waster that might sound vague and at the same time overwhelming. And well, overwhelming it is.
Being unaware of where you waste time on, is one of the biggest time-wasters. People get through their day by running on their routines and habits. At the end of the day, they just zone out and do not even think about how their day went by.
Most of the things you do, you have been doing for such a long time that you do them on auto-pilot. This can be a good thing, because it does not take a lot of effort. However, it can also be a bad thing if the things you do while you are on auto-pilot are wasting your time.
Become aware of how you spend your time throughout the day. Do this by tracking every activity for a week. Also track every small thing you do during the activity and what happens during the transition from activity to activity. Just write everything down.
Analyze everything at the end of the week. Where do you spend most of your time on? What are the activities you are doing on auto-pilot in an effective and efficient way? How come? And what are the things you are wasting your time on?
Once you become aware of what you are wasting your time on, you are in control to change the outcome that disappoints you. Take the responsibility upon yourself and change the things you are wasting time on.