How easy it is to slip into those habits that waste our precious time – the ones that are a daily ritual or something we “need” to do, or something to make us relax. The TV watching, Facebook checking, house tidying or book re-reading. Things which keep us vaguely entertained, but don’t make us excited or stimulate interesting conversation or give us ideas to change our lives or the lives of others. Things that probably fall into the procrastinator’s “dark playground”, as described by Tim Urban in his Wait But Why blog post.
Everyone will have their own form of time wasting – they might even make it look really productive and useful on the outside. But the truth is, you know it’s not something you really REALLY want to do. You might know what Good Stuff you could be doing instead, or you might not. And I don’t mean “I should be doing the dinner but I’m going to watch TV for a bit instead”. No, I’m talking about The Good Stuff. Those things that drive your passion and interest, that excite you, that you think about when you’re at work or in the shower. Those topics of conversation that get you really fired up or that you bore your friends and family with by always talking about them. The stuff you can’t not do or think about.
Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes time wasted is not wasted time – I get excited about sitting down to watch my favourite TV show or scrolling through Pinterest or re-reading Harry Potter again. Just watch for when that slips into a habit or procrastination tool. If you don’t actively look forward to it or want to do it, then don’t. Do The Good Stuff instead.
These are some of the things I’ve cut back on to make way for the good stuff:
- Pointlessly and habitually checking my phone
In the morning, and at other times too, particularly looking at emails, messages and Facebook (argh that place is a time suck!) This is an easy one to slip back into though as I always have my phone on me.
I used to watch hours of TV every night. Then we cancelled our TV license and only watched dramas and films – better as I was more interested, but still a couple of hours a night and sometimes just vaguely interesting stuff to fill the time. Now I watch 1 or 2 hours occasionally with my husband if there’s something really good on Netflix, or a film with friends. This is probably my biggest time save.
- Things that other people have told me to read / watch / do
I always found it easy to feel compelled to undertake a suggestion made to me, particularly if something had been lent to me or I knew someone was going to ask me what I thought of it. New experiences that interest me = great, I’ll definitely do it! Obligation to use my time for something of no interest = I try to avoid it.
- Internet surfing
I used to read and watch thing after thing on the Internet, getting sucked into a vortex of stuff that didn’t really interest me at all but I couldn’t tear myself away from. I don’t really do this at all any more actually.
- Household chores
Yup, my house is messier than it used to be and the bathrooms don’t get cleaned that often and the washing piles up to unfathomable amounts before I get to breaking point when I run out of underwear. But you know what, I’m still a functioning member of society and my friends still come round and haven’t labeled me a hobo, so it can’t be that bad. Probably quite a bit of time saved here too, and I no longer give into the “shoulds” of chores so feel much happier.
OK, this probably isn’t the healthiest habit so it’s not like I’m recommending this. However, I have realised that I actually need less sleep than I thought I did – 7-7.5 hours a night does me fine, and if I’ve had a particularly late evening I can get by on 6, I can still get up and do things I want to do in the morning. In fact, that’s what I did this morning to write this blog. I can catch up later. Just don’t do it too many times in a row!
The Good Stuff
It can be really hard to give up time wasting habits when you don’t know what Good Stuff you’re actually going to fill that extra time with. Start making a list, physical if you can, of The Good Stuff. This list might change over time as you meet new people, discover new things or saturate your brain with all the info it needs on something. It might be a very small list to begin with. It might have things on it you think make you boring or crazy. But it should always contain stuff that fires up your soul. That makes you passionate or excited or see possibilities you didn’t see before. Things that might scare you, but are so rewarding to do.
My list of Good Stuff consists of but is not limited to:
- Writing this blog (quite a ne wone for me!)
- Education – reading about the state of affairs, talking to people about it and dreaming up ways it could be different
- Reading about neuroscience and understanding how the brain works
- Thinking about starting a business helping people to see the world differently
- Colouring in
- Listening to the podcast of Kristen Kalp
- Listening to the audio book of Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (I listen to both of these on my ride into work actually)
- Watching courses on Lynda.com (can’t believe we get this for free at work now, hurray!)
- Reflecting on experiences with friends
- Learning about Human Centred Design and Design Thinking (through this IDEO.org course)
How will you make way for The Good Stuff?