When I was in High School, I knew an old Jesuit who used to call students who wasted time in class ‘Lazy Monkeys’ or, alternatively, he would implore them to not be ‘barnacles on the Wheels of Progress’. Clearly, he had a real knack for colorful metaphors. Nevertheless, I have always tried to avoid being a lazy monkey, even many years later.
No one lives within a temporal utopia. Therefore, it is a wise idea to evaluate the items that add little value to your life but do eat a large part your day. I recommend doing the below exercise every 90 days or so to eliminate such time wasters.
Although I have no research to support this statement, my own experience and countless conversations on the topic lead me to believe that only 10% of your activities account for 90% of time that has marginal or no real output.
Let us imagine that someone watches 2 hours of TV every weekday (M-F). If we assume that this person sleeps 8 hours a day and works 8 hours a day, this leaves 8 hours of discretionary free time. Two hours of TV a day translates into:
- 25% of free time is spent in front of the television
- 500+ hours of TV viewing per annum.
Wow. Imagine if all that time watching TV was converted in something extremely productive, such as learning a foreign language, exercising, or playing with your children? Also, 500 hours a year would provide one with plenty of time to become an expert simply by reading many (approximately 50) books in one’s field. Check out The No TV Challenge.
Your Top 5 Time Wasters?
So far, everyone I’ve asked to write down a list of their top 5 ‘time wasters’ has not had a problem. This turns out to be a fairly easy task for most people, something that only takes a few minutes to produce. Here are common items on such lists:
I encourage you to consider what no-value habits are part of your daily life that could be replaced with better activities and focus on changing the single biggest one of the bunch. If you recreate this list every 3 months, you’ll have a much better handle on the allocation of your time for the rest of your life.