One of the things I struggle with most in life is feeling like I never have enough time to do everything that I want (or need) to do. Anyone else? Between work and play and family and friends, I often feel like my day is spent rushing from point A to point B, always running 5 minutes late. My perspective is starting to shift, however, after reading Overwhelmed: Work, Love, & Play When No One Has the Time, by Brigid Schulte, in which the author proposes that all of us perma-busy people actually have more free time than we think; we just need to master a few practices to make our work more efficient and our play more satisfying.
To be honest, the last thing I feel like working on right now is being more “productive.” What I really want is to capture any wasted time in my life that could be spent prioritizing what really matters to me: connecting with friends and family, savoring great meals (without being on my phone), spending time out in nature, and making time to relax and play. Based on research, conversations with friends, and my own firsthand experience, here are some of the most common time-wasters… and a few ways to purge them from your day-to-day. Keep scrolling, and let us know which ones you struggle with most in the comments!
This one probably comes as no great surprise; I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of going down the rabbit hole of our Facebook or Instagram feed and looking up an hour later totally shocked at how much time has passed. Lately I’ve been limiting my social media checks to just once in the morning and once in the evening — and narrowing down the list of people I’m following has helped a lot, too.
*image: brandy melville
2 – Binge-watching shows you don’t really care about.
Just to be clear, I’m definitely not anti-television. I think that watching a great show can be one of the best ways to wind down, and TV has never been better than it is now. The key phrase here is “a great show.” All too often, we zone out in front of something that we really couldn’t care less about, and two hours later we realize that we could have spent that time doing something much more rejuvenating. One thing I’m trying to do in my own life is break the habit of letting TV be my default way to unwind post-dinner, and instead spend some evenings taking a long hot bath, catching up on magazines, or reading books. Then when I do watch something, I’m making a choice that it’s actually the way I want to spend my time.
As someone who likes to stay super on top of email, this is a tough one for me! But time researchers have shown time and again that constantly toggling back and forth from the task at hand to checking email is one of the most unproductive ways we can spend our time. I’ve read studies that say that it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption!
One strategy that I’m trying to employ is the idea of “chunking” my work hours. Setting aside a certain amount of time to do email, and then when I’m writing a blog post or brainstorming for a shoot, I completely close out my inbox so I can focus on the task at hand.
*photo: erik lefvander
4 – Relying on a complicated hair or makeup routine.
If you’re one of those people that genuinely enjoys spending a major amount of time on hair and makeup in the morning, then by all means – you do you. For the rest of us, it’s time to streamline! Obsessing over your appearance in the morning can be both time-wasting and soul-sucking, so find your 5-minute makeup routine and embrace second-day hair – then get out the door and enjoy your life.
*photo: into the gloss
5 – Working up a sweat at a midday workout class.
We had a bit of an internal office debate on this one, since spending your lunch break squeezing in a workout is an undeniably healthy habit. The key here is the type of workout and how it works into your particular lifestyle. While I love the idea of hitting up a noon spin class, the time it takes to get there, take a class, then shower and completely get ready (after I’ve already done that entire routine in the morning before work) just doesn’t really work with my schedule right now. Instead, I book those super sweaty classes in the morning before work, and save lunchtime sessions for barre, yoga, a brisk walk, or some other exercise that doesn’t require a second shower of the day.
*image: vogue uk
6 – Editing, organizing and uploading photos.
I am so guilty of spending waaaay too much time on these activities. The time it takes to find the perfect filter, think about a caption, and share photos on social media can be ridiculous. Try not to overthink it, and when you want to really spend time finessing photos, edit a bunch of them in one sitting.
*photo: free people
7 – Stressing over things you can’t control.
I think this can be one of the stealthiest time sucks around, since we often don’t know how distracting a subconscious worry can be. Research has shown that most of us are actually terrible at multitasking, so worrying about pointless problems while trying to accomplish the task at hand will make your productivity tank. For me, spending a few minutes in the morning meditating, praying, and/or journaling really helps me sort through my thoughts and become conscious of what’s on my mind. Then I can make the call on whether it’s something that’s worth spending time problem-solving, or if it’s an issue that I just need to let go.