Stop Wasting Time! – 11 Time-Wasting Habits and How to Fix Them
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I sometimes (*cough* daily *cough*) find myself sitting down to scroll Instagram for “5 minutes,” then, all of a sudden, 30 minutes have gone by, and I have nothing to show for it. Not only have I wasted 30 minutes of my day doing something that I don’t even find that enjoyable, but now it’s harder to re-motivate and restart the things that I actually do need to get done.
Are you like me? Even a little?
I tend to struggle most with an over-filled schedule – I have four kids who are with me pretty much 24/7, and they all have different interests and homeschooling needs. Beyond all the running around that I do every week, I have a husband and a home to take care of, a blog to keep up (which is actually part of my relaxation time – writing is super soothing to me!), and a part-time job as assistant director of our local homeschool hybrid. My schedule is FULL, so I can’t afford to waste my time – especially if I want to do the things that matter to me and that foster connection within my family.
Why Do You Need to Stop Wasting Time?
Time is one of your most limited resources. You can’t make or buy more of it than you already have. We all have the same 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. Your time MATTERS.
Instead of letting our hours, days, and weeks get away from us, let’s be intentional about how we use them!
Good time management can be a busy mom’s super power. If you can stop wasting time, you can get things done that you need to do and still have time to do the things that you want to do. How cool is that?!
Some seasons are automatically busier than others. Some people simply have more to do than others.
How do you feel about what you do on a daily basis? Do you wish that you could go back in time, back to a certain point in your life when everything just felt easier? Do you pause to enjoy the moments, breathe, and take in your surroundings? Do you slog through your days, wishing that they would go by more quickly, counting down the hours until bedtime?
My own ultimate goal is to be the mom who lives in the present – at least most of the time 😉
In order to give ourselves the ability to do this, we need to stop wasting time. I know that when I’m not wasting time, I feel happier because my life feels more balanced between work and play. I’m able to stop feeling guilty that I’m relaxing instead of go-go-going.
Let’s unwrap this a bit to figure out what time-wasting activities can look like and how to stop wasting time so that you can up-level your productivity.
11 Time Wasters and Simple Fixes (AKA How Do I Waste Time and How Can I Stop?!)
We know that frittering away our time isn’t good for us, and we don’t *want* to do it, so what are some ways that we waste time? And how can we fix them?
Time Waster #1: Not Having a Plan for the Day
When I don’t have a plan for the day, I don’t know where to start or where I’m going, so I just don’t do anything at all. For me, not having a basic plan for my day is a form of analysis paralysis.
It becomes entirely too easy to get distracted without even realizing it.
Your plan doesn’t have to be set in stone – it’s simply a tool that gives you an overview of what needs to be done and when. It gives you an idea of how to best spend your time, and it keeps you from wasting time by being unfocused and disorganized.
I have a very specific way that I start my day. I wake up before my kids so that I can enjoy my coffee in peace and have some time to myself. I decide the night before what I’m going to do during that time. It’s my time to work on my blog with a specific plan for each morning, whether it’s writing, planning, or working on Pinterest.
Starting my day like this every single day makes it more likely that I’ll continue on a relatively productive course.
Of course, planning your day goes beyond what you do first thing in the morning – but the morning is the best place to start!
Plan your day in advance! I plan my entire week on Sunday, making changes as needed throughout the week. You might prefer to plan every day the night before – that’s also a great option!
Time block your days. Block scheduling is a super flexible way to stay on track without becoming stressed.
Time Waster #2: Too Much Unproductive Screen Time
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t indulge in some Netflix at night when it’s time to wind down. Not all screen time is unproductive. It can be relaxing, and everyone needs some downtime doing what they enjoy. There are ways to work on your personal growth that are screen-related, plus some of us are required to use the socials for work.
There’s also a lot of unproductive screen time – excessive social media and games come immediately to mind.
This is my biggest time-waster, hands down. I loooove playing games on my phone, and I fall down the Facebook rabbit hole more often than I’d like to admit.
Don’t use your TV as “background noise.” The problem here is that you’ll look up to catch a quick 5 seconds of a show, and then 3 hours later you’ll be so immersed in Friends re-runs that you completely forgot about all of the things you were supposed to get done today.
Be intentional with the TV that you watch – choose choose something to watch and then turn on the TV. Limit the number of episodes that you watch in a day. Consider not turning it on every day, or even every night after the kids are in bed.
Better yet, try Pandora or a podcast instead of TV! I use the Pandora app directly on my TV, which connects to my sound bar – my whole family loves it!
Set social media timers. It’s just too easy to get sucked into the Facebook or Instagram vortex and not come out. Make it easier on yourself by setting a timer for 5 or 10 minutes, and be done!
Time Waster #3: Not Planning Your Meals
Have you ever noticed, when you really aren’t feeling like cooking, that your dinner isn’t as good? No? Just me? Dinner seems to turn out better when it’s planned out and I don’t wait until the absolute last minute to figure it out and prep it.
I used to waste soooo much time (and food) by just buying what looked good at the store and then trying to figure out what to do with it. We got takeout more than we should have, and it seemed like I was constantly running to the store for “one more thing” so that I could make an actual meal out of what I had at home.
Taking time to figure out what’s for dinner can feel laborious, but it feels much less so if you’re only doing it once a week.
If I decide in the morning what I’ll be making for dinner that night, I’m less likely to procrastinate on the prep work, which means I’m more likely to cook a good meal that my kids actually eat. And less likely to end up at Little Caesar’s AGAIN (because where else can you feed a family of six for $22?!?!).
Choose your dinner ahead of time. In other words, meal plan! When I do my weekly meal plan, I don’t assign a meal to each day; however, that’s one way to choose your dinner in advance. I wait until the morning (or sometimes the night before if I really have it together), see what my day looks like, and choose one of the meals from my weekly plan.
Make meal planning fun! I love these meal-planning notepads (I have several different ones that I switch out every so often because it’s just fun). Magnetic dry-erase boards are a great option as well.
Time Waster #4: Not Taking Care to Minimize Distractions
Distractions are EVERYWHERE. Most of the time, when we consider our distractions, our minds go directly to our phones – my phone is definitely my biggest distraction, with all of its fun ping noises, colorful games, and pretty Instagram photos.
If you’re a working mom, chatting with a coworker for 20 minutes is a distraction. On the home front, being engaged in purging old clothes from your closet and then being side-tracked for an hour by your old photo albums from high school and college would be another distraction (not that it’s ever happened to me, of course…).
Make a conscious decision to finish each task you start before moving on to the next thing – even if that next thing is super fun. Like those old photo albums, for example – they’ll still be there when you’re done cleaning!
If possible, put your phone in another room – or, better yet, on another floor of your house. For me, simply having it out of sight is enough to keep from picking it up every time I walk by it.
Time Waster #5: Not Keeping A Physical To-Do List
I’m old-school on this. I believe 100% that paper is better than electronic when it comes to your to-do list. My husband wholeheartedly disagrees with me on this one 🙂
However, no matter what, even if you disagree with me too, a mental to-do list is NEVER a good idea. It’s too easy to forget things, get distracted, or simply push them aside because there’s no physical reminder.
Seeing your to-dos written down on paper (or, if you absolutely must, electronically) reminds you what’s important, helps you to prioritize the most urgent / important things, and stops you from relying on your memory, which frees your brain up for other things.
Also, you get to cross things off as you do them. It can be super motivating and confidence-boosting to look back and see how much you’ve actually accomplished in a day!
Start with the tasks that you do regularly and write daily, weekly, and monthly to-do lists. Once those are completed, you can add your one-off things to the appropriate day on your calendar. You can make this more enjoyable by grabbing a super cute notepad or my favorite (inexpensive) planner!
Do a brain dump. Write down everything you can think of on a piece of plain white paper – thoughts, ideas, worries, to-dos. I like to divide my paper into four quadrants: Home, Homeschool, Personal / Family, and Other (a catch-all for whatever else is going on in my life at that time – sometimes it’s a vacation, sometimes it’s random thoughts).
When you feel like you’ve gotten it all out, you can organize it by scheduling the to-dos in the appropriate places on your calendar. Some people prefer to organize everything by priority, which is also fine – I like to use Do, Decide, Delegate, or Delete categories 🙂
Time Waster #6: Not Shopping Online Whenever Possible
You can buy anything online now! This goes beyond things that are shipped to you – by now, I’m sure you’re well aware that you can even place orders for curbside pickup. Groceries are the obvious thing, but even clothing stores and Bath & Body Works allow you to order online and pick up in the store.
Online shopping saves a ton of time, but it can also save you a bunch of money because you’re more easily able to resist those impulse buys.
Walking around Target for an hour can be fun, but when all you need is deodorant, it’s a HUGE waste of time (and money – is it even possible to leave Target with only what you went in for?!?!).
Now, if only Costco would get on board with order pickup…
(Side note: I know that a lot of people are anti-Amazon… But let me tell you that the vast majority of products on Amazon are sold by third-party sellers who own small family businesses selling on Amazon – and my family is one of them! My husband’s sister also owns an Amazon business. So, yes, some of the proceeds do go to the massive Amazon conglomerate… But some of them also support families 🙂 )
Just give it a try! Next time you need to make a Target run, try doing curbside pickup instead. Need those amazing candles from Bath & Body Works? Order online, pick up in-store. My new favorite thing is Whole Foods delivery through Amazon Prime – my nearest Whole Foods is 45 minutes away, but they’ll do the shopping and delivering within 2 hours for a minimal fee!
Choose a certain day of the week for meal planning, grocery ordering, and picking up. I do my meal planning on Wednesdays – I plan the meals, make the shopping list, and order the groceries, then I pick them up on Thursdays. Sometimes it seems like it takes just as long to place the order as it does to physically do the shopping, but I can do it from my couch in my pajamas, plus I don’t have to drag four kids through two grocery stores!
Time Waster #7: Not Setting Certain Times and / or Time Limits for Social Media
This sort of falls under Time Waster #2 (Unproductive Screen Time), but it deserves its own space because it’s a problem for most of us these days.
Keeping up with social media is important to many of us. It allows me to maintain relationships with people who I never would have been able to keep up with otherwise. I’m able to keep in touch with my best friends from my California high school, which I love, as well as friends from college and friends who have moved away. Another perk is that, when I make a new friend, it’s an easy way to grow that new relationship by engaging with their social media posts!
However, losing track of time and not being intentional about why you’re using social media and what you’re actually looking at can be a serious waste of time, especially when it’s time that you’re meant to be using to get things done!
Limit your time spent on social media. You can use apps or a timer on your phone to help, but my favorite way to do this is totally old school. I set the timer on my oven and go sit on the couch. When the timer goes off, I’m forced to physically get off my butt and turn it off – I can’t simply swipe it away and forget about it.
Turn off social media notifications on your phone. There’s really no need for your phone to ding every time someone posts in a Facebook group. The ding itself is a distraction – it’s an automatic response to grab your phone and look at the notification, which is usually for something completely unimportant. So go into your settings and turn off push notifications for all of the apps that you don’t need notifications for.
Time Waster #8: Not Taking Care of Yourself
Every person has a few basic physical needs, and if these needs aren’t met, you cannot possibly operate at peak performance.
If you aren’t getting enough sleep, moving your body, drinking water, or eating reasonably healthy food, you’re going to feel sluggish and unmotivated, which makes it harder to function, which leads to a whole bunch of time wasting.
For me, sleep and water are the two biggest factors that make a difference in my days. It’s hard to go to bed right after the kids when what I really want to do is plant myself on the couch and enjoy some kid-free quiet time, but when I do go to bed earlier, my whole family is better off the next day because of it.
Taking care of your body is a must-do when it comes to eliminating time-wasting activities from your life.
Get enough sleep! This should be one of your top priorities. There’s no “magic number” for hours of sleep – you need to figure out what your own body needs. I know that there are seasons when this is nearly impossible – I’m mom to two sets of twins! Do your best, and in those seasons when you’re up all night with a baby, go easy on yourself as far as that to-do list. Healing and resting your body is more important than many of the items on your to-do list.
Drink plenty of water! Put a water glass or bottle where you’ll see it frequently throughout the day, and take a sip whenever you see it.
Stop throwing half-eaten chicken nuggets in your mouth and calling it “lunch.” Feed your body with nourishing food, and try to sit down to eat at least a couple of meals per day. I know it’s hard – I struggle with this one because it feels like there’s not enough time to sit down and actually taste my food, but I do my best!
Exercise! It doesn’t take much – you can start with 10 minutes a day, and work your way up. Find something that you look forward to doing – go for a kid-free walk or do a quick yoga video.
Determine which of these things makes the biggest difference for you personally, and do that first.
Time Waster #9: Multitasking
If you’re trying to do too many things at once, it’s likely that none of them are being done well. Every time you switch between tasks when you “multitask,” your focus is rapidly switching between two things, and it takes time to refocus after each switch.
Studies show that multitaskers are less productive than people who focus on one task at a time.
To put it simply, your brain can’t be in two places at once!
Focus on a single task at a time. You’ll stay more organized and check things off of your to-do list more quickly.
Commit completely to one task, give it your full attention, and complete it (or get to a pre-determined stopping point). Then, and ONLY then, move on to the next.
Time Waster #10: Saying Yes to Everything
We all want to make others happy, but there’s a point where saying yes to everyone and everything means that you’re wasting valuable time. And when you waste that time, you can quickly become overwhelmed.
Now, I’m certainly not saying that you should stay home and cook and clean all day. My kids and I have a lot of homeschool friends, and we love to go to the playground, hike, and swim with them. Some of these outings are planned days or weeks in advance, but some of them are very last minute. I tend to say no to the last-minute ones simply because my day is already scheduled.
Could I drop everything and go play for a few hours? Absolutely! But most of the time, it’s not worth the added stress in my life – I have to move all of the things I’d planned to do to other times, and it’s really inconvenient to me.
When it comes to our planned outings, I always add a time buffer so that if someone wants to get ice cream after the beach, we’re able to say yes!
Those last-minute outings, though? Those are the ones that require boundaries.
This doesn’t just apply to fun with friends. Have you been asked to make cookies for your daughter’s class? It’s okay to say no (or do store-bought instead of homemade!). Is a friend asking you to help her pack up her house to move, but the time she suggests puts you in a tight spot? Say no, but offer another time that does work for you.
Saying “yes” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s one of my favorite ways to build and nurture relationships with family and friends.
Practice saying “no.” The next time you’re asked to volunteer, attend something, or help out, if it doesn’t work in your schedule, just decline!
Remember that “no” can be a complete sentence. You don’t need to apologize or give a reason. If someone is bold enough to ask why you can’t do something, you can tell them you have a prior commitment – even if that “prior commitment” is mopping your floors or going grocery shopping.
Time Waster #11: Not Being Intentional
Doing things out of habit (or because you just hadn’t given any thought to it) can be a waste of your time.
The most productive people define their priorities, get clear on what they want their lives to look like, and live every day in alignment with their priorities.
For me, being intentional involves understanding the “why” behind my day-to-day life. When I’m making my family a priority, it goes beyond spending quality time with them. Feeding them healthy meals to nourish their bodies is being intentional. Wrangling the never-ending laundry pile so that they have clean beds to sleep in and weather-appropriate clothes to wear is being intentional.
Taking care of myself is something that I intentionally do because I can’t care for my home and my family and friends without first making sure I’m in a good physical and mental space. So I make sure to get enough sleep, drink enough water, and maintain a positive mindset.
Whatever you do, know why you’re doing it. Does it help somebody? Is it important to you or your family? Is it the right thing to do? Do you want to do it?
Schedule your priorities. I have a non-negotiable “Friday Friend Day.” I prioritize this over my work and my home. This is quality relationship-building time for me and my kids, and the only reason we miss it is if we’re sick or out of town. We also have a mostly non-negotiable family dinner at the same time every night.
Avoid comparison and live your own life. Don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) dictate your schedule! Stick to your priorities and you can’t go wrong.
I hope that you’re able to apply some of the simple fixes listed above to stop wasting time. Remember to start small, implementing one or two changes at a time, so you don’t get overwhelmed!
Time-wasting habits can get the best of anyone – myself included. These small, practical changes have helped make my own life so much easier, and I hope they can do the same for you!
What simple fix will you try first? Let me know below in the comments or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.