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5 Ways You’re Wasting Time and How to Get it Back

September 23, 2013

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Have you ever evaluated how you spend your time? I mean really, thoroughly considered it: I’m talking logging hours in a notebook. Try it. The results may surprise you, especially if you’re working toward a goal, but “just can’t seem to find the time” to achieve it.  Here’s an example: three hours of television watching a day (say, from 7-10 p.m. after work) equals 15 hours a week. That’s 60 hours a month, and 720 hours a year. You get the idea – that’s a lot of time spent that really isn’t getting you anywhere closer to your big goals and dreams.

Think of time the same way you think of money: investing money pays off in the long run, while spending it on useless things provides little future value.

Take some time to evaluate how you’re spending your time; you may find you have more time for productive, life-enhancing activities than you thought. Here are some common ways that people waste time, and where to spend it instead for a happier, more productive life.

Watching television: This is a big one, and affects adults and children alike. Do you switch on the TV as soon as you get home from work? Try finding new recipes to cook. How about before bed?  Instead, start a new book. Better yet, cancel your cable subscription! When your kids get home from school, do they immediately watch their favorite show instead of starting homework or heading outside to play with friends? Try taking a family walk together to get out of the house and enjoy each other’s company.

Commuting: Think about how much time we spend commuting back and fourth to work week after week. While it’s pretty inevitable, there are ways to make use of this time, or maybe even enjoy it. The obvious option is to choose alternate transportation: walk or bike if possible. Not only are you getting in some exercise, but you’ll also help the planet by reducing your carbon footprint. Not an option? If you take the subway, read a book or magazine or download a podcast to listen to. If you drive, use the time to think (it may be the only time you get to yourself each day), or reflect on the good things in your life. Listening to an interesting public radio program can also distract you from stressing over what you didn’t get done that day.

Sleeping: This one is controversial. While I’m certainly not advocating cutting any needed sleep short, there is a case to be made for losing precious time, particularly on weekends. Do you really need to sleep until 11am? If so, then by all means do that. But if not, why not set your alarm to get to an early yoga class? Make the most of those precious 48 hours! Studies show that waking up around the same time that you do during the week helps your internal clock stay adjusted anyway.

Being alone: I’ll probably get some argument on this one, too. But think about it: how many times have you looked back and remembered the fantastic dinner you made for yourself or the beach trip you took alone. Don’t get me wrong – we all need our “me” time, but healthy relationships are key to our well being, and time with family and friends is always time well-spent.

Sticking to old habits:  Perhaps the worst way to spend time is on things that make you less successful, or worse, unhappy. Take some advice from author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn, who said: “Things will get better for you when you get better.” Do you want to lose weight? It won’t happen until you start eating better and exercising. Hate your job? You’re stuck there until you work hard for that promotion, or start applying for a new one. By the way, this one is a little more complicated: take a look at what you like and don’t like about the work you’re doing. Maybe you need a new field instead.

Where do you waste time in your life and where would you like to invest it?