I waste time. It’s true.
I waste time travelling an hour to get to a yoga studio, when there is a decent one down the road from me. I waste time googling recipes when I need to be working.
I waste time in the evenings, binge watching Netflix series’ when there are books I want to read and friends I haven’t called. (I do not waste time on social media, which is probably my one saving grace.)
I’m not proud that I waste time. It pains me sometimes when I get to the end of the day with the sense that I have wasted time. My capacity for time-wasting also seriously scares me!
But the guilt isn’t that strong. Although I waste time, I’ve also never used the time better overall. I do more of the things that I care about, with the people I care about.
That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement.
This post offers some questions to ask yourself if you want to stop wasting time. As with everything on this blog, there is less in the way of strategy, more in the way of suggestions designed to improve self-awareness.
1. How do I know I am wasting time?
“Wasting time” is obviously a judgment; an idea. That means is subject to flawed logic, and none of us are beyond that.
You might believe that you are wasting time because you are not spending it the way the people around you are. You might be doing the exact right things for you according to your values. It is worth considering whether that is the case, because if it is, your theory that you are wasting time might dissolve without you taking any further action than simply asking yourself the question.
Only you truly know if you are mismanaging your time. Make sure it’s your own values you are judging it by.
All humans use a values system that is unique to them. One person’s wasting time is another person’s idea of a great day or evening out. What do you believe you “should” be doing? What is that should based on?
As with everything, is important to be crystal clear on what you value. That is the only way you’ll know whether you truly are wasting time.
2. Why am I wasting time?
Assuming that you are actually wasting time according to your own definition of that, what might be the reason? Here are a few common ones:
- You are physically too tired to do what you want to do.
- You haven’t clearly defined what it is you want to do.
- You know what you want to do, but feel too much fear to do it (otherwise known as procrastination).
- You believe that your circumstances, or other people, are the cause of you wasting time.
- You aren’t in a proper routine.
- You aren’t connected with your “why” (your true motivation behind the goal you set yourself).
- You are in the habit of being lazy and need to develop more self-discipline.
Obviously, the solution depends on the specific reason for wasting time. You may need to spend some time in introspection, rediscovering your motivation. You may need to take better care of yourself. If it is a lack of routine, then the solution is to establish one.
For more on how to set goals that are meaningful to you, read this.
For a personal account of how to find your passion and purpose in life, read this.
To build the discipline muscle, read this.
3. What stops me from using the time better?
This question is similar to the previous question, but with a slightly different emphasis. It is asking you to look at the things that might be literally interrupting you from being more time effective.
Think about things like being interrupted by your phone or your compulsion to check social media.
Also consider the possibility that you have beliefs that are affecting your ability to take responsibility for your time wasting.
4. What is the impact of wasting time the way I do (be specific)?
The point of asking yourself this is to presence yourself to the opportunity costs of your wasting time.
What are you missing out on by wasting time? Likely, you are missing out on opportunities to grow and develop, or to build a genuine real life connection – or whatever it is you value (I just gave you mine).
What are the people around you missing out on? I notice that when I waste time that I would have spent researching and writing this blog, the quality of what I write is reduced. That has an effect on you, the reader.
Think of the costs.
5. Am I adding a “second arrow”?
The second arrow is a concept from Buddhism which says that we add a second later of suffering when we judge ourselves for wasting time.
Practice mindfulness and notice when you are adding a layer of suffering through this internal critique. Train yourself to silence down the noise.
6. Is what I am doing creative?
Creative pursuits seem to place a special burden on our ability to execute on goals. It’s because creativity and creative pursuits bring up a lot of insecurities around self-worth and ability.
Liz Gilbert once said “the dream of perfection is the death of all fun”, which I love.
7. How can I waste less time? Identify specific things
For me, the easiest and quickest way to feel like I am using the time better is to drop out meaningless activities that have crept in. This includes watching too many TV shows beyond relaxation needs, or agreeing to social activities that I am not really feeling.
Read this post on bringing more awareness to how you use escapism.
I hope that these questions have improved your understanding of why you waste time. The truth is, we all waste time a bit sometimes. However, time is our most precious resource and commodity.
Revisit your values, address your low energy, or take a social media holiday for a month. Design specific experiments that address your specific reason for wasting time, and you should find things improve.