When was the last time that you felt guilty about wasting time?
Did you notice that – somehow, suddenly – you’d spent an hour scrolling through social media? Did you snooze your alarm a few times too many and then curse yourself for missing an early start to your day?
Give yourself a break. We all do that. (In fact, we’d argue that, sometimes, you need to do those things in the name of balance.)
For productivity’s sake, though, it’s understandable that you’d want to leverage your hours for the best return. You don’t want to waste your valuable time, and that makes sense.
However. There’s something you need to know.
This is important (are you sitting down?):
Real rest and relaxation are not a waste of time.
If you’re enjoying yourself, if you’re resetting, if you’re getting rejuvenating sleep or a motivating workout in, that’s not a waste of time.
If you waste time on Instagram, on Netflix, or chatting with a friend when you should be doing work, that just means you’re a human.
What you should really be on the lookout for is time that you think you spend working, but is actually spent on busywork. On fake work. On processes that you don’t need to be investing in, on projects that aren’t going anywhere, or anything that doesn’t really fulfill a purpose.
The most dangerous way to lose time is not to spend it having fun, but to spend it doing fake work.
That is the real time-waster. That’s what you need to be looking out for. When you’re filling your to-do list with busywork or fake work, you’re not spending time innovating, growing, planning, or checking high-value items off your to-do list.
Yet, as long as you’re working (even on these low-value tasks), you can still say that you got a day’s work done. This is insidious. It’s sometimes difficult to suss out. And it’s WAY more wasteful then checking Twitter every now and again.
Okay. Now that you’re aware of this difference…what are some ways you can tell when you’re wasting your time in the wrong way?
Here’s what you need to know.
Signs that You’re Wasting Your Time on Busywork
As you’re going about your day, keep these criteria in the back of your mind:
- If you can’t INSTANTLY identify the direct benefit of what you’re doing
- If there is no apparent link between your task and your overarching long-term goals
- If you realize that no one, not even Future You, will really care if the task you’re working on gets done
- If you spend much of your time reacting: responding to emails, for example, or helping others manage their workloads
…then you might want to re-assess your to-do list.
As the saying goes, it pays to prioritize. Your time is valuable. Don’t spend it doing things that anyone could do (or, even more importantly, things that NO ONE should be doing).