Last year, I checked out a feature that Complex did on actor and artist Mack Wilds. It all centered around effective time management and how Mack is able to accomplish so much in the same 24-hour time frame that we all have. The entire article was good. Two things stood out the most: how he has been exchanging social media use for reading and how he defines time:
"The best thing about time that a lot of people don't realize... and I'm giving you guys a little secret... The best thing about time is that it's man-made. We all get caught up in, 'Oh, wait, I got to get this done now. I have to hurry up. I got to get this done, because I am this old and I am going to die, this and whatever.' Time is man-made, you do what you have to do, in whatever time that you have to do it, and you'll get it done."
His view of time reminded me of something that a man told me on my first trip to South Africa several years ago. "You Americans are slaves to your clock. You can be in the middle of a great conversation or you can be having an awesome time, look at your watch and suddenly your attitude totally changes. Now you're all agitated and in a rush. You should control time and not let it control you." Amen.
Today, we will address things that you are doing that are a waste of your sweet and precious time---things that are actually causing you to lose control of your minutes, hours, and ultimately, your days. You will learn how to make the most of your life by improving the quality of it.
Let it sink in that it's never really about not having enough time. It's all about prioritizing, starting with getting serious about altering the habits that are wasting your time.
TIME WASTER #1: Not Making Daily To-Do Lists (and Following Them)
If you're someone who doesn't create to-do lists because, in your mind, that's what "obsessive types" do, humor me while I share a few reasons why it could make your life so much easier. To-do lists are proven to help us stay focused, keep us organized, prioritize our tasks and make the most of our time. I personally think that to-do lists should be categorized into things that need to be done immediately and things that need to be done before the week ends. If you do the hardest (or the things you like the least) first, checking everything else off will be a breeze. Not only that, but knowing that you completed your list come Friday will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. To-do lists are one of the best ways to ensure that you are making the absolute most of your time. No question.
TIME WASTER #2: Not Using Traffic AppsGetty Images
Guess how much time we spend in traffic? According to one report, a whopping 54 hours a year. Sure, you could catch up on some audio books or podcasts during that time, but if you want to reclaim some of your traffic hours, do that by downloading some traffic apps. Waze is a popular app that offers info on traffic, construction and even where police are in your area. Traffic Spotter gives up-to-date traffic reports. INRIX Traffic Maps & GPS hips you to road conditions, drive times and even parking options. These maps work brilliantly for iOS systems. HERE WeGo makes it easier for you to locate the faster and shorter routes. These are just some of the options that can at least save you 15 to 20 minutes, one-way, every time you get in your car.
TIME WASTER #3: Constantly Emailing People at Work
Did you know that 23 percent of most people's work day is used to either create or reply to emails?
Since it is a common form of communication, it's pretty unrealistic for me to say to ignore emailing completely. But, if you do want to save a little time, I've got a few hacks for you. First, set aside three times per day when you check emails (like when you first get into work, right before your lunch break, and a few moments before heading home). If you put labels on your emails, that can help you to put everything into categories so that you can know what requires a time-sensitive response and what can wait until later. If you find yourself sending the same response over and over again, create a "canned response" so that you can save the template and change the name (and a few minor details) instead of typing out the same email over and over again.
Make sure your email signature includes all of your relevant contact information (you'd be amazed how much time is wasted by not doing this). If you tend to do a lot of emailing via your smartphone, consider downloading an app like The Bat for encryption and security purposes, Front if you're trying to communicate with a team all at once or Postbox if you want to use personalized templates. Also, turn off all of your social media notifications as you're working. Whatever emails you get from people on Instagram or Twitter can wait until you are actually off of the clock.
TIME WASTER #4: Eating Fast Food During Your Lunch Break
Not only is bringing your own lunch to work healthier and cheaper, it can also save you quite a bit of time. Think about it. If your lunch break is an hour, just leaving your office and getting into your car is probably going to take about 15 minutes. Then, depending on the time that you go, the traffic, and the crowds, you'll barely have time to eat.
Why not enjoy most of your lunch hour by having your meal in tow and then eating in the break room, outside, or even in your car? That way, you don't have to scarf down your food. You can have at least 30 minutes to eat your meal in peace.
TIME WASTER #5: Literally Living Online
A couple of years ago, a survey revealed that folks spend at least five hours a week on their cell phones, doing things that are not work-related. That ultimately costs businesses $15 billion dollars a year. I already know some of y'all are like, "And?" If you consider the revelations shared in "8 Solid Reasons To Put. Your Phone. Down," you might see why living online (and constantly straining your eyes via your smartphone's screen) can do a real number on not only your productivity but your health overall.
A few days ago, I caught up with a friend who said that, over Thanksgiving, she had a "no cell phone" rule in her home. While the teens were irritated at first, she said, by the end of the day, they told her how much fun that they had. The Internet is not the devil, but it's not the end all be all of life, either. If you process how many hours you spend browsing social sites, reading gossip blogs, and surfing the Web, you might be floored by all the grocery shopping, cleaning up, bonding with friends, pampering and planning for your future you could've been doing instead.
David Foster Wallace, a writer and professor, once said, "It is named the 'Web' for good reason." Think about that every time you procrastinate by using your phone, or read articles like "Self-Care For Idris Elba Means Cutting Back On Social Media" and brush it off. Every moment is one that you'll never get back. Constantly wasting yours by being "plugged in" all the time is a shame; especially since all that stuff will be waiting for you once you actually live your life and come back to it.
TIME WASTER #6: Remaining in Counterproductive Relationships
I write about relationships…a lot. And if there's one word that I think is my favorite in reference to red flag relationships, it would have to be "counterproductive". Our time, energy, and resources—hell, our feelings---are far too precious and valuable to be out here chasing down or even tolerating counterproductive relationships, whether they are professional or personal ones. I would think that just about all of us can agree with that fact, yet I'm also willing to bet a pretty good amount of money that at least 80 percent of us are currently involved in one.
Why are we wasting our assets this way? I think a big part of the reason is because we don't really take the time to let the definition of counterproductive sink in. When something or someone is counterproductive in our lives, it means that it is (or they are) "thwarting the achievement of an intended goal". You know what this means, right? In order for you to remove counterproductive relationships from your space, you need to figure out what the goal for your relationships are. If the goal is to become a better individual, you need to remove those from your life who are counterproductive in helping you to achieve that mission.
I can't tell you how many times that I've allowed someone to remain in my life well past their shelf life, all because I tolerated how much time we've known each other or allowed what they needed to supersede what I knew was best for me. Everything in your life should have a clear purpose. If you're involved with someone, on any level, and you can't attach a purpose to them—yes, my friend, on some level, they are wasting your time.
TIME WASTER #7: Always Needing to Have the Last Word
Recently, I watched the cutest movie called Christmas Belles about two cousins who fall for the new pastor at their church. There's a scene where the cousins try and "check each other" by attempting to have the last word. These two chicks said "Me too" back and forth nine times (yes, I counted) in response to the pastor asking if they were going to come to Bible study. It was so awkward that it was both humorous and ridiculous. It also made me think that I must look just like them when I'm in a heated discussion with someone and I want to get the last word. But for what? At the end of the day, it's a control tactic that is a waste of precious time and energy. These days, I'm more interested in my words being impactful whether I'm the last one to say something or not. And you know what? Life is a lot more peaceful this way.
TIME WASTER #8: Being Indecisive
Not too long ago, I wrote an article for xoNecole entitled "Here's How To Stop Worrying So Freakin' Much". Two things worrying does that results in wasting all kinds of time are overthinking and indecisiveness. When you don't make decisions, you end up being stagnate. Stagnation is a form of being stuck and who ever benefits from that? So why do so many of us find ourselves in this kind of trap?
I think it's because sometimes we'd rather allow things to happen to us via our stagnation rather than taking the risk of stepping out, making some real (and sometimes even hard) choices that we'll actually have to take some accountability for. It's like we'd rather take the cowardly approach to our own lives. But if you're so intimidated by what could be that you never develop the courage to take risks, try new things or step out on faith, how can you learn more about yourself and what you want? How can you ever really grow?
The Latin writer Publilius Syrus once said, "Through indecision opportunity is often lost." Pastor John Ortberg once said, "Greatness is never achieved through indecision." Bernhard Langer, a German professional golfer, once said, "Be decisive. A wrong decision is generally less disastrous than indecision." And get this—a motivational speaker and author Brian Tracy once said, "Indecision is a major time waster; 80% of decisions should be made the first time they come up." Worrying and overthinking don't help you to make wise choices. Doing so only encourages you to make decisions more complicated than they need to be.
Your time is too valuable to be hanging around in the valley of indecision.
If you struggle with making choices, check out "Need To Make A Big Decision Quickly? Do This". Then move. The sooner you make a decision, the sooner you can make progress as well. On the flip side, if you stay stuck in indecision, all you'll be doing is wasting time you can never get back.
TIME WASTER #9: Complaining
Complaining is a colossal waste of time. Spiritual teacher and author Eckhart Tolle has a quote that explains a big part of the reason why: "When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness." Another quote that I like in reference to complaining is by a wise person who once said, "Stay away from 'still' people. Still broke, still complaining, still hating, and still nowhere." When you put these two quotes together, it's a reminder that constantly verbalizing how dissatisfied you are about something—or someone—perpetuates a victim mentality. In other words, it keeps you focused on the problem rather than inspired to find a solution (which is why living on social media can be quite the trap if you're not careful).
Does this mean that you shouldn't feel free to vent about things that frustrate or even simply annoy you? Of course, you should. Just try to find a productive way to do it. Allow yourself a certain amount of time for venting, then be intentional about putting a plan into place. Or, if you don't know how to go about putting a plan together, do what another one of my favorite quotes on complaining instructs: Complain to someone who can help you."
TIME WASTER #10: Doubting Yourself
Let's end this with a quote by another author, Jaachynma N.E. Agu: "Don't set your goals by what other people deem important." Many people do not go after the things that they want in life all because they are consumed by what other people think. I personally think it's an epidemic. Part of what holds folks back is that they esteem others more than themselves. In other words, they doubt themselves and this too is a big waste of time.
How do you know if you are a self-doubter? Do you underestimate your gifts and talents? Do you second-guess your dreams and goals? Do you need to run everything by a billion people before making a decision? Do you compare yourself to others a lot? Do you think that an idea is dumb if there no blueprint in place for you to follow? Do you feel like your worth is only based on how others treat you?
There are so many things I would not have accomplished had I listened to certain family members and friends. Thankfully, I didn't waste my time doubting myself, and I didn't determine that something was important—or not—based on the opinion of others. Your time is your time. Don't waste it by obsessing about what others think is best. Get out here and make your own life happen. It's the best way to show how much you value the time you have---time that is ticking away as we speak. So, what are you gonna do with it, sis?
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Article originally published on December 30, 2019.