Making Your Time More Valuable Can Also Help Make it More Productive

Time is a valuable thing. We can waste it and use it, but never make more of it. It’s a valuable commodity that’s in limited supply. We can sometimes forget how valuable this finite resource is. Just like a running faucet can waste a ton of water, mindlessly wasting our time on habits we’ve formed can impede our productivity.

Have you ever looked up from your screen surprised at how much time has gone by without you having accomplished any of the tasks you set out to do? Or thinking that you have a lot of time to get ready, only to find yourself running late to meet a friend once again? Time can easily escape us. We have to be mindful of it and keep track of it like a dog on a lease, lest we find it running away from us once again.

How? Find time suckers: browsing social media, clicking on every “customer’s who bought this item also bought” product you see on Amazon, reading every linked article in the article you’re already reading. The culprit will be different for each of us, although there will be many culprits.

When you find yourself doing something out of habit, try to think, “Is this worth my time?” Take stock of the habits in your life and identify ones that suck up time that can be better used elsewhere. Here are some examples:

Browsing social media: I constantly find myself scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, not out of the desire to see what’s new, but out of habit. I deleted the Facebook app off my phone and log out after each session. Now, when I open up the page and see that I need to sign-in, I am more aware of how I am constantly going to the page without even realizing it. I can see how much time I’m wasting. Instead, I try to use that time to read articles, study Japanese grammar, or look up travel tips for my upcoming vacation.

Checking and replying to texts: We’ve all been part of group messages with friends that are constantly sending new texts that risk the safety of our jobs. And we all have that friend that sends novellas that would be better suited for email versus text. Either way, a lot of time is spent responding and reading texts. This can be very distracting, especially when you’re trying to read an important article like this one on your phone! I’ve found that the constant texting and notifications were pulling my focus away. To solve this, I muted group messages and friends who send epic series of long texts and only respond when I have the time or when I’m at my laptop and can type on a keyboard that actually fits my hands.

Going to events because you feel bad saying “no.” I’ve been to many parties, shows, and fundraisers. Sometimes, I want to go to these events. Other times, I feel guilty saying “no” and attend, only to spend the entire event thinking about what I could be doing with the time I was wasting. Now, if I don’t want to go to a party, I decline. If someone’s band is playing for the 50th time, I say “no” or ignore the hundreds of Facebook event reminders they send out. If someone is hosting an event to raise money for charity, I donate and go back to my regularly scheduled program.

If you only had a few hundred bucks in your back account, you wouldn’t waste it on expensive clothes and outings, would you? You’d value it and save it for something you really needed. Try to value your time as the precious commodity it is and spend it on people and things that deserve it.

How Your Lies are Impeding Your Productivity

In life there are many things we tell ourselves for motivation:

“I’ll feel better after the gym.”

“This class will provide me with the skills I need for a new job.”

“That cookie isn’t worth it.”

But while it’s helpful to have mantras that we can repeat to keep us motivated, we must be wary of the lies we tell, as well. We all create lies to cater to our wants, desires, and reasons to avoid doing something.

Some lies we may have told ourselves before:

I don’t have time.

“I would go to the gym but I don’t have the time because I need to binge watch the entirety of Westworld.”

“I don’t have the time to deep clean my oven because in reality I rather stick my head in it than spend a day cleaning up that mess.”

Maybe we don’t have time for something, or maybe we’re just making an excuse to not do something. In reality, if something was important, we’d make time for it.

It’s not important.

“It’s not important that I didn’t do my Spanish homework, I’m only doing this for fun.”

“It’s not important that I didn’t go to the gym today because I went yesterday.”

Sometimes we forget to do something and tell ourselves it’s because it’s not important. This can be true, but it can also create a slippery slope of excuses preventing us from accomplishing anything.

I can’t do it.

“I can’t get more flexible because I’m not a dancer or a gymnast.”

“I can’t learn a new language because I’m just not good at learning new languages.”

This is something I have been guilty of saying. It’s something that’s easy to tell ourselves in order to prevent us from trying and failing. (But if you read my last post, you’d know that failing is a great experience for learning!)

Then there the other lies we tell ourselves. The lies where we think we can do it all and have the power to be the superhero of productivity. We can work, take care of our kids, stay in shape, take a continuing education class and still have time for our significant others.

Sometimes you have to acknowledge that you’re lying to yourself.

When we lie to ourselves, thinking that we can do it all, things get put on the back burner, sleep becomes an unrecognizable word, and we become members of a gym in payment-terms only.

Stop lying to yourself. Be honest about what you are actually capable of doing and that, unless you have a Time Turner, there are things that can’t be done due to the limits of time and your sanity.

How do you know what you can and can’t do?

Look at your priorities. Look at the things that you constantly make time for: Work, binge watching, brunch with friends, Mario Kart.

  1. Ask why and how you make time for these items. For work, being paid is a very strong motivator. But for the lucky ones, it can also be the satisfaction of doing something we love or the social aspect of spending the day avoiding work with coworkers we like. For Netflix, it may be to unwind and destress at the end of a long day. These are all good reasons.
  2. Try to find these kind of motivations for the items you honestly want to accomplish. For the gym, it can be spending time with a workout friend or letting off steam after a hard day. Maybe for that French class you never want to go to, it can be the confidence of knowing what you’re saying on your trip to Paris.
  3. Make a list of all the other things you honestly don’t care about doing and find better ways to get them done. Laundry, cleaning, cooking, listening to your roommates day about work… If you can pay to get these items done or delegate them, do it. If not, see how you can reduce the time spent on them or use that time wisely.

Stop wasting the mental energy thinking about things you don’t have the time for nor, deep down, the desire to do. Instead, be honest with yourself on what you can and cannot achieve in the time you have.

That way you can focus your energy on what you can accomplish and save the lies for more important matters – like that birthday party you want to skip so you can go home and pass out on your couch.

Failing and Flailing Your Way Up the Productivity Stream

You know that feeling of utter disappointment when you’ve tried really hard to accomplish something, having really given it your all, and yet still managed to fail?

If you don’t, well, lucky you!

But if you’re a normal human being, or realistic about your endeavors, I know what you’re going through. I have failed way more times than I have succeeded. And yet I keep trying. I guess I really enjoy being disappointed! Or, maybe, deep down somewhere I know it’ll eventually be worth it. Eventually.

How can you continue on when failure is more common than success? If you’ve looked back at your accomplishments to see what you’ve done right, then you’re already taking notes on your previous achievements and applying those methods to your current goals. This is great for learning from your former self and re-applying methodologies you know work. But sometimes you have to look back not at your accomplishments, but at your failures.

Your failures show you what hasn’t worked and why.

Maybe you need to rethink WHEN you do something…

When I was first learning Spanish, I realized I was going nowhere because I was constantly taking lessons in the evening, when I was tired after a long day of work and didn’t have the mental capacity to learn new grammar. So, thanks to iTalki, I started scheduling my lessons in the morning, while my mind was still fresh. This helped me immensely and, as my level advanced, I was able to schedule lessons in the evenings again in order to maintain my conversation skills – which took a lot less mental energy.

Maybe you need to rethink HOW you do something…

When trying to increase my flexibility, I made zero progress stretching on my own, follow videos on YouTube, and taking a few classes every now and then. So I took a step back and stopped trying so hard. Instead of stretching everyday on my own and taking classes every now and then, I took stretch classes three times a week and stretched for only 15 minutes on days when I didn’t have class. Within six months I had a split – and not of the banana variety. Having a set schedule and a class environment allowed me to learn new stretches and work more intensely. It also helped me to stretch on my own because it provided me with knowledge of what to do and instilled the fear of being “that person” in class who never makes any progress.
Maybe you need to GIVE UP

I spent years trying to learn Italian to no avail. But as much as I wanted to learn Italian, I realized that there were other things I cared about more. I was putting a lot of effort into something that wasn’t worth the time and effort and, eventually, I quit. My only regret was I didn’t quit sooner. If I had, I could have spent that time and money on something more important. By failing at Italian, I learned to quit when I’m too far behind to make any progress. You shouldn’t quit when things are tough, but it’s important to be honest when the reason you’re failing so much is due to your not truly motivated.

My failures helped me understand what methods work for me. I learned that my mind is freshest in the morning, making it the best time for me to learn complicated new things. I also learned that I like having some sort of structure that forces me to do something (i.e. stretch), but need free-time to practice on my own. By knowing these things about myself, I can apply these lessons to other tasks I’m working on.

Right now, I’m trying to learn Japanese and am approaching it in a similar manner to how I’ve learned Spanish.

The more I know what doesn’t work for me, the more I can focus on what does. And the best part about failing is that I’m still doing it all the time – so I still have a lot to learn!


Make Everything Seem Like Work

Do you make To-Do-Lists you never complete? Have a plan, but don’t follow through when the day comes? Keep trying to find the motivation to accomplish your goals, only to have it instantly sapped when the time comes to start? It’s time to start treating your goals like work.

For some of us, work can be something negative; a job you do for survival and to keep the bill collectors away. If you’re lucky, you might love what you do and find it enjoyable. But whether or not you’re in favor of it, chances are you’re doing it. What motivates you to keep working? Is it the fear of living on the streets, the pleasure of seeing a paycheck deposited, or perhaps the camaraderie in the office? Just as there’s always a reason to not do something, there’s always one to keep you going.

Figuring out how you work best can help you find the methods you need to be a success in your personal life. At work, there are rules you agree to so you can measure success and failure.  And if your work suffers, there are most likely negative consequences, such as being looked over for a promotion or pay increase, having to be micromanaged until you get your act together, or even losing your job.

Set some rules for yourself and follow them as if you’re were working for someone else. Those rules may come in the form of deadlines with both a hard start and finish time. It may mean always isolating yourself from others so you can concentrate. It can even mean working with others to get advice and guidance.

Here are some ways to assess what works best for you:

Write down the projects or assignments you have at your job. List how you’ve been able to accomplish them and what gave you the motivation to work when all you really wanted to do was to hide in a conference room and stream Netflix all day. Then figure out how those methods can be applied elsewhere.

For me, if I’m studying a new language I set a hard start time when I must begin studying. It’s usually in the morning before I leave for the day. If I want to do something fun with my life, like use my Moviepass for my daily movie (RIP to that plan), I must first study to earn my freedom. If I need to clean my apartment, I set a hard deadline when that must be done. Usually, it’s before someone comes over. The fear of others seeing the amassed dust on shelves and in corners lights a match under me like nothing else.

Depending on the kind of person you are, I would suggest you do any of the following:

Set deadlines. Mark either a date or time of day when you want to accomplish something and set constant reminders to complete your work by that time frame.

Reward yourself: You probably can’t be promoted any higher in your personal life, but try to find other rewards, such as being able to watch your favorite show after having read for an hour, or allowing yourself time to game after finishing your first course on Codecademy. Let yourself be rewarded versus distracted.

Have meetings. No one likes meetings… unless you’re the person constantly is setting up meetings to talk about meetings. But if you’re a social person, try meeting up with like-minded individuals to study a new language, take a spin class, or gather feedback on an article you’ve written. And, thanks to technology, you can even find people online with similar interests and connect with them face-to-face via Skype, Google Hangouts or other video chats programs without ever having to put pants on!

Schedule breaks. You can burn out trying to do too much and lose motivation. Allowing yourself breaks, and scheduling them ahead of time, can help you plough forward knowing respite is soon to come. You can schedule your breaks at a certain time or, as I like to do, after a certain amount of tasks are completed. That way, you the satisfaction of accomplishing something alongside the relief of not doing something for a short while.

Sometimes, to figure out what works, we have to look at what has already worked for us at work. We accomplish a lot in our lives without realizing it. By reflecting on how we accomplish things in our work lives, we can mimic that behavior and apply it to our personal lives.

Making everything seem like work will help you like the work you do.

It’s Time You and Your Phone Went on a Break

Do you find yourself constantly checking your phone for new texts in the middle of watching a show, mindlessly surfing the web during meetings, or reflexively reaching for it the moment your dinner date heads for the bathroom? And have you noticed that not only are you constantly checking your phone, but that you end up spending much more time on it than intended?  

Then, like Ross and Rachel, it may be time that you and your phone went on a confusing, “what-are-the-rules”, break.

Being smart with your smartphone can often lead to boosts in productivity, but things can go the other way. In theory, I’d like to read articles, listen to podcasts and reach my daily Duolingo goal; however, in practice I end up playing solitaire while listening to the good vibes Spotify playlist. This isn’t necessarily bad, but I end up losing time that can be better used elsewhere.

If you’re constantly attending events friends post about for FOMO or checking social media to see what’s going on in the digital world, you’re probably wasting a lot of valuable time. Constantly refreshing Facebook for new likes, scrolling through all the beautiful, confusingly rich travel and food bloggers on Instagram, and using Snapchat for whatever Snapchat is used for (I’m so old I can barely keep up with email), takes up time that you can delegate to more productive endeavors.

We live in a world where it’s very easy to constantly be in touch. Smartphones represent a world of connectivity unlocked by the tips of our fingerprints. Our mobile devices travel with us wherever we go, so we’re always able to send a text, Facetime a distant friend, and order a large latte for pickup. This kind of connectivity, while very useful, can also be a huge distraction. If you want to get anything done, you’re going to have to disconnect.

Where do you start when taking a break? Set some ground rules. Just like if you were to avoid an ex, start a new diet, or create a new fitness routine, you’ll have to form new habits to replace your previous detrimental ones. When you notice you’re taking your phone out more out of habit than necessity, find a way to incorporate a more productive distraction.

Personally, I have become more mindful of my phone time. Some habits I’ve created are:

Deleting the Facebook App: I’m so hip, I deleted Facebook from my phone before it was cool. Not because I was afraid of all my data being stolen (Equifax already compromised my identity), but because I didn’t want the temptation. I’ve kept Messenger in order to see messages from friends who don’t realize they’re phone has the capability to send text messages without an additional app. Otherwise, I have to log in and out of Facebook on a browser. Creating this additional step makes me more likely to read articles or put my phone down and work on something else.

Turning on Airplane mode. When flying, you hear the persistent reminder to put your phone on airplane mode. So, obviously, you continue to browse the internet until the signal drops and you’re forced to watch movies, read a physical book, or, if you’ve thought ahead, watch all the episodes you’ve downloaded on Netflix. When I’m trying my best not to be tempted to check messages or go down the Instagram rabbit hole, I put my phone on Airplane mode. This allows me to focus on more pressing matters and avoid the temptation to check for texts or social media.

Sending my phone to it’s room. Well, technically my phone doesn’t have it’s own room. It’s begged and begged, but due to high rent prices, it has to continue to share with me. Instead, I put my phone in a different room. If I’m in the living room, it goes to the bedroom. If I’m in the bedroom, it goes to the living room. If I’m in the bathroom… well… I’m only human and how productive can I be in there anyway? My phone and I are like siblings in a fight, separating ourselves until we can stand to be in the same room again – which in my case is when I’ve checked items off my to-do-list.

Using a timer. If I want to browse and take a break, I’ll put on a timer. If I want to look at Instagram, that’s okay! So is watching videos of cats do what cats do or looking at an innumerable amount of puppy photos. By setting a timer, I’m able to relax and take a break and know exactly how much time passes me by. Then, when the timer goes off, I have my signal to get back to work or to stop napping.

Having a smartphone is great. It can help immensely with day-to-day activities, including mapping out directions, keeping up with friends, and learning new things. When used wisely, smartphones can be a great asset; however, they can also be very detrimental. Knowing when and where to use our phones is almost as important as being aware of when our time is being lost to the never ending lure of online entertainment.

Be mindful with your phone and you’ll be mindful of both your time and productivity.

For further reading on how taking a break from your phone is beneficial read this article which does an amazing job on how to form new habits that don’t rely on your phone.

For Better Productivity: Find a Role Model

In life there are many people we look up to, and, if we’re lucky, people who look up to us. We have role models starting in early childhood: older siblings, parents, teachers, that kid who could fit 30 gumballs in his mouth. People who not only inspired us, but motivated us to get up and get going.

Nowadays, as adults, it may be easier to make excuses instead of finding someone to admire. “Sure, they can follow their dreams, but I have a family and a myriad of black-hole-lish-mouths to feed.” We may also feel like a copycat. No one wants to be the single white female who suddenly has the same exact life as you.

But, sometimes, in order to get stuff done we have to follow someone else’s footsteps. History is doomed to be repeated. It’s our obligation to bring the doom.

When trying to find the motivation to be more productive, I start with the many reasons why I’m even bothering to work on something to begin with. Then I try to find a role model while avoiding the pitfall of excuses. At one point, I wanted to do a pull-up but kept thinking it was too difficult. “Guys are stronger than girls so why should I even try? It would be better to use my time more efficiently on goals that were actually achievable.” Then I saw a woman with the physique of an Asgardian doing pull-ups as easily as brushing her teeth or combing her hair.

From that moment on, I knew I had no excuse. I also knew that, if I wanted to accomplish my goal, I would need to seek out advice. So I approached her, fearing that she may somehow crack my small peanut body with her incredible physique. Luckily, she was friendly and very giving with her breadth of pull-up knowledge. I made this woman my role model, vowing to make her the inspiration I needed when excuses started to rise. It took me a long time and it was hard, but finally I did one pull-up. And that was all I needed to keep going. From then on, I worked steadily until I could do at least ten. I accomplished this thanks to my role model.

Role models have since come into my life in many different ways. Knowing people who attend medical school and still manage to balance a personal life (albeit a small one) with an intensive study and class schedule has helped me realize that the goals I have are achievable when balanced with the right mentality and concentration. Having a role model doesn’t just give me the inspiration I need when my motivation is flailing and excuses are piling up. It also gives me somebody I can turn to for advice and assistance.

But you don’t always need people who are both mentors and role models. Sometimes finding someone inspiring can be motivation enough. Maybe you know someone who has achieved great success through their own determination. Or watched an inspiring movie or read a heartwarming article about rising above by overcoming adversity. If people inspire you, use them as an example.

We may want to be independent, but it can be helpful to imitate others to achieve our own success. If you fear being seen as an imitation, just remember you’re just flattering those you truly admire.

Having a role model is something you did as a child to help inspire you, learn new things and grow as an individual. If we remember what it’s like to be a kid, then maybe we can remember how to grow.