Do you often get to the end of the day/week/month/year/decade and think to yourself that you didn’t get done what you wanted to, or that you feel like you had no time to do what you wanted? Although many times this is a legitimate feeling, it’s also very possible that you’re wasting time where you may not even realise. By looking at how you spend your time and optimising it, you could find yourself with a lot more time on your hands – time that could be spent doing things that mean something to you rather than things that don’t serve you. So let’s look at the top 10 things that waste your time and see if they apply to you.
And just to note: this is not to take away from the importance of having time off and to relax. This is about choosing what to do with your time so you don’t feel like you’ve wasted your life or that you’ve wasted time in your life. Ultimately, you want to look back on your life and think you maximised your time here doing things that you love, so, when going through this list, ask yourself if you really do spend too much time doing those things and if that time could be better spent doing something that serves you.
So, without further ado, here are the Top 10 Things That Waste Your Time.
1. Social Media
Although this list is in no particular order, if anything has to take the top spot of things that waste time in your life, it has to be social media.
Whether it’s the endless hours of scrolling through Facebook seeing what other people are doing with their lives, scrolling through Instagram seeing how people are playing up to the camera, or Twitter feeds constantly updating with the latest information, social media can get your attention like nothing else.
While social media can be incredibly useful – like for keeping up to date with friends and family, or finding out about useful latest information in your industry – it can also be a massive time sink due to the addictive nature of finding out the latest news in every area, or the inevitable comparison sessions that come out of looking at other people’s lives… particularly those of people you grew up with.
There is a huge problem with social media in that it can make you feel like you are not enough, not achieving enough, not beautiful enough, not popular enough, and so on. These things only make you feel worse about yourself, which leads you to then either make decisions based out of fear or wanting to live up to other people’s apparent achievements, or to not take action where needed because you don’t feel good about yourself. Either way, social media can be a huge energy drain, and that’s not something you need if you are trying to achieve great things with your life.
Depending on how truly necessary social media is to your life and industry, I would fully suggest cutting back as much as you can (totally, if possible), limiting yourself to going on once per day or once per week for a limited amount of time – and strictly only for things that you really need to go on for – and see how much better you feel for it and how much more time you get out of your day for not going on it.
Ah, YouTube. Great for learning random things, MASSIVE time-sink for short and long videos on any topic.
The great thing about YouTube is you can use it to learn stuff about things you’re interested in. The trouble comes when you can’t distinguish the line between spending a useful amount of time on those sorts of videos and when you’re using those videos to procrastinate or distract.
The trouble also comes when you then start watching videos that don’t help you in any way, that you use to distract or entertain you, and you fall in to the trap of “just one more”.
Look, we’ve all been there. I often find myself binge watching Gordon Ramsay shouting at people for storing raw chicken in a drawer or at chefs “cooking” “fresh” frozen crab in a microwave. But it’s just such a time sink.
I mean, do you really feel better about yourself when you realise you’ve blown an hour on what was essentially a pointless video that didn’t help you in your life at all? Do you feel worse about yourself because you realise that hour could have been spent in far more productive ways?
The advice here would be to strictly limit YouTube and similar video streaming sites to videos that help and serve you. Then be very strict about knowing when you’re watching those kinds of things just to procrastinate or distract. In regards to watching YouTube to relax and have fun – that’s great, but just make sure you limit it to a healthy amount and watch for “just one more video” syndrome. Set an alarm and stop when it rings so that YouTube does not become a way that you waste your time.
3. Pointless web browsing
Much like randomly YouTube videos, how much do you find yourself clicking around random websites to distract yourself, procrastinate, or generally make yourself feel better from that small hit of dopamine you get from clicking through addictive websites?
Whether it’s sites like BuzzFeed, news outlets, or celebrity gossip websites, randomly clicking around the Internet can be something that wastes your time like nothing else.
It’s so easy to just keep clicking around the catchy, click-bait posts with cool images, browse images of sandy beaches around the world, or watch just one more cat video.
The thing with this, just like the other things in this list, is that it just does not serve you in the long-run. It may feel good while you read those random Reddit threats, but, afterwards, don’t you just feel like you have wasted that time? Could you have spent that time reading an educational book? Could you have spent it practising some coding? Could you have written a chapter of your book in that time?
TV. The original time-waster. You get home from a day at work and you just want to sit on the couch and chill, watching re-runs of Friends (which you have seen 1000s of times). I get it. Everyone gets it.
But do you ever break down the numbers of how much time you spend watching TV? Let’s say you watch 1 hour a night 5 days per week, and 2 hours each day at the weekend. That doesn’t seem that bad, right? Seems pretty reasonable? But that’s 9 hours every week (or a whole work day!) that you spend watching TV. Over the course of a year, that’s 468 hours or nearly 20 WHOLE days of watching TV over the course of a year.
When you break it down like that, you soon realise how much time you waste watching TV. Can you imagine watching TV for 20 days straight without even sleeping?!
And, again, this is not about stopping you doing things that you enjoy or that relax you. But just ask yourself if you NEED to watch one more episode of Gilmore Girls or Forensic Files, or if, really, you are relaxed enough and can get on with something more useful.
5. Lying in bed too long
It may feel warm, it may feel cosy, and it may be your safe place, but how much time are you wasting by lying in bed well past when you wake up? And isn’t it funny how, when you’re lying in bed thinking you’ve only been there for a couple of minutes, reality strikes and you realise you have been there for an extra 20 minutes?
Lying in bed too long can really be a huge waste of your time. It may feel good in the moment, but many times people find they are most productive first thing in the morning. So not only are you not achieving anything by lying in bed, but you are also missing out on some of your most productive time, so it’s a double-whammy problem.
Can you make a deal with yourself where you only give yourself 2 minutes to lay there and then you get up and conquer the world? What would that mean for you by using that extra time? Could you meditate? Could you plan your day? Could you exercise? Could you work on your dreams?
People often don’t realise how much time they waste lying in bed, but, once you really think about it, you could really find some new useful time for yourself.
6. Your phone
Now, we’ve already talked about social media and YouTube, so I am not really talking about that sort of stuff here. But how often do yo take your phone out and turn the screen on, check notifications, open e-mail and refresh it, open Instagram to check you really don’t have any notifications, open some random app, close that, open your e-mail again, and so on?
That amount of time people spend taking out their phone and simply looking at it or checking it is insane, and it really adds up. Not only that, but it takes you out of the moment of whatever else you are doing in that time, and means you never fully focus on what you are doing for a stretch of time.
What if you put away your phone and only allowed yourself to check it once an hour, or, heck, twice a day? How much time would you save? How much mental space would you open up for yourself to relax and have new ideas?
7. Video games
Again, let me re-iterate that this is not about taking away things that relax and you and that you enjoy. But this is about getting clear on how much time you spend doing certain things and if that turns out to be more than you feel comfortable with, and if you could spend that time better.
Video games are a big one. They are often designed to suck you in and keep you going without realising how much time you are spending on them. Whether it’s on your phone, your PC, or games console, video games can cause you to waste a lot of time that could be spent better elsewhere.
I know I used to spend much more time than I realised playing video games. It wasn’t until i started really tracking my time that I realised how much time I wasted on them. And, the thing with video games – there really is almost no argument that they can be helping you at all outside of relaxation, unless you are a video game designer!
So if you find that you spend your time playing a lot of video games, maybe try tracking your time and see if you might like to cut it down a bit and use that time more productively.
8. Late nights drinking
This is absolutely not getting on people who choose to drink or people who get drunk. But there can be an inherent problem with drinking, and that is getting a hangover. How often have you had days where you went out drinking the night before and could not bring yourself to do anything the next day because you were hung over? Didn’t you feel really bad about yourself that you wasted a whole day merely recovering from the night before?
So, if you can make it so that you don’t get a hangover the next day after drinking, that could also save you tonnes of time that might otherwise be wasted.
Further, how often do you go out drinking during the week when you could spend that time more productively? Now, yes, you absolutely should be spending time with your friends. But do you need to go out EVERY night? Did you just go out drinking with your friends a few days before? Could you maybe skip a couple of nights going out and get that chapter of your book written or that app coded that you’ve been talking about doing? If they are really your friends, they will be okay – and, likely, happy for you – that you are trying to push yourself in new ways.
9. Not planning your day
This is a massively wasted opportunity which leads to wasted time.
How often do you go in to anything in life – say, an essay you have to write, a room you want to decorate, or an app you want to code – and realise you didn’t plan what you were doing and you ended up wasting time? Let’s be honest, it happens all the time! And you soon realise that if you planned what you were going to do in advance, you would have got a lot more done and saved a lot of time in the process.
Well, the same thing is true with your days. If you go in to your day not knowing what you want to do or achieve, then, more often than not, you waste time through the day not knowing what to do next, or merely thinking about what you could do next. If you already have a plan written down, you have something to follow and don’t have to question when you are doing.
I myself like to use techniques from “The One Thing” by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan – the basic idea being asking yourself what the one most important thing you can do that day is – but you can use any technique that works for you.
The point is – don’t waste time by not planning what you want to do. Have a plan, save loads of time.
10. Listening to music or the radio when you drive or take public transport
Another wasted opportunity that a lot of people don’t think about is the time they spend driving or on public transport. There is a concept I learnt from Tony Robbins which was that of NET time – or, “no extra time” – whereby you do two things at once but only use the amount of time it would have taken to do one of those things. For example, if you have to drive an hour to work, you could also listen to an audio book for that hour. You will not have used any extra time listening to that book, but will have got a whole lot more out of that time.
A lot of people use this time listening to music or the radio. I understand it can be fun and relaxing, but would you feel better and feel like you are getting more done or growing as a person if you listen to an audio book that educates you, a podcast that relates to your industry or side hustle, or an interview with someone who does something that you want to do?
Another great thing about using your commuting time in this way is it can actually mentally feel like you are getting that time back, because you are using it productively rather than having that time essentially taken from you through driving or sitting on a train.
Conclusion – Be honest with yourself and use your time wisely
The point with most of the things on this list of 10 Things That Waste Your Time is that you most likely waste time on them because you know how they are going to make you feel, and they make you feel temporarily good. But, that’s just it – it is temporary. That small injection of feel-good you get from watching a prank video on YouTube, reading some celebrity gossip, posting another picture to Instagram, or lying in bed just 2 minutes longer, does not serve you in the long-term. It might feel good in the moment, but over the long-term, the time wasted just makes you feel bad about yourself. It is not worth trading your long-term happiness for the short-term feel good factor.
So take this list in, think about other things not on here that might apply to you – think about your own things that waste your time – and ask yourself if they really serve you or if you would prefer to do something else with your time.
Maybe you can look at this list of the Top 10 Things That Waste Your Time and just adjust one or two of them for now. Try it out and see how you feel. Just maybe it will make you feel really good about yourself and make you feel like you are taking control of your life. Either way, let me know in the comments, and do share your ideas with others if you can think of other things that usually waste time and that can be handled in a more productive way.
In the future, I will write a post on how not to waste time and update this post here.
In the meantime, if you feel like you have wasted time in your life, then check out this post. And if you feel like you have spent too much time with these sort of distractions and have wasted your life, this post is for you.
The ability to not be distracted from your goals is one of the key signs of success that point towards you being successful in life. Check that post out if you want to know the other signs of success and how and why to develop them.
If you agree that cutting out distractions will help you to achieve success in life, you may also like to read about the other things that you need to do in order to get success in life.
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