I was talking with a friend recently about our previous day at work. She kept saying what a waste of time it was for her to travel to and from the office every day for altogether an hour per day, and how the job itself was a complete waste of time.
When I got home I realized that, in fact, she had been working the whole day, producing results and value for the company, whereas I had literally spent the day just scrolling Facebook comments. Wasn’t I actually the one who had wasted a whole day’s worth of time?
I started thinking about what ‘wasting time’ actually means and why me and her saw it so differently. One of us was surely wrong, but which one?
What does wasting time actually even mean? For one ‘wasting time’ can mean engaging in activities that do not add any tangible value. In other words, this could be talking with a colleague at the water machine for half an hour (my way of thinking in the previous scenario).
For the other ‘wasting time’ is doing something that doesn’t bring them any sort of feeling of fulfillment or achievement. This could be as big an issue as having an uninspiring job (my friend’s way of thinking).
I realized that since we only have this one life, and our own well-being must always go above a company’s revenue sheet, I really was the one who wasn’t wasting time;
I was doing a job that I enjoyed, whereas my friend was doing something that didn’t provide her any value (except salary) in a horrendous working environment and with incompetent management pushing needless pressure on her.
But as we know, it’s not so easy to find a job that fulfills all your creative and personal development needs. Instead we should look at the time we dedicate for ourselves, and whether there are areas that go into the ‘wasting time’ box.
Deleting unnecessary time-wasters from our lives immediately enhances our quality of life and makes it easier to deal with, no matter what unpleasant situations we need to tackle with on a daily basis.
9 Things That Waste Your Time Every Day And How To Stop
1. Not having a to-do list at work
Of course, this depends on the job that you have, but for example in my case, coming to work without a to-do list is a way to make sure that nothing gets done.
Problem: You arrive to the office and immediately someone rushes in asking you to look up something for the meeting that starts in an hour. You had planned to do something before the meeting, but now you don’t have time for it.
And after the meeting you’ve forgotten all about whatever it was that you were supposed to do before. There’s only so much capacity in our brain to remember a dozen things and concentrate on a job at hand.
Solution: To-do lists are the easiest thing one could do to try and stay organized. Whenever you think of or get a new task, write it down on a notebook. Get everything else done first and return to the notebook to see what it was that needed doing.
At the end of the day write down all the things that you need to remember to attend to the next morning. Thus, when you arrive to the office you don’t need to waste one second on thinking about what needs to be done, you have it all written down. Just tackle the list.
2. Social Media
Surprised? I didn’t think so ;)
Now, social media doesn’t need to be a waste of time. There are loads of people who make a living out of their social media platforms and that can’t be called a waste, right?
Also, social media can be a lovely break from whatever responsibilities you may have throughout the day. As long as it doesn’t take your attention away from more important things, like living your life, for example.
Problem: When you’re late for work because you forgot yourself scrolling through Instagram and Twitter feeds, that’s when you’ve literally wasted a morning. Or if any comment or photo on there makes you feel bad about anything, that’s clear waste.
Solution: Your phone already has apps and systems installed that can track the time you spend on social media. You can set yourself a time, after which the phone will tell you to shut down all social media sites and get back to living your life.
Or you might just limit your social media usage to coffee breaks at work and in the evening only. Clear boundaries are always good. Now you just have to stick to them…
3. Not prioritizing
In all honesty, as handy as a to-do list is, it only saves you time if the tasks are in a practical order.
Problem: Starting a task, which you can’t finish until later will waste your time because you will end up confused. By 1PM you will have half done tasks, tasks that haven’t been started yet and something that you already finished but can’t quite remember what it was.
Prioritizing the tasks on your to-do list doesn’t just save you time, but also ensures that the tasks are executed to the highest quality.
Solution: When you’ve written down all the things that need doing, read through the list and see what are the 2-3 most important things. Those are the tasks you should start with. Even if some of them are big tasks that take multiple days to finish, getting the task as far today as possible, will save you time and effort tomorrow.
The next tasks could be quick routine tasks that don’t take too much brain power or time to complete. Do those in one stack and you can move on.
The last tasks on your list should be things that you don’t necessarily need to do today, but if you have the time, why not get them off the list? Or maybe you wanted to help out a friend or a colleague, this is an opportunity to direct your focus to that.
Problem: One of the greatest life lessons that I’ve learned is not to push anything off for tomorrow that I can do today. Because if I do, the likeliness of me never getting that task done is high. Something “more important” will always come up or I will just forget about it.
The things that we tend to push forwards are often quite small and easy when we really think about it. And it will save us a load of time to just get it done with.
Solution: If you recognize procrastinating as an issue that you struggle with, one of the easiest things to do is to take up the habit of writing those to-do lists and making sure that you keep to them.
Tick off one task at a time and see the list getting shorter and shorter. And make sure you don’t add any unnecessary tasks to it as you go along.
It’s a weirdly satisfying thing to do and sure takes the edge off all that procrastinating.
5. Not planning ahead
Problem: What happens if you embark on a new week without any idea of what that week might or should include? Well, you will most probably be so overwhelmed after Monday that you’re considering asking for sick leave by Wednesday.
Nobody needs (or should) plan their week out with a minute-accurate schedule, because the odds are you won’t be able to stick to that schedule.
Solution: Instead, it would be good to take a quick look at your calendar on Sunday to see what you’re up against the coming week.
This will give you an idea of what sort of outfits you might need, how short or long days there might be on the coming week, and how much own-time you should be able to secure.
Planning ahead, even if just a little bit, clears your schedule for you beforehand. It also saves you time in the morning if you plan couple days’ outfits beforehand and lay them out. Meal prep is a brilliant way of planning ahead, as is booking that gym class and a hairdresser appointment. Little things that make the week move forwards more fluently.
Yes, I know! I also used to think that by multitasking I could save a load of time that would be wasted if I tackled one task at a time.
Problem: But in fact, many researches have shown that multitasking is, most of the time, counterproductive. Instead of getting multiple things done in less time, you get some things done, but with poor quality. Which in turn means that you need to return to the task later to do repairs or re-do the whole thing from start.
Solution: Do one task at a time, and do not start another one before you’ve finished the first task. No matter how tempted it may feel to start another task on the side.
If there are tasks that can’t be finished today, do them all the way to the point that you can and schedule the rest for tomorrow. And then tackle a new task.
7. Relationships that don’t add value
What marks a valuable relationship? That can be debated since we all appreciate different things in people, but the ultimate truth is that if any relationship makes you feel down, it might be time to reconsider the time and effort you put into it.
Problem: Everybody needs friends, but even in friends quality should be preferred over quantity. Imagine spending a day with someone, and after that day you feel drained and like you’re not as pretty, funny or witty as you had thought you were. You have just wasted a day.
Solution: Instead, prioritize your precious time for those people who make you laugh, who make you feel like you belong, and in whose company you can be 100% yourself.
8. Not having a routine
Routine, what a boring concept. Except it’s not if you think about the effect not having one can have on your overall health.
Problem: To scramble through a day without any idea of what exactly is going on gets you confused, which easily results in things being forgotten about, tasks not getting done, and stress levels rising.
Solution: Morning routine is probably the easiest thing to implement to one’s life but it can have massive effects on how well your day proceeds. Having a routine guides you through the day without you needing to even think about it, which decreases stress and anxiety.
You could start as easily as setting yourself a simple morning routine and sticking to it for a week. After the week see how you feel and whether it’s a routine you could turn into a habit.
Problem: In the fast pace of the 21st century world it can sometimes seem like an impossible feat to say ‘No’, when a task or a trip is suggested to you. FOMO is a massive issue and in the unstable job markets we’re all more or less afraid of losing our monthly salaries if we turn down one request.
Saying ‘Yes’ to everything, when you’re already overworked and living with a minute schedule, will quickly turn against you. You start resenting people who asked something of you, which has a negative impact on quality. And when the quality is bad, you will lose your temper at the smallest criticism, even though the criticism is unavoidable.
Solution: Learn to put yourself and your well-being first and say ‘No’ more. If you already have a calendar full of events for evenings, opt out from that dinner with friends next week if you seriously need a night for yourself. Plenty more dinners will come.
And for heaven’s sake, if you feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day to get through all the tasks you have, do not accept one more tasks. You are not the only one in a company who can do that task and you’ve got your own work to get through.
Prioritize yourself, and remember that it is NOT selfish or unfair to the others. It’s your life, not theirs. ♥