Life is all about time.
We all live through it and have the same amount of time in a given day.
So naturally, those who learn to make the most use of their time are able to get the most out of their life, it’s that simple.
Yet, if this is so simple and clear, why is it that so many of us waste so much of our time?
How we may waste our time
In this digital age, we spend a lot of our time online.
Whether it’s to meet new people, learn new things, or simply entertain ourselves for hours on end, everything and anything can be done online.
While this has created a mass amount of opportunities, it also brings a whole set of distractions and temptations to waste our time.
Social media usage
One of the ways in which we waste our time heavily is through social media.
According to some Global WebIndex, 59% of the world’s population uses social media, with the average daily usage being roughly 2 hours and a half.
While some of these people may be using social media for business purposes, a large majority are using it for reasons that aren’t necessarily impacting your productivity — filling up spared time, communicating with friends, or watching content.
Based on this data by DataReportal, we see that most of the time is spent tackling boredom. Out of most things that are up on that list, most of them are things we can minimize our time in and allocate said time to something more impactful, more productive, and more valuable to our lives.
Oftentimes, when we set out to try and be more productive, we end up doing things just for the sake of doing them. This is the misguided idea that being busy is the same as being productive.
We frequently suffer from what is known as completion bias. This is the tendency for us to complete something we’ve started or feel is easy to tackle, simply to get the sense of satisfaction from actually completing it. Our brains are wired to seek closure. So we end up completing small and simple tasks, from responding back to messages and/or emails to making general updates on a page or social media handle.
We do this to tick that box off our to-do list. Yet, while this may be great to do for the short-term, for the long-term, we need to really ask ourselves whether this action is truly productive for the bigger picture — whether these small, simple tasks are adding real impact to the things that truly matter. Because if they aren’t, falling victim to the completion bias may not be helping our productivity’s bottom line.
Another misconception that we fall prey to is the idea of multitasking. We think that by doing a lot of things at once, we are getting a lot completed. But in fact, multi-tasking itself can be quite a hindrance to quality performance.
Not only does it divide up our attention, making it hard to focus on one thing properly, but it also results in poorer performance. There are studies that indicate that when our brain is switching back and forth between complex tasks, we actually become less efficient, increasing the probability of making a mistake.
In addition, there have been new studies that have come out that demonstrate how multi-tasking damages our brains long-term.
When we procrastinate, two regions of our brains — the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex — are fighting with one another. When we know we need to work on something, our brain senses some distress, which then turns on the fight-or-flight response deep within. If we were to fight the moment and simply do what we need to, we’d delay our immediate gratification of wanting to relax and avoid the task at hand, but instead, we succumb to the desire to alleviate this stress and do nothing.
By letting the primitive brain overcome our rational one, we may feel more at ease at that moment, but ultimately make less use of our time, and eventually feel worse about it later down the road.
Organization and prioritization
A lot of the time, the problem with managing time is more an issue of lacking organization and prioritization.
Whether it’s with paid work, side hustles, and daily to-dos that are part of everyday life, it can be difficult not to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tasks we need to do. We end up tackling one thing after another, only for us to be greeted with a whole other pile of things on our plates.
This is why learning to prioritize and organize these tasks can make a huge difference in managing time better.
Using project management tools like Notion, ClickUp, Monday, and more can definitely help to organize your work. But familiarity with prioritization techniques such as the ICE Method, Eisenhower Decision Matrix, and Eat a Frog Method can ensure you are focusing on the right things at any given moment.
The ICE Method, for example, is a scoring framework that many UX designers and engineers use to prioritize what features should be implemented into a given product, assigning numerical values to three key areas: Impact, Confidence, and Ease (hence the name ICE). While, this is primarily used in product management, by looking at the tasks in your life as a given product, you can easily implement this into your personal planning to prioritize your to-dos — so time is spent wisely, instead of simply busily.
Motivation and inspiration
We all know the saying, “comparison is the thief of joy.”
Well, as social media usage is on the rise, it is only natural that we compare ourselves to others. The toxic side to this, however, is that studies show the more frequent upward comparisons we have to people, the lower our feelings are toward ourselves. In other words, by comparing ourselves to people who we perceive as doing better than us in some way or another, we have a greater deflated self-esteem.
This deflated sense of self is what leads us to lack motivation and inspiration in doing more with our time, since we feel the distance between us and ‘them’ is far too great. On social media, it seems like every other person is buying multiple homes, and cars, and simply living a life of sheer luxury.
It all comes so easy, apparently. And yet, the truth of any successful person is that you need to put in time, commitment, and persistent effort to create value. As Theodore Roosevelt once stated,
“Nothing worth having comes easy.”— Theodore Roosevelt
This is no different when it comes to managing time.
It doesn’t happen overnight. But learning to conquer time takes time.
But by acknowledging this now and starting immediately, no matter how old you are, at least you’ll be able to change your life and make the most of what little time we all really have.