Time is truly our most limited and valuable resource. No matter what, there never seems to be enough of it for everything we want to do or everything we think we have to do. As a result, we often end up with the belief that time poverty cannot be cured, regardless of how much time we spend working on our time management skills.
But, is there truly no cure to time poverty?
Many of the tasks, obligations, and day-to-day activities that are making us feel so time-bound are actually useless and a waste of this precious resource. Without realizing it, we often end up wasting valuable time each and every day.
3 Top Ways People Waste Time
We all wish we would have some more time on our schedule. Whether it’s to get more work done, have time to do some exercise, or more time to spend with family and friends – we all wish for it. For that to happen and to successfully cure our “there’s never enough time” syndrome, we must first understand the key ways we are wasting our most precious resource in the 21st century.
Have you ever stopped and think about the things that you do every day that’s wasting significant amounts of time? If you’re honest with yourself, it’s probably a lot. But the number one culprit is definitely your smartphone.
A study conducted in 2021 found that the average American spends 3 hours and 43 minutes on their phone every single day, this is not including the additional time spent on their laptop and watching TV. Brace yourself, 3 hours and 43 minutes add up to about 50 days a year. 50 days a year!
While some of the time spent on your phone is essential for communicating and staying up to date on things like the news, most likely than not a chunk of that time is spent mindlessly and without any clear purpose or benefit.
Another big procrastination culprit is hours and hours spent watching TV. TV is built deeply into people’s everyday lifestyles. People watch the morning news while they cook meals and eat, and as a form of relaxation before they go to sleep. TV is a form of relaxation before bed that is actually ineffective as, “watching TV after a stressful day at work doesn’t relax or rejuvenate you.” Experts recommend mindfulness, yoga, reading, or spending time in nature as more effective ways to refresh and rejuvenate.
Cutting down on unnecessary screen time will be your biggest time saver. It will help you lead a life with more free time to do the things that you actually love and be truly present in those special, meaningful moments that we often take for granted.
2. Non-Essential Tasks
People spend a lot of time dedicating themselves to non-essential tasks – those that add little to no value to their lives. How much of your time do you spend on tasks that truly aren’t serving any benefit to you? If you put it into numbers, it’s probably way too much!
Effective time management and differentiation between which tasks are essential and which are not is another sure way to free up hours of your day.
People don’t like saying no to others, so they often commit themselves to things that they actually don’t have a vested interest in doing. For example, if you’re going to commit to a 30-minute phone call in the middle of your day as a favor to an old colleague, but don’t see any value in the phone call for yourself, then you’re wasting your time. Sure, it might only seem like 30 minutes, but now that you’ve committed to that you will have to plan your entire day down around being available for that phone call.
Being present for this phone call might take you away from other work that would be meaningful and add value to your life. When agreeing to something, always ask yourself, “Is this task in accordance with my big goal?”
Essentialism by Greg McKeown is a great book to read if you like you’re spending too much of your days on non-essential tasks. McKeown explains that essentialism “is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”
Take a close look at how you invest your time and figure out what you can cut out that is not adding value. And remember that saying no to others is saying yes to yourself.
3. Lack of Prioritization
Many people lack basic prioritization skills. This is one of the greatest reasons why people tend to wait till the last minute to complete important tasks. By focusing on non-essential tasks that could be delegated and not putting sufficient time into the things that are truly adding value, people often create a pile of work to be delivered last minute.
The Eisenhower Matrix is an essential time management tool. It helps people decide the urgency and the importance of each task and act accordingly depending on the level of each.
- Urgent and important – Do it yourself! This is the top priority.
- Important but not urgent – Schedule it! You want to make sure it’s gets done well but there’s no reason to invest your time in it immediately.
- Urgent but not important – Delegate! It needs to get done, but not necessarily by you.
- Not important and not urgent – Eliminate! No reason to waste energy on tasks like these.
Start your day by figuring out what your priorities are based on this model.
Time Poverty in the Long Term
Our society has started to move away from traditional milestones expectations. Graduate by a certain age, first job by a certain age, marriage, and kids by a certain age – those are all arbitrary timelines of the past that don’t apply to everyone.
For example, if you’re deciding to change jobs, sometimes it’s good not to jump right from one job to the next one. It’s better to take the time to deeply explore options, work on personal projects, focus on self-growth, and figure out what you truly want and what you’re truly passionate about.
This is why kids need their summers to explore, gap years after college are so good for development, and taking vacation time to get away from your routine can remind you who you are and maybe even discover a new part of yourself.
Figure out who you are, what you want to accomplish, how you are going to get there, and work on making it happen. You don’t need to be on anyone else’s timeline but your own.
Leaving Room in your Schedule for the Unexpected
On the busiest of weeks, many of us have our schedules layed-out in such detail that everything from meals to bathroom breaks are blocked into our schedules. If we plan out our schedules down to the minute, we are literally predicting exactly how our week is going to go.
A lifestyle where your schedule is always pre-arranged completely sucks the joy and the beauty out of life. The monotony might lead you to feel like you’re living the same day over and over again, leaving you feeling like you have nothing to look forward to, since every day looks the same.
If you open some room in your schedule, allowing for your day to progress in a more flexible way, you might be opening the doors for something wonderful to happen to you. You might be opening up to the possibility that something spontaneous and unpredictable might happen to you.
Take Control of Your Time
We get to control how we use our time, let’s choose to invest it wisely.
- Don’t waste it zoning out in front of the TV or mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. These actions just further clutter your brain and take you further away from relaxation.
- Don’t waste time on non-essential tasks. Instead, figure out what brings value and joy to you.
- Don’t hold off until the minute for important tasks. Prioritize by doing, scheduling, delegating, and eliminating.
While there’s no way to add more hours to the day or more days to the week, there are really impactful ways that you can add more value to your time by taking time away from the things that don’t matter and focusing on the things that do.
Value your time like the limited resource that it is and always keep in mind that the only correct timeline is your own. Soon and without realizing it, you will be owning the cure to time poverty, mastering life’s most precious resource.
At Topic Insights, we know that there’s a leader inside each and every one of us. It’s our mission to help you nurture and inspire that leader. For more actionable content like this, subscribe to our newsletter. Questions? We’d love to hear from you. Contact us today.