“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” – William Penn
While we know that time is precious and a scarce resource, at that, how often do we find ourselves wasting what little time we do have? Frittering away hours at the computer, playing video games, watching endless hours of TV, and any number of other voracious time-wasting activities can leave you feeling edgy, restless and incomplete.
For good reason, since nothing good comes from deliberate squandering of time.
This isn’t the same as when you make a conscious choice to engage in a hobby or pastime or recreational or leisure activity. Everyone needs time to play, to rest and recharge, and to gain a new perspective on life. Play time helps lower stress levels, eases tension, and provides the opportunity to see things clearer and without distraction. Solutions come easier after taking the time to play.
But time that you waste? That’s just gone for good. The question becomes, how do you use time wisely? What tricks or tips can help? Here are a few to consider:
- Jot it down.
Go through your day in your mind and jot down everything you did, noting when you did it, how long it took, and what the result was. This exercise helps to identify time wasted.
- Analyze wasted time.
Next, analyze those times you wasted. What was it you were doing immediately before or after? Try to determine if you needed a break from something strenuous, complex or time-consuming or if you were avoiding the next thing on your to-do list. This analysis helps to narrow down instances where you choose wasting time over taking constructive action.
- List must-do items or tasks.
Make a separate list of things that are must-do items. This list can be for today or things you must do daily. This may include getting up and going to work, preparing dinner for the family, taking medications or vitamins, walking the dog, taking out the trash and so on. Are there things you do that you could streamline or make easier? Could you combine some so that you’re not repeating ground? For example, set the medications or vitamins alongside your breakfast so that you take them right after (or before) you eat. Take out the trash when it’s time to walk the dog.
- Prioritize what must get done.
Staring at a list of must-to items won’t get them done. Put them in order of importance. This helps in rearranging your schedule to accommodate what must be done. For example, that big project that’s due at work should take priority, or the boss needs an update every morning at a certain time. Nothing should be allowed to get in the way of taking care of high-priority items.
- Schedule a break.
Build in some slack time. This can be a 10-minute break in the morning and afternoon to go for a quick walk or grab a coffee or chat with your neighbor or co-worker. Getting up to stretch your legs puts a period at the end of what you were doing and is a nice transition from one activity to another.
- Add variety.
Vary your schedule. If you find that your biggest time wasters are because a lot of what you’re doing every day is boring or repetitive, jazz it up by allocating different days for different tasks. When you know you’ve got an hour on Wednesday to go bowling or have lunch with a friend, other items on your task list won’t seem so challenging. Variety also adds spice to life.
- Be present.
Be in the moment. Instead of always thinking you don’t have enough time, savor the present moment. Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s a task or something you enjoy, really be there. This adds to the appreciation of time, that precious commodity.
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