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4 Tips to Stop Wasting Time (and Be More Productive)

by Silvia

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“What have you been up to today?” I snapped out of my daze as my phone pinged one Sunday evening. I frowned and struggled to rev up my brain’s short-term memory center. “Um… I did laundry… and… made a sandwich?”

For the life of me, I couldn’t recall anything of substance that I did that day. Because the truth was, I didn’t do anything of substance that day. I was just wasting time. And unfortunately, it happened a lot more frequently than I wanted it to.

How is it possible that we waste so much time when we want to be productive so badly? Your intentions are in the right place, but you might be missing a few key practices. I found how to stop wasting time when I started doing just 4 simple things. And you can too, if you keep reading to find out what they are.

How to stop wasting time 

Wasting time is a frustrating reality that we all face in our daily lives. But you can minimize it with these 4 easy tips.

1. Get enough sleep

The first tip is something many people love the idea of, but few are willing to do. It’s getting enough quality sleep.

If you’ve ever had to pull an all-nighter, you’ll know the effects that sleep deprivation can have. Your judgment is impaired. Your productivity slows down. And thinking about anything complex feels like trudging through mud. 

In a nutshell, your brain can’t function properly. As a result, you take much longer to do things and waste even more time than you “gained” by staying up late. 

How I went from sleep deprivation to boosting my productivity

I know getting enough sleep can be easier said than done, but it’s really a matter of priority. 

I’m someone who would stay up all night if I could. I always have a million ideas of things to work on and goals to achieve. Sleeping felt like a waste of time. 

But when I started researching mental health and happiness, I realized just how important sleep is for both of these noble goals. So I started looking at bedtime the way I look at appointments and meetings — a commitment I must keep. 

The good thing is, there are more ways than one to sneak more sleep into your daily life. One influencer I follow on Instagram jokingly says that if she’s an advocate of anything, it’s sleep. She’ll take any opportunity to take a quick nap or close her eyes and let her brain zone out.

Whenever I feel tired, I often think of her and give myself permission to doze off even just for 15 minutes. If you want to stop wasting time, you should try to do the same. 

Follow these tips to get quality sleep and stop wasting time:

  • Plan ahead to get 7-9 hours of sleep.
  • Set a regular bedtime and wake-up time.
  • Turn off all lights and sounds that could wake you up.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the evening.
  • Minimize electronics in the bedroom.

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2. Follow your desires

Have you ever tried finishing up a report, but all your brain could think about was that book you were reading?

Another way we waste time is by trying to go against our desires.

Granted, there are situations where we do have to hunker down and get something done, whether we feel like it or not. You don’t want to be irresponsible and neglect your duties, or wait until the last possible minute until your nerves are fried with stress

However, I would argue that letting yourself do what you want can actually save you time on many occasions. You’ll enjoy what you’re doing much more, first of all. And, you’ll be able to devote your full attention to it rather than half your neurons busy whining “But I don’t wanna!”

How to put it into practice

You can still be productive and work on something important to you — just choose it according to your mood and energy. 

Last year, I discovered a very complex yet cool spreadsheet tool that helps you do just this. In a nutshell, here’s how it works:

  1. First, you list out your goals and the action steps associated with them. 
  2. Then you categorize each one by how much physical energy, mental energy, and focus they take. 
  3. Finally, you define various “mood modes” with the same three variables. For example, “deep focus” mode could be when you have high mental energy and focus but low physical energy. 
  4. Whenever you want to be productive, take a moment to consider how you feel. Choose your mood in the spreadsheet. It will filter out goals that make the most sense for you to work on. 

Of course, you can take a simpler approach to this. For instance, just write out your goals and their associated moods on paper. Or, you can get wild and just play it by ear. 

The important thing is that you take into account how you feel, so you can be productive and stop wasting time.

3. Keep records of information you might need again

How many times can a person look up the same piece of information? Sadly, the heck of a lot.

I found this out firsthand when I started planning group trips for me and my friends. I was checking out various accommodation options and opened up a bunch of options from Booking. 

I started going through them one by one. This one’s too far, that one’s too expensive… is this one missing a bathroom door? Maybe something smaller would be better, like that first option I saw. Wait, which one was it again? Darn it, I closed the tab already. *Cue a 15-minute search through my Chrome history*. Oh whatever, I’ll just find it again on the map. Wait, did I look at this apartment already?

And so on and so forth. After the first episode of this drove me to near insanity, I started taking a much more organized approach

  • Whenever I checked out an apartment, I saved it in one of two lists — “yes” or “no”. 
  • I then went through the “yes” options and jotted down a few key points: distance from the event location, price per person, square meters, number of beds, etc. 
  • I saved this list somewhere it was easy to copy so I could send it out to group chats or consult whenever needed.

What you can apply this to

This is just one example of something you can apply across a myriad of situations. Aside from the above, I have also started keeping track of:

  • Favorite passages from books I read, along with page numbers
  • A list of things I always pack whenever I go on a trip
  • Subscription renewal and expiry dates 
  • Websites and apps where I can find discounts and deals
  • Loyalty and membership numbers
  • Events I’m thinking of going to
  • Locations and addresses I frequently visit

Basically, if you think you might need to check something again, you probably will. Just save it somewhere you can easily find it again, whether that’s a bookmark in your browser, a note on your phone, or a label in Google Maps. 

4. See the necessity and value in wasting time

There’s a very powerful parable I read, in a book that I can’t remember. It went something like this. 

When you stand in any room, you’re only using a few square inches of the floor — the ones your feet are standing on. Therefore, all the other unused space in the room can be considered useless, or a waste. 

But imagine it disappears. Now, you only have a few inches of floor under your feet. And you’re completely unable to move. The same thing happens when you try to use all of the space. Once again, you become unable to move, because all of the space is being taken up by something already. 

Space is only useful when most of it is unused. And though time and space obviously aren’t the same, we can apply the same thinking to productivity as well. You need to have a lot of time available in order to do anything meaningful with some of it.

Trying to use all of it “productively” is not only impossible, but it is also a surefire way to make yourself miserable.

If you’d like to explore this idea further, I’d highly recommend reading the book Four Thousand Weeks. It has some incredible insights into our mindset toward time and how we use it on this planet. 

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Ready to stop wasting time?

There are arguably many things that can help you to stop wasting time. In fact, I covered 19 ways to boost productivity in a previous article. 

The tips above are the top 4 things that personally helped me the most. I see a huge difference in how much I get done, and most importantly how I feel about living my life. And hopefully, so will you.

What has helped you the most to stop wasting time? Share your personal favorite tip in the comments below. 

Silvia Adamyova AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Born in Slovakia, raised in Canada. Online English teacher, editor, copywriter, and translator. You’ll find me holed up in a bookstore, typing in a cafe, or immersed in a philosophical debate.

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