The Cure for Wasted Time

Non-value-added idleness robs precious time from our lives. Take steps to deter yourself from giving in to laziness at the moments when you’re most likely to.

Have you ever woken up from a low-energy trance after a long day and realized you just wasted hours doing nothing?  Were you proud of that time squandered instead of invested in adding positive energy to the world? Do you want to prevent those slothful moments from sneaking back into your life?  What do you do to counter those urges when their pull is the strongest?  Establishing a plan now (when you have energy) will enable you to execute that plan when you’re at your lowest-energy moments faced with that temptation, and ultimately will empower you to overcome hours of laziness that you’ll regret later.

Every day when I arrive at home after a day at the office I have a strong urge to kick back on the couch, grab something to eat that I know I shouldn’t, and scroll through mindless streams of “news” on my phone.  I definitely don’t consider this fun or worthy of my time, but somehow it just happens.  Sometimes I’m able to break away after a few minutes, but admittedly about 80% of the times I initially give in to the “lazy” urge I end up sitting on my couch for way longer than I’m proud to admit, sucking away my life without adding any value.  Not till my stomach churns with hunger do I finally get up and realize I’ve wasted a few hours of my life that I’ll never get back.  Do that a few times a week, and I’ll quickly approach a few hundred hours a year wasted.  What if was on my deathbed and the doctor told me that I only had a few hundred hours left to live?  I guarantee I’d find way more meaningful and satisfying ways to spend time than scrolling through my phone.  So why do I value my time now when I’m not on my deathbed any less?  Ahhh, the mysteries of life!  But not to get off topic…

On the contrast, if I get over that initial temptation to kick back for a few minutes on the couch I find that I almost always fight the fatigue successfully by going for a run or bike ride, return refreshed with a surplus of energy, cook a healthy meal, read a few chapters of a book, and proceed to do other value-added activities such as write more minmylife blog posts to share with you.

If you want to kick laziness in the face, start with pinpointing when you’re most likely to give in to your lazy urges; you know, those moments when you choose to spend time watching TV, napping, or just staring at the ceiling instead of doing something productive and value-added.  For me this is almost always right after I walk through the door after work.

Second, identify the common trends of your lazy urges.  For me this is sitting on the couch and pulling out my phone.

Third, identify ways to break the laziness chain of events.  This could be as simple as a sticky note in a visible area from your lazy retreat reminding you of your transgression and guilt tripping you to change your ways, or it could be something more complex.  I’ll give a few examples to illustrate.  Since I know my couch is my haven, I could place a note on the cushion in the mornings telling me not to sit down.  The foresight from the productive-me in the mornings could be enough to guilt trip the tired-me in the afternoons from wasting away my precious hours. 

However, I know myself better than that and recognize a piece of paper usually won’t deter my lethargic mind.  Therefore, I do something that will physically break my chain of laziness—remove the cushions from the couch.  Yes, it may look weird to the robber that breaks into my house while I’m at work, but my couch cushions very well may be in a pile on the floor.  The simple act of having to place the cushions on the couch in order to be lazy is usually enough to deter my laziness from kicking in. After all—if I’m going to make the effort to lift those couch cushions I might as well go to the gym and lift some barbells, right? 

Here are some more examples:  do you have a problem with hitting the snooze button on your alarm in the morning?  I used to, until I began placing my alarm on a bed stand far enough away where I actually had to get out of bed to turn it off.  After I’ve already left my cocoon of warmth and security it doesn’t seem as incentivizing to get back in it knowing that I’m already up. 

Or maybe your moment of weakness may go beyond the purview of wasting time and simply be a negative behavior you’re trying to change.  It could be every afternoon at 2pm as you’re languishing while hammering away at the keyboard.  It’s so easy to slip your hand into the desk drawer and grab an unhealthy snack like a candy bar to get your energy levels back up.  Even if you haven’t made the leap to cut the processed-food candies from your diet yet, you can still create a disincentive to eating it mindlessly during your low energy period by simply keeping it in your locker, in your car, or in some other place where you’d have to get up out of your chair and retrieve it.  It’s still there in case you truly are hungry and need some calories, but making the effort to get it may be enough to snap you out of your comatose state and truly analyze if you need it.

Possibly your lure is a big bowl of ice cream after dinner every night.  I have an insatiable sweet tooth that took me years to quell (OK, OK, I’m still working on this one to tell the truth!).  One of the tips I have for averting this slip up is to place the box of ice cream in a plastic grocery bag that I’ve tied shut.  This makes me have to work just a little bit to open the ice cream, and it’s usually enough for me to second guess it and continue living my life without the ice cream (which helps me maintain a better body image, increased self-confidence, better my sleep quality, and all kinds of other secondary effects).

I could create many examples but this is the point where I hand the stick over to you and ask you to identify your moments of weakness, analyze those moments for common trends, and implement some kind of mental jog or physical hurdle to remind and deter your lethargic self to avoid the trap.  I’m interested to hear your success stories in the comments below-I’m sure we can get some creative solutions from the minmylife community!

Bottom Line: Non-value-added idleness robs precious time from our lives.  Take steps to deter yourself from giving in to laziness at the moments when you’re most likely to.

Did you find this post interesting?  If so, check out our website at www.minmylife.org.  If the subject material of this blog post caught your attention, I recommend starting with our Save Yourself from Life’s Ruts post. 

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