The more fast-paced the world gets, the more valuable our time seems to get. Most of us think we don’t have enough time. Many of us spend the time we do have doing things that aren’t getting us closer to our goals. We look at people who seem to get a lot done and wonder how they do it all. Sometimes, we’re even resentful of how much more time they seem to have than us. Sometimes, people tend to wear their time like a badge of honour (look how busy I am, I can’t possibly have time to do anything I WANT to do!)

But the truth of it is, we all get the same 24 hours. Nobody gets more time than anyone else. The difference between those who seem to have all the time in the world and those who seem to be running out of time is in the way they all use their time.

Let’s get brutally honest for a minute. You probably don’t want to hear this (I often don’t). You’re wasting a lot of time. Yes, I get it. You have 3 kids, a wife, and 2 dogs. Your Mother in Law is needy. Your email inbox is bursting. The boss is demanding. Hey, check it out, you’re normal! But even with all this going on, you’re still wasting time. How? I sat down the other day and made a list of 10 things I’ve been known to do that waste time.

1) Watching a Pawn Stars Marathon
2) Watching a Harry Potter movie for the 4th time
3) I Can Haz Cheezburger – ’nuff said
4) Angry Birds – ’nuff said
5) Doing the social media tab dance (Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Facebook, Twitter, Google +)
6) Sleeping in beyond the 7-8 hours I really need
7) Worrying about stuff I can’t control
8) Getting sucked into other peoples’ drama
9) Eating food that’s bad for me
10) Checking my email too often

Are any of these things on your list? (Substitute names of TV shows, movies, web sites and games for things that you are known to do). I bet you have one or two at least.

Now, your first response to me “accusing” you of wasting time is probably going to be something along the lines of “Who the heck does she think she is?”. Nobody likes to be told they are wasting time.

Second, you’ll start trying to justify your time wasting ways. (I’m exceptional at this step!)

“I work really hard, so sometimes I just need a brain break – so I watch mindless TV or play a silly game.”
“I was up very early every day this week, so I deserve to sleep in today. I need to catch up on my sleep.”
“I’ve had a stressful week. I’ll start eating healthy again, right after this 2nd piece of cheesecake.”
“It’s not wasting time on Facebook. It’s ‘research’.”
“How dare you tell me I’m wasting time. Obviously you’re not that busy, or you’d understand.”

Sound familiar?

Look, we all work hard. We all have lots of responsibilities when it comes to our families and our work. But the days, weeks, and months go by, and we just get fatter, and more stressed, and more tired. We wish we could get back into playing guitar. We long to be able to find time to write. We really want to take that online course. We wish we had more time to connect with others. We hope to find a time to get our small business off the ground. Yet, when all our job-related work is done for the day, and the kids are in bed, what are we doing? Escaping into mindless activities.

I’ve learned that the best way to get rid of the time wasters is to find something to replace them with. This is what I’m working on these days. It takes practice, and some days it’s easy to revert back. But I’m trying, one step at a time. Here’s how I’m replacing:

1) Watching a Pawn Stars Marathon Reading a non-fiction book
2) Watching a Harry Potter movie for the 4th time Watching an educational/inspiring documentary
3) I Can Haz Cheezburger Meditating
4) Angry Birds Taking a walk
5) Doing the social media tab dance Shutting off the social sites and reviewing social media blogs, or learning a new social media tool or technique
6) Sleeping inĀ  Getting up an hour earlier every day to write, think, and/or meditate
7) Worrying about stuff I can’t control Focusing my efforts on the things I can control
8) Getting sucked into other peoples’ drama Engaging only with people who have positive attitudes
9) Eating food that’s bad for me Doing Yoga and eating more veggies
10) Checking my email too often Writing more often

Your replacements may be different than mine. But the point is to find a good behaviour to replace the bad one.

Look, I’m not saying that we don’t all need a break once in a while. Sometimes, it’s okay to sit and watch an episode of a favourite TV show, or be entertained by a movie or a game for a while. But it’s when the behaviour becomes excessive (hours of games per day, hours spent on social media sites, hours of TV watching, sleeping too much) that the behaviour transitions from entertainment and fun to a waste of time.

I’m working on using my time more wisely. Some days it’s harder than others, but I’m taking it one day at a time.

We all get 24 hours. We only get this one chance at life.

How are you going to spend it?

[photo credit: H is for Home]

3 Responses

  1. Up early on a Sunday morning, in my office, marking papers and preparing for next week’s college English classes. It seemed like I’m doing everything right, according to your list, and yet here I am now responding to your tweet to check out today’s blog. Why? This is distracting me from my lesson plans, so it must be wrong! But I think what we don’t take into account often enough is how the mind works on a deeper level than the surface choices we try to make day by day, minute by minute. Creativity has to flow on its own, without dictates and without reason. If we want to be creative, we have to surrender and give up control. Of course I am notoriously lazy, so this may all sound like an excuse for not working hard, but its surprising how often a random tweet or line on a TV show will suddenly trigger off an idea that’s been simmering inside for who knows how long. Down with rules, I say! Let it be!

  2. I’ve found myself thinking of this piece several times since reading it, telling people about it, and applying the principles.

    In particular, the social media tab dance sucks time like a black hole sucks gravity. I can always “justify” it as professional development, engagement with friends, and promotion of my blog. Or I can give myself a certain number of minutes in pursuit of those particular outcomes, then close the tabs and go do something else with purpose. Powerful stuff.

    I just read this older piece by Conversation Agent with some complementary thoughts:

    One of the things that helps my mental discipline–when I make time for it!–is a regular yoga practice. That serves as moving meditation and makes me much more mindful of all kinds of choices, from how I spend my time to what foods I consume. Biking, which I do for transportation, gives me another tech-free space in which to change up my mental habits (

    So much of our time is spent in technology spaces. Time away, using our bodies, can make our mental work better, fresher, and more enjoyable.


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