There are dozens of lists online of the biggest time wasters that may afflict you. Whether you are an office worker, an entrepreneur or a mom, there are glaring similarities. One thing I noticed is how simplistic the time wasting view was. How can you tell if these things are wasting your time or making it worthwhile? Here are some tips to help you find out how to make your potential time-sucks contribute positively in your life.

Time with Friends/Co-workers: Everyone needs some time to debrief with some buddies, but when does regular recharging cross the line into wasting time?(1) Here are a few ways to tell.

  1. What is the topic of conversation? If you are at work, is your conversation related to work and getting things done. Great!
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    Continue. Is the conversation griping about co-workers or the work environment? That conversation could go two ways. If the conversation is strictly looking for the negatives about the situation or person. It is best if that talk is short lived. (2) Are you looking for a solution to a problem and planning some kind of action that will alleviate the problem?  Carry on and solve that thing.

  2. Does this conversation make you feel good? You don’t have to be jumping up and down for a conversation to be a worthwhile endeavor. If you are working through a problem toward a clear solution and there is a bit of frustration it may be worth it to push through, but if there isn’t an obvious useful purpose to the conversation take note of your feelings. Are you encouraged or interested, or is the conversation making you feel guilty for saying things you think you may regret at some point or just making you stressed or depressed. Try to pivot and don’t waste more time on that negative conversation. (3)

Social Media: Believe it or not Facebook and Twitter are not the enemy. Just like almost anything on earth, as long as you can use it responsibly it is a great thing to have in your life. But how can you tell where you stand?

  1. How many times have you checked your account? It is reasonable enough to think that a person has the right to check in and properly envy his friends at least every day. After all, you don’t want to miss out on the neat storytelling event your friend is going to because you didn’t notice the event posted on social media. Honestly, though, for most people urgent news about cool events in your social circle will still be there in a few hours if you choose to check in at lunch and dinner rather than hourly. More than two or three checks in a day, and you may be the victim of a time-wasting habit. (4) 
  2. Are you using it for work? Someone in advertising or promotion wouldn’t be on the cutting edge if they didn’t have a command of social media for their clients. (5)   But are your updates for the sake of an account, or just connecting with your friend on the team? Do you keep track of important events or lists on an online platform? Then just make sure you look at those efficiently and don’t spend 30 minutes updating your color scheme.
  3. Does this allow you to connect with your friends in a healthy way? Are you planning an awesome night out and inviting more friends on social media? That is a great way to facilitate your event. (6)  Do you find yourself mutually bashing an annoying co-worker, or worse, berating them online in front of other users? You have definitely crossed a line and you need to back up, quickly. A certain amount of mild commiseration is therapeutic, so if you do need to vent, get your piece said and move on. Also, always try to consider others’ feelings, even if you have a very hard time understanding their crazy actions to begin with. (7)

New Ideas: It almost seems blasphemous to counsel against new ideas. Isn’t modern day entrepreneurship as lively and vibrant as it is because of the new ideas people have developed? Sure, new ideas are very important, but not all the time, and not every idea. How should you accommodate your brainstorms without drowning out productivity?

  1. Do you keep track of your ideas? When that brilliant brainstorm hits you, one of the best ways to keep it from overwhelming you immediately is to write is down. (8)  It can be calming to know that you won’t forget  the idea in the whirlwind of your schedule. It may even lower your stress. If the idea keeps popping into your head along with concern that you will forget it, or worry that you won’t have time to follow through that may suck some of your emotional resilience away from dealing with your day, which is what makes and idea list an important tool to corral all of your genius. (9) 
  2. Do you allow yourself time to pursue creative ideas, or just push them down? Shoving away your creativity may work in the short run during the busiest times in your day, but at some point those ideas will some back to haunt you. If you know there is time, even if it is just an hour or two on the weekend, when your ideas will get full reign, that may allow you to easily let them slide by at crunch time. If you are afraid your ideas won’t happen unless you act on them immediately that thought process may lead you down endless rabbit trails when you are supposed to be accomplishing other goals. Think of that time slotted for your own creativity as an investment in your weekly sanity and productivity, not a luxury (10).

Saying “Yes”: This is definitely not addressing the question popped at a romantic evening with your soulmate. That is a perfect opportunity to be agreeable, but barring the obvious, how can you tell whether those things crowding your calendar should have fallen into the affirmative pile?(11)

  1. Will this bring you closer to people you care about? Life is too short to spend time on mindless obligation when you could be laughing it up and making memories with those who will be there for the long haul. Even these high quality opportunities can overload your calendar, in which case you will need to call on your intuition and find out which ones resonate the most with you. You may want to write in the birthday party you aren’t thrilled about if you know it will be important to Grandma and she is getting up in years, but most of family-centric activities should be ones that will impact you in a way you find meaningful, not to check an etiquette box.(12) Not everything that could benefit your job will benefit your life. You need a balance of things that help your job and yourself, or you will eventually burnout on both ends. If it won’t directly affect your upward mobility, like when the guys want to go for drinks, feel free to forgo that one.(13)  On the other hand, if that round of beers is your weekly therapy from the stresses at work, go ahead. Not every extra errand you run will mean you will be better off in other people’s eyes. Some people see willing helpers as a disposal for everything they hate, not as valued colleagues that deserve a promotion for their hard work. It is valuable to take a minute and seriously consider the role you might be playing.
  2. Do you really want to? It is not always wrong to say no to things that just don’t vibe with you. Sure, you will still have to wash dishes, and do financial reports, but there may be ways to eliminate some things that just are not your favorite.(14)  If you want to feed your family a frozen meal weekly so you have more time to hang out and hear about their day that is a good trade off. Can some of the office busywork be eliminated or combined? Maybe you can try hiring out some tasks you hate to give yourself more of what is truly important.

Villainizing something rarely includes the whole story and isn’t really fair to anyone. You shouldn’t have to feel guilty if you look at social media responsibly. You should feel empowered when you choose family over more overtime. You should feel supported even when the thing that really speaks to you and makes you feel alive is a completely crazy dream that you can’t imagine how you could accomplish right now. The world needs more acceptance and nuance, so go out there and seek out the balance you need in your own life.

 

 

  1. Markman, Art. “What To Do When The Biggest Office Distraction Is Your Coworkers.” Fast Company, 9 May 2017, www.fastcompany.com/40419045/what-to-do-when-the-biggest-office-distraction-is-your-coworkers. Accessed 9 Nov. 2018.
  2. Prossack, Ashira. “What You Can Do To Combat Negativity In The Workplace.” Forbes, 24 July 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/ashiraprossack1/2018/07/24/how-to-overcome-negativity-in-the-workplace/#1039a82941fe. Accessed 9 Nov. 2018.
  3. Edberg, Henrik. “https://www.positivityblog.com/overcome-frustration/.” Positivity Blog, 17 Jan. 2018, www.positivityblog.com/overcome-frustration/. Accessed 9 Nov. 2018.
  4. Bilton, Nick. “Three Tips To Finding Social Media Balance.” New York Times, 16 July 2014, www.nytimes.com/2014/07/17/fashion/three-tips-to-finding-social-media-balance.html. Accessed 9 Nov. 2018. 
  5. Sreenivasan, Sree. “How to Use Social Media in Your Career.” New York Times, www.nytimes.com/guides/business/social-media-for-career-and-business. Accessed 9 Nov. 2018.
  6. Woodall, Gennean. “MAKING FRIENDS THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA.” Gennean, www.gennean.com/blog/making-friends-social-media. Accessed 9 Nov. 2018.
  7. Chesak, Jennifer. “Social Media Is Killing Your Friendships.” Healthline, 9 Jan. 2018, www.healthline.com/health/how-social-media-is-ruining-relationships#4. Accessed 9 Nov. 2018.
  8. Giang, Vivian. “How The Most Successful People Keep Track Of Their Best Ideas.” Fast Company, 6 Oct. 2015, www.fastcompany.com/3051775/how-the-most-successful-people-keep-track-of-their-best-ideas. Accessed 9 Nov. 2018.
  9. Kopytoff, Verne. “5 apps to track your every idea.” Fortune, 22 Mar. 2013, fortune.com/2013/03/22/5-apps-to-track-your-every-idea/. Accessed 9 Nov. 2018. 
  10. Balbach, Abigail. “Schedule Time to Think.” Trendy Minds, 20 Mar. 2018, trendyminds.com/blog/schedule-time-to-think. Accessed 9 Nov. 2018.
  11. Sicinski, Adam. “The Ultimate Guide For Saying “No” When It Matters Most.” IQ Matrix, blog.iqmatrix.com/saying-no. Accessed 9 Nov. 2018.
  12. Kiesau, Jason. “10 Ways To Make You Closer To Your Family.” Lifehack, www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/10-ways-make-you-closer-your-family.html. Accessed 9 Nov. 2018. 
  13. Kipp, Mastin. ” THE CHALLENGE OF KNOWING WHEN TO SAY YES OR NO.” Mastin Kipp, mastinkipp.com/when-to-say-yes-or-no/. Accessed 9 Nov. 2018. 
  14. LaFevre, Rosella. “Should I say Yes or No? Here is How to Decide.” Huffington Post, 22 Apr. 2015, www.huffingtonpost.com/rosella-lafevre/should-i-say-yes-or-no-heres-how-to-decide_b_7118442.html. Accessed 9 Nov. 2018.
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