How to stop wasting time

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Have you caught yourself saying “I don’t have enough time”? It’s an easy habit to get into when you feel that your life or your workload has become too busy and you feel stressed out and overwhelmed.

Our busy lifestyles and an over-reliance on our digital devices coupled with a society that respects a work-hard play-hard attitude, it’s no wonder we’re all giving it as the top excuse to get out of doing something.

“I don’t have enough time,” is often spouted to the ones we love most or when we get out of the habit of doing regular exercise. It can even pop out your mouth when you’ve put aside a personal project you’ve started but have yet to complete.

Whichever scenario you catch yourself using it for, more often than not, you’re actually not telling the truth.

Because let’s face it, if:

  • Your house is on fire
  • Your relative has a terminal illness
  • Your friend is in a crisis

… you make the time. Right?

Which is why when you say, “I don’t have enough time” what you’re really saying is: “this is not a priority for me”.

Not convinced? Let’s test it.

Grab a pen a paper and draw three columns. Label each column:

  1. Work
  2. Free Time
  3. Friends and Family

In each column I want you to list the things you currently don’t have time for, have been putting off, don’t want to do etc. Go on, do it now – I’ll wait…..

All done? Great. Now go through each thing you’ve written down and ask yourself, if my life depended on it, could I find time today or this week to do this? If the answer is yes then you’re just not making it a priority.

So, how do you deal with all these extra tasks, commitments and to-dos?

Step 1: Track your time and priorities

Start by identifying what you spend your time on and how much time each task takes up. Identify black holes or time-sucks that you could eliminate or replace with something more meaningful. I suggest tracking for a week to get a full picture across your work/life balance.

You may want to make a list of priorities including those you are currently making time for and those that you’re not.

Step 2: Commit to X hours per week

Want to start on that list you wrote? Commit to a certain amount of time per week – even if it’s just 30 minutes and pick one of the to-dos you’ve been putting off and complete it. If you can, build up the time each week or month as you get used to re-prioritising your time.

Step 3: Create boundaries

A common symptom of people who use the excuse, “I don’t have enough time” is they overcommit or can’t say no. Combat this by starting to create boundaries around your time, especially the extra time you’ve identified in step two. Boundaries can include turning your phone off, cancelling non-important events, ensuring you’re not interrupted and even being accountable to someone. And, if someone asks you to do something that isn’t a genuine priority, then say no.

Step 4: Be realistic

If you’re a chronic don’t have enough time-er then trying to overhaul this habit in one fell swoop is not going to work. It takes 21 days to form a new habit, so start small and take one small action each day (see step 2) and increase or adapt from there.

Jen Smith coaches entrepreneurs in social media.

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