be smart about time

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” – William Penn

While we know that time is precious and a scarce resource, reflect for a minute at how often we find ourselves wasting the time we have. Frittering away hours at the computer, playing video games, watching endless hours of TV, and any number of other voracious time-wasting activities can leave you feeling edgy, restless and incomplete.

Nothing good comes from deliberate squandering of time. Note that this isn’t the same as when you consciously choose to engage in a hobby or pastime or recreational or leisure activity. Everyone needs time to play, to rest and recharge, and to gain a new perspective on life. Play time helps you lower stress levels, eases tension, and provides the opportunity to see things clearer and without distraction. Solutions come easier after you take the time you need to play.

But time that you waste? That’s just gone for good. The question becomes, how do you use time wisely? What tricks or tips can help? Here are a few to consider:

  1. Make a list.
    Go through your day in your mind and jot down everything you did at what time, how long you did it, and what the result was. This exercise will help you identify times that you wasted.
  2. Analyze wasted time.
    Next, analyze those times you wasted. What was it you were doing immediately before or after? Try to determine if you needed a break from something strenuous, complex or time-consuming or if you were avoiding the next thing on your to-do list. This analysis will help you narrow down instances where you choose wasting time over taking constructive action.
  3. Make a must-do list.
    Make a separate list of things that are must-do items. This list can be for today or things you have to do on a daily basis, including such things as getting up and going to work, preparing dinner for the family, taking medications or vitamins, walking the dog, taking out the trash and so on. Are there things you do that you could streamline or make easier? Could you combine some so that you’re not repeating ground? For example, set the medications or vitamins alongside your breakfast so that you take them before or after your meal. Or, haul out the trash when you take the dog for a walk.
  4. Prioritize must-do items.
    This helps you in rearranging your schedule to accommodate what has to be done. For example, that big project that’s due at work has to take priority, or the boss needs an update every morning at a certain time. Nothing should be allowed to get in the way of taking care of high-priority items.
  5. Build in some slack time.
    This can be as simple as a 10-minute break in the morning and afternoon to go for a quick walk or grab a coffee or chat with your neighbor or co-worker. Getting up to stretch your legs puts a period at the end of what you were doing and is a nice transition from one activity to another.
  6. Vary your schedule.
    If you find that your biggest time wasters are because a lot of what you’re doing every day is boring or repetitive, spice it up by allocating different days for different tasks. When you know you’ve got an hour in the middle of the week to go bowling or have lunch with a friend, other items on your task list won’t seem so challenging. Variety also adds zest and interest to life.
  7. Be in the moment.
    Instead of always thinking you don’t have enough time, savor the present moment. Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s a task or something you enjoy, really be there. This adds to the appreciation of time, that precious commodity.

Being smart about time means you recognize what it is, when you’re using it well or foolishly, and making adjustments in your life so that you maximize this all-too-precious commodity.