Over the course of my maternity leave, I have become incredibly aware of time. I appreciate how precious time is and how much I’ve taken it for granted. I believe most of us take time for granted despite it being one of our most precious and limited resources. Below, I’ve listed some of the ways I waste time. Luckily, if you waste time like I do, I’m going to offer some ways that we can break those cycles.
I define unplugging as engaging in activities that take very little effort and skill; essentially your brain is unplugged. We all have various ways that we unplug: playing repetitive games, scrolling social media, watching vlogs, listening to podcasts, and the list goes on. At face value, I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with doing any of these activities. However, hours of those activities adds up to years of time wasted.
Thinking about the Past or the Future
To my knowledge, crystal balls and time machines don’t exists. However, many of us spend almost half of our time thinking about time periods that we have limited ability to recollect or change. We have some ability to affect of past and future, so I’m referring to the thought processes that do very little to make change, but take up time. The easiest way to waste time while thinking about the past is to dwell on the “what ifs.” This is a major time suck, especially if there’s no plan to learn from the past. It’s easy to wallow in our past failures. It’s equally easy relish in our past successes in order to avoid our present failures. Obsessing about the future also drains time and mental energy. It’s possible to spend hours ruminating about what may happen. This ruminating can get so intense that it can manifest as anxiety and further take up our energy and time. Don’t get me wrong, self reflection is important, but there’s a line to where reflecting can become time consuming and pathological.
Staring at the Wall
I literally stared at the wall for about 2 weeks. I didn’t watch the TV. I didn’t read. I wasn’t even on my phone. I was just sitting in silence. Sometimes this is therapeutic because many of us don’t give ourselves time to be still. However this is a problem for those of us that don’t mind stillness. There’s a fine line to when a break for self-care morphs into a means of avoiding reality.
The solution can’t be found without stating the problem. Overall the problem is time management and time allocation. We allocate too much time to activities that are helpful in moderation, but damaging in excess. If you want to figure out if you have a time allocation problem, write down what you did on an off day at home. Once you find your time sucking activity, the best way to reallocate your time is to set time limits. This is helpful even if you go over the time constraint because it still heightens awareness. When it comes to activities like staring at the wall, the solution is forcing yourself to do something else. I gave myself one thing to do that day aside from basic hygiene and eating. Soon that one task evolved into a multitude of tasks and a desire to make a schedule. The main things are to realize that you’re being stagnant and take the first step toward spending your time constructively and meaningfully.
I challenge you to dissect one of the ways you waste time. How much time do you spend doing that thing? How could you limit the time you spend doing that thing? What could you do with the time you freed up? Please share how this challenge went.