For example, watching TV all day seems like a waste of time when you could be using your time to do some thing better like going out for a walk or spending time with friends or family.

Here are some of the examples from my life:

TV. I haven’t watched TV for 7 years now. Although sometimes I feel as if I’m missing out (especially in the US), I don’t regret it. I feel I am more productive and that I consume the information more mindfully. I am reading books, watching movies, listening to podcasts, finding new and more engaging ways to learn and express myself. This doesn’t mean that TV is genuinely evil or that everyone should stop watching TV or that nothing on TV is worth watching. This is just what works for me. Quick tip if you want to consume TV in a more mindful way: make sure that when your TV is on, you are actually watching it and that you’re watching something you chose. Don’t scroll TV channels randomly for hours. Don’t use TV as a background noise. That is the waste of your time and attention.

Consistent email checking. (OK, now the people will start citing Tim Ferriss and other big sharks how you should check your email once a month and that jazz.) Unfortunately, for most of us, it is completely impossible to get rid of email in total. However, consistent email checking is super unproductive, because it gives us the illusion that of productivity when in fact, it’s just busyness. Jumping from the task at hand to email and back activates the monkey mind mode, without fail. It is crucial to have scheduled large blocks of time without email. Only in a focused state we can do deep, meaningful and hard work.

Social media notifications on a cell phone. Similar thing as email. If you let everyone’s Like or Retweet make you stop whatever you’re doing, you cannot possibly be focused. And when you’re not focused, you’ll end up wasting tons of time on repeating, corrections and trying to catch up.

Scrolling the social media feed mindlessly. Just as mindlessly browsing TV channels wastes time and energy, scrolling down the social media feed in search of something (of what?) is a perfect way to kill huge chunks of time. That process is draining because you need to decide multiple times: “Do I want to read this? Do I want to watch this video? Do I want to see this album?” Yet we all scroll and scroll. My experience is that it’s the best to time scrolling. 5 minutes can be plenty. We should use social media to connect, not just to scroll.

Worrying. I wasted years on worrying and ironically, most of the things I worried about have never happened. (Then I realize that if I worry about something enough it will most likely not happen.) Even those very few things that did happen, seemed so much scarier in my thoughts. Worry is a huge waste of time. Once you find yourself worrying, take a small action, because it’s an antidote to despair. Make a plan. Call someone. Ask for help. Shift your focus from yourself to someone else and do something nice for him or her. Move your body, worrying means that you’re too much in your head. Write the super scary worst-case scenario (like a script for a bad horror movie) and laugh. Play with a child. Create. Just get yourself out of that state.

Comparison. Nobody puts photos of semi-burned scrambled eggs, messy work desk, greasy hair, Friday night in pajamas with a bad cold on Instagram. Yet, all of that (and much more) is life. We mostly get to see high heels, glasses of champagne, beaches, airplanes and that jazz. And we get the false picture. We compare ourselves to a false (or rather filtered) pictures. We compare ourselves to social norms, expectations, people who had different life circumstances than us (read:everyone) and Instagrammed reality. Use your envy as a tool to learn more about yourself and your values. That’s it. The comparison is a drain. You are incomparable. You are unique. (Just like everyone else.)

Complaining. My mom is very active and practical. Once my sister was complaining to her about something, and my mom gave her like 15 creative solutions. Then my sister said: “But mom, I don’t want you to solve my problems. I just want you to feel sorry for me!” So much truth here. Boy, do we love to ***** and complain! Yes, it’s healthy and it feels good to let those toxic emotions out. But after a while, complaining will trap us. It will help us create excuses, find the reasons why the situation is horrible and permanent and it will make us feel like the victim. Complain efficiently, then change what you can, accept what you cannot and always ask yourself: “What is the hidden gift in this crappy situation?”

Breaks spent in a draining way. Breaks are key components of productivity. Yet, if you squander breaks on activities such as above mentioned #4, you won’t use the revitalizing potential that the breaks can have. Good uses of breaks? Here: take a short walk, stretch, do a brief meditation, talk to a friend or colleague about something that is not work-related, do a brief exercise sequence, leave your computer and do NOTHING, listen to a podcast or audiobook, make a doodle, a photo, clean your work space up, wash your coffee cup. Don’t try to be productive, don’t multitask, let your brain rest.

Focusing on more things at once. This is a favorite activity of my monkey mind and I have to maintain a daily effort to cope with it. In this modern age, there is so much that we can do, watch, read, listen, work on, that we get paralyzed by the abundance of choice. We start working on one thing and then we think: “Oh, I should probably be reading a paper/posting on social media/ writing/whatever, right now.” Then we tend to switch, or multitask, or get so anxious and confused that we end up doing nothing.

Golden rule: one thing at the time, one bite at the time. There is an endless number of activities that you could be doing right now. Choose one that enriches you and that makes the difference. Stick to it. Finish it. Move on. (A good hack from “Getting Things Done”. Work on the task at hand and when the idea for new activity pops up, write it on the post-it note. After you are done, review the note and check out whatever you want.)
Regretting. This is the big one for me. I can’t help but think that some events and life choices make a substantial and non-reversible difference in our lives. Yet, we don’t know. As Cheryl Stayed says in “Tiny Beautiful Things”: “I'll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don't choose. We'll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn't carry us. There's nothing to do but salute it from the shore.” The best way to avoid regrets is to be brave, loving and present. And to do what you can. Here. Today.

I would conclude this answer about time wasters with a beautiful quote by Donald Miller from the book “Blue Like Jazz”:

“I believe that the greatest trick of the devil is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather have us wasting time.”

I hope this answer serves you.


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