December 14, 2019

Wasting time? Here are ten things to do instead

Have you ever heard that quote that ‘wasted time enjoyed is not wasted time’? In this fast paced, fast changing world of ours, it’s hard not to think that if you’re not productive every single minute, every single hour of every single day, you’re just not going fast enough. That’s what I feel sometimes – so I immediately feel that when I am wasting time, it isn’t good. So I wrote up this post, mostly to remind myself, that when I do feel like I’m wasting time, I should think about doing something else instead (though whether I do it or not is another thing):

Sleep

Ever wasted hours watching random Youtube clips of your favourite movies or TV shows or anime? Yeap, I’ve been there. Without even realizing why or understanding, I will turn to Youtube to entertain me and then spend hours, way past my bedtime watching these clips that really have no bearing on my life.

Instead, I should just notice the time, notice the alarm I have set (an alarm to get to bed early enough so that I can get 8 hours of sleep), and sleep!

Read

One of my guilty pleasures is watching Twitch – it’s a streaming platform where people, often professionals, are playing video games for a living. They’re commenting on their strategies as they go and they are interacting with the people that are watching them. I find it absolutely fascinating and at the same time, it seems completely ridiculous to be doing when I could be playing the video game instead or even doing something that I know is much better for me: reading.

I’ve talked many times about how reading is one of the best things to do. Leaders are readers. Don’t know where to start? Use this rule – if it’s been a best seller for X years, it will continue to be a good book for X years. There’s a reason that Dale Carnegie’s How to win friends and influence people continues to top best seller lists – it’s a book filled with timeless principles that apply to any century.

Exercise

When I wake up in the morning, I drag myself to the gym. Most of the time I fail. I don’t feel like it. My body is sore or I’m not feeling well or sometimes I feel like I haven’t slept long enough. I throw up a ton of excuses.

Recently, I have been listening to Mel Robbin’s 5 second rule and it has really changed my way of thinking. In essence, whenever you feel like doing something, Mel suggests that you take action right away in the next 5 seconds. If you’re thinking about going to exercise, at least put on your exercise shirt in the next 5 seconds. If you are thinking about writing that book, open up your notebook and write one sentence in the next 5 seconds. Take action right away! Don’t let your brain throw up a ton of excuses in front of you. Try it the next time you know you should be doing something – count 5 4 3 2 1 and make sure that you are moving or taking action within those 5 seconds. Obviously this applies to more than exercise.

Journal

I’ve previously talked about my journaling practice: first thing in the morning, when I wake up, I sit down to write about anything that is in my head – often times, it’s how I feel but it’s not strict. It is about whatever floats in my head at the time and can be about what happened the previous day, what I feel about the future, my goals for the day, ideas that I have popping around my head or what I’m grateful for.

What do you like to do first thing in the morning? Probably open up your phone and be bombarded with many streams of news, videos, images, likes, messages, e-mails of other people demanding your attention, time or focus.

As Charlie Munger says, sell the best hour of your life to yourself. If you wake up early and have a morning practice, take that time to improve yourself in some way – it doesn’t necessarily have to be journaling but journaling is a great practice to clear your head and gain clarity on your life.

Chat with friends or family

How long has it been since you’ve called your mom or dad? I know it’s been a while for me but what’s stopping me from picking up the phone and calling them? Nothing. And when I do pick up the phone and they ask what I’ve been up to, I never have a good answer. “Oh I’ve been busy with work” or “I’ve been spending a lot of time being anti-social” are never good responses. And it’s not about keeping in touch with your family – what about your close friends? Some of them you likely see all the time but what about those that you don’t see as often or that you’ve lost touch with? Take the time to re-connect with them instead of playing those video games or watching that movie.

Practice gratitude

Practicing being grateful will do a few things – it will help you feel like life is enough. You have so many things to be grateful for in this world – take the time to really think and in Marie Kondo fashion, thank them from the bottom of your heart for being in your life and making it better in some way.

Thank you to my phone charger for being super handy in charging my devices.
Thank you to my hotel for providing me with free water.
Thank you to my work out clothes for making me feel energetic and helping me focus on my health

Stretching

As I’ve gotten older but still continued working out, I’ve noticed that stretching is a bigger part of my life. I am not a doctor or a fitness expert, but I feel like stretching (after workouts) is a great way of helping your muscles relax and reduce injuries and stress. One practice that I haven’t started yet is doing a light stretch just before bed.

I had always thought that stretching was best performed before workouts but instead, I try to fit in some more dynamic movements and dynamic stretching before doing anything strenuous. It’s Zombieland rule #18 – limber up – at least before workouts. After workouts, take the time to stretch out those sore muscles. I have personally found my body to be less sore after the workout and the day after.

Work on that side project

Have a book that you want to write? Have an idea that you want to convert into a video or podcast? Take a few minutes (or better yet, take an hour) to work on that side project of yours after work or early in the morning. Don’t let your day get away from you watching Twitch or playing bullet chess over and over.

I myself like to spend quite a bit of time reading, writing and thinking and naturally, I have ideas that I want to get out into a book format because I like books so much. Find a side project that you’d like to work on and spend a bit of time, today, to moving it forward.

Absorb educational content

Just as your phone, tablet or computer can keep you entertained for hours on end, there is also so much incredible knowledge, expertise and educational content that is available, for free, on demand and at your fingertips that you can consume right now. Well, not right now but maybe after you finish reading this post or two 🙂

I have purchased so many books, audiobooks and online courses that you would probably think that I’m a bit crazy but I have them at my fingertips and whenever I feel like there’s an area in my life that’s lacking (say my finances or my health), I can take those courses or books and find out new strategies of dealing with them. That seems to always have been my approach – learn everything that I can about something I’m lacking in and then experimenting with different tactics or strategies to improve that area.

Do nothing

Doing nothing is different from wasting time. The difference is that you are planning to do nothing and do it. Wasting time is when you are planning to do something (you have it in your calendar to do something – and by the way, you are planning things on your calendar right?) and you do something else instead. You plan to write but instead you open up Youtube to watch random clips. You plan to read but instead you browse Instagram on your phone.

Plan and do nothing. What is that even like these days to sit and do nothing – it looks weird and you may even feel bored. But that is really okay – I think that ‘boring’ feeling can be good because even though it is telling your body to ‘go go go’, you are saying that it is okay to stop. I’ve even found that doing nothing is the best way to get myself to do something – sit around for 5 – 10 minutes and you will immediately feel the push and motivation to do anything else instead.

I also left this as last because I wanted to make sure that you know it’s okay to not be productive every single minute of every single hour of every single day. Don’t feel like you have to hustle all the time – you can certainly be successful (however you define it) by working hard within certain boundaries.


What do you like to do when you feel like you are wasting time? What would you rather do instead (if anything)? Anything not on the list above? Let me know!

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