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time management

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Our World In Data reports that the average human life expectancy, even with all of today’s modern medicine, is 72.6 years. Keeping in mind that you might sleep for one-third of your life, you don’t even get to push all of those days of all of those years to the limit. Time is so precious. Everyone has some ideas of what they’d like to do with their time here – what would make them feel that they lived a full life. There are some ways we cannot completely control our time. Going back to the sleep thing, don’t try to cut down on that, because that could just cut down on your overall life expectancy, says the National Center for Biotechnology Information, which defeats the purpose of having more time. If you’re like most of the world, you have to work. And if you’re like the majority of that group, you don’t do something you love for work. Even those who are fortunate to do what they love still have to do tasks they don’t love within that.

All in all, there is some inevitable claim on our time, from the moment we are born. So how we spend the moments we do control is so important. And we do control a lot of it. Being more intentional about how you spend your time, and particularly being aware of these time-wasters, can help you lead a more fulfilling life. Here are ways, big and small, you probably waste your own time.



Morning social media scrolling

Statista reported that the average person spent 145 minutes on social media every day in 2020. That’s nearly two and a half hours a day on social media. What are the odds that a good chunk of that was actually moving someone’s personal or professional goals forward? Very little. Even those who need to use social media to promote their business can likely get away with spending just 30 minutes on social media every day. We all do it: we pull up a social media app just to “pass the time” for a few minutes, and by the time we look up, it’s been a half hour. That can happen several times a day. The morning is a big one. You get up, ready to take on the day, but first…check Instagram. Suddenly, you’ve lost steam and motivation, and you’ve been scrolling for 45 minutes.

Asking for everyone’s opinion

While it’s good to have a handful of confidantes in whom you confide when making big decisions (like which home to buy or which job to take), needing opinions from dozens of people on every choice shows hints of codependency. And it’s a huge waste of time. If you can’t get dressed until you’ve sent a photo of three outfit choices to five friends and gotten their opinions, getting dressed goes from a 10-minute to a 45-minute activity. Sometimes, we ask for opinions on things that really, nobody else should have input on. Like whether or not to end a relationship. All of the information you need for that one is usually in your gut. Having lunch with four friends to go over it is just a way of usually prolonging the inevitable.

Fighting unwinnable fights

Some conflict in life is inevitable. But some is highly avoidable. A lot of people engage in that latter type of conflict. If you keep friends or romantic partners in your life with whom you consistently argue and bump heads, you are wasting your own time. If you find yourself regularly having hour-long phone fights with a friend because you feel she disrespected you and vice versa, you are wasting your own time. There comes a point when it is clear that two people are incompatible. The issue is bigger than one fight. It’s just a mismatch through and through. Keeping these people in your life is a form of disrespecting your own time because you are choosing to engage in frequent conflict that leads nowhere.

Letting messes pile up

Every day, you take off your clothes, and put them on that chair by the bed. When you finish lunch, you toss the dirty dishes to one side of the sink. After getting ready in the bathroom, you let little stains of makeup powder sit where they are. What this means is that a mess that could’ve been handled, bit by bit, in ten minutes or less per day, because a mess that will require your entire afternoon on Saturday. You have to say no to that party you really wanted to attend, or that workout class, or that interesting lecture, because you need to clean all of the week’s dishes and put away all of the week’s clothes and clean a week’s worth of bathroom mess. Keeping up with mess, every day, doesn’t really interfere with things you want to do. Putting it all off for weeks inevitably, eventually, robs you of another activity you wanted to do.

Criticizing when you’re jealous

Jealousy can get the best of all of us sometimes. You worked really, really hard for something and…somebody else got it. A job. An accolade. A magazine write-up. A thousand new followers on Instagram. Your instinct is to pick apart everything they are doing to prove to yourself that it should have been you that got it. You call friends to discuss it – to criticize this person. You can spend half a day talking sh*t about this person. But at the end of it, your own goals have not moved forward even one inch. Every moment spent criticizing someone we’re jealous of is a waste of time. You aren’t sending out resumes or making content or improving any of your own skills during that time.

Avoiding conflict

While we do waste time in avoidable conflict with drama-bringing friends, sometimes we waste time by avoiding necessary conflict. Some conflict, such as that with family or colleagues, is unavoidable. These are people you really cannot remove from your life. That one stepparent or sibling or coworker you have an issue with – they’re not going anywhere. So if there is beef that is getting in the way of things running smoothly and is taking up space in your head, you are wasting your time. What happens when you avoid an argument that must take place? You just have it in your head. It distracts you and slows you down while you try to do other things. It holds you back until you just get on with it.

Being too nice

There will be people who want to be in your life, but the feeling is not mutual. Sometimes it happens. They feel there is chemistry there, but you don’t feel the same. So this person pesters you to hang out sometime, and you finally say, ‘Yes.’ But…why? What happens then is this person is misled to believe you want to be friends (or more). So they ask you for another hangout. They ask you to attend their event. They ask you to join their book club. So you either have to go, which is a waste of time, or you have this thing renting space in your head. It’s okay and for the best to turn someone down right away if you know you have no interest in a relationship. It saves everybody time.

Being a perfectionist

Perfectionism is one of the biggest time wasters. If you’re someone who proofreads every email you send five times before sending off, changing tiny details, and even having a roommate or partner look it over too, you’re probably a perfectionist. If you spend two hours making a flier that could have taken 30 minutes because you keep adjusting the spacing or coloring or font just so, you’re probably a perfectionist. With many things, it’s worth asking yourself, “If I were looking at this with fresh eyes, as an outsider, would I notice these details? Would I even be aware of the other possible versions of this?” (The answer is always “No.”)

Failing to rest

Not allowing yourself to rest can feel like a way of making the most of your time. Pushing and pushing yourself when your body is begging for a day off can seem like you’re beating the system. But what actually happens is you work in a chronic state of fatigue, and don’t even realize everything is taking you twice as long as it would if you were rested and refreshed. The consequences can be worse than that though. You can face total burnout, at which point, you cannot do anything at all for days or weeks on end. Some people have complete meltdowns when they burnout, and have to put their lives on hold while they take care of themselves. All of that could be avoided by listening to your body, and taking frequent breaks when necessary.

Not staying organized

Having a proper place for everything can save you so much time later. Letting mail pile up in one large, generic mass means that later, when you need to find a document urgently, you’re going through piles of mail. Maybe you’re doing this, while you have a customer service agent on the line – a customer service agent you waited an hour on hold to speak to. And now she doesn’t have time for you to look for this document. She asks you to call back once you’ve found it, which will mean waiting on hold…again. That’s just one example of how not being organized can be a major time suck.

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