Wasting time can and does happen to everyone at some point. There are sometimes in life where it’s okay to sit back, relax and waste time. However, that time is probably not truly a waste since you need that time to unwind. Yet, all of us are susceptible to wasting too much time. When you waste time, you don’t really live your life productively.
If you aren’t being productive, you are less likely to achieve your goals which sets you up for not feeling happy with your life.
1. Figure out how you want to spend your day. Before believing you are wasting time, figure out what kind of day you want to have. Everyone has different things that they need or want to accomplish each day. You may need to carve out time so that you can relax or to work on an important project. Try to focus on understanding the purpose of today. Personally, I like to prioritize exercise most days of the week and learning something new every day after work. During the weekend, I like to give myself a day or two where I can recover and relax. Once you figure out the purpose of the day, it will be easier to organize your time based around that and set realistic expectations. Believing that I need to do high-intensity exercise when I’m sick and need to focus on recovery will make me feel bad about skipping exercise. However, if I start the day realizing that I need to take a break and focus on rest, I won’t feel bad about missing a day of intense exercise. Create a daily plan and organize your activities based on their priority.
2. Prioritize your tasks. You might be wasting time because you are allowing yourself to be busy with other less priority tasks. Working on a book can be overwhelming, so instead you decide to do chores around the home or start work on a project that you intended to do tomorrow. As a result, you have spent time on tasks that aren’t a priority today and neglected the task you needed to do today. Prioritize your tasks and try to understand why it is essential that you work on a task today. Understanding the importance of working on a task will allow you to prioritize accordingly.
3. Focus on just one task at a time. Multi-tasking is not something humans are designed to be good at. You might think you are an excellent mult-tasker but the reality is that you most likely are not. Also, when you multi-task, you don’t give a task the attention and focus it deserves which hinders your performance and knowledge on a topic. Instead of trying to cut corners by doing multiple tasks in as little time as possible, slow down and focus on one task at a time.
4. You don’t see the point. Wasting time could happen because you feel a task is basically pointless in your life. Back when I was in college, I had a difficult time devoting time and energy into classes that I basically felt were useless. I’d do the bare minimum or hold off on any studying until the last minute. Part of the reason for this procrastination was because I didn’t get the point of the class. Not every task will have relevance in your life. Or there might be tasks that do have relevance but it’s not clear to you for the moment. The best way to battle feelings of pointlessness with these tasks is to find meaning in what you are doing. Perhaps this class is a stepping stone to get the degree and the career you want. You can set yourself up to be more successful by putting more effort into the class. Maybe doing this task at work is what you need to do to keep your job and support yourself financially. Even though this task is meaningless in your life, you need to do these things to move forward and support yourself.
5. You don’t know how to solve the problem. There might be things you are putting off because you aren’t sure how to begin or what the next steps are. One of my barriers to learning programming was getting “stuck” at a solution. Instead of taking time to figure out how to do it, I’d put the task aside and avoid trying to work through the problem. This can happen in many areas of our lives. You might put off getting something fixed because you don’t know how to do it yourself and have no idea who to call. Or you might put off learning a new language because you feel overwhelmed by not having an understanding right now. There will be many things that are challenging. The only way to solve the problem, is to take time to understand the problem. Yes, that might mean that solving something will take you more time and you may need more resources, but it’s not wasting time when you are actively working to figure out a solution.
6. You are easily distracted. Take a good look at your surroundings and be honest if you are prone to getting easily distracted. If you are the type to look at your phone for just a few seconds, and then find that minutes or even an hour has past, then you are prone to getting distracted. Being easily distracted doesn’t just happen with your phone either. You might be distracted by your computer, the people around you at your home or even just getting curious or excited about other things in your environment. The best way to deal with these distractions is to put the phone somewhere where it’s out of sight and on silent mode. Also find areas where you can do what you need to do without distractions. You could consider studying at the library or doing work at a nearby park.
7. Get the right amount of sleep. Part of the reason you might be prone to wasting time is because you might find it difficult to get a good night’s rest. When you wake up feeling tired and groggy, you start the day feeling like you have less energy and motivation to get things done. Figure out what is causing you to not get enough rest and try to fix that area of your life. Some people may need to sleep earlier, change the times they have a shower, eat earlier in the day, avoid caffeinated beverages and so forth. Receiving appropriate sleep is necessary for a healthy lifestyle and to avoid wasting time. Just remember that oversleeping can be just as dangerous as under sleeping.
8. Eat the right foods at the right time. Just like sleep, the foods you eat and the time you eat could have a significant impact on why you are wasting time. There’s no perfect formula to how often you should eat or the right foods to eat but you do need to do some research on what works for you. Personally, I feel best when I eat my last meal for the day around 6pm so I can just focus on getting tasks done without worrying about what I will have for dinner or dealing with hunger pangs. Other people swear by eating later, having a large breakfast or having multiple small portions throughout the day. Focus on developing good dietary habits so that you don’t spend unnecessary time trying to figure out when you should eat and getting distracted by being hungry. If you need additional guidance with your nutrition then it would be best to get in touch with a dietician or nutritionist.
9. Set a time limit for tasks you do. I love that feeling of being so consumed by a task that you can work for hours on end. Sometimes you even end up skipping sleep in the process because you are so excited by what you are working on. This is a wonderful feeling and it’s okay if it happens from time to time because you are passionate about something, but learn to have time limits. One of my biggest barriers to learning programming was realizing that I was spending too much time learning about a programming language. Because I didn’t have a time limit, I could spend hours learning a language. This was okay every so often but after awhile I would feel burnt out and would be tempted to take a week off from learning anything new. Time limits allow you to set aside blocks of time where you can be fully devoted to a task and give yourself a break when you need one. As a result, I set aside at least an hour to programming per day which gives me time to do other things during my day that are also a priority. I also feel that the quality of my work improves when I set a time limit for myself.
10. Give yourself a time limit to accomplish your tasks. One of the things I do at my job is give my clients a deadline for when they can expect deliverables. Giving a timeline not only helps inform my clients but also gives me a deadline to work against. If you hold yourself and others accountable to a deadline, you will find it easier to prioritize tasks.
Remember the breaks, interruptions and distractions quickly add up. What may seem to you like a quick break can turn into a significant amount of time that could have been spent studying, working, exercising, spending quality time with your loved ones or other tasks that are a high priority to you.