I tried everything. I tried creating a to-do list. I tried creating a detailed plan point-by-point plan for the day. I downloaded an app call Accomplish that would schedule out what I want to do, when I want to do it, and how long I want to do it for.
I realized something. I was trying to do too much. I was overwhelmed. There’s so much I want to do. But there never seems to be enough time.
But I’m wrong. There is plenty of time.
I was spending so much time focusing on what I wanted to do. When really I should have focused on generating more time through the process of elimination.
Here’s how I did it
First, I identified the biggest time wasters. What was I doing that was consuming a majority of my leisure time? Second, I identified the lead domino, which I’ll elaborate more on in a second. Finally I ruthlessly eliminated those activities that I identified.
What is leisure time spent on?
There’s plenty of time in the day. I need to stop feeding into the false narrative of telling myself there isn’t enough time.
Have you ever found yourself telling someone you can’t do something because there aren’t enough hours in the day? “If only the day was 30 hours long I’d be able to do x, y, and z”
I have recited that story many times.
Truth is, there is a load time throughout the day that isn’t utilized in an effective manner. According to bls.gov Americans spend an average of 5.1 hours per day on leisure as of 2015.
However, of those 5.1 hours, 2.8 are spent watching TV. Also, according to businessinsider.com the average worldwide user on Facebook is on Facebook and related apps (i.e. Instagram) for an average of 50 minutes per day. Just these two activities alone reveal approximately 3 hours per day that could be opened up by eliminating certain activities.
Realizing this, I sat down and I was honest with myself. I asked myself the following questions:
- What things do I engage in during my leisure time that I don’t really care about?
- What things do I do that cause a ripple effect, leading to me wasting more time than expected?
- What can I eliminate to help create more time for myself?
I spend quite a bit of my leisure time reading, going on long walks, and cooking and taking care of my fitness. However, I spend the remainder of that leisure time:
- Watching TV (usually some sporting event)
- Perusing Facebook
- Getting sucked into reading clickbait articles
- And indulging my curiosities by getting lost on the rabbit hole that is the internet.
These are the things that I spend my leisure time on each day, in order of the time I spend doing them.
So it I were to eliminate activities, I should start at the top of the list and go from there. Right? I don’t quite accept this answer. Instead I ask myself a better question.
What is the lead domino, knocked over all of the other dominoes?
I asked myself “what are the things that I do that lead me to waste more time than I intended?”
In other words, what activities are the lead domino, that sets off the chain reaction to time waste? What are those things that I do initially that lead me to waste even more time?
By changing the question a new answer arose.
While watching TV and using Facebook consume much of my extra leisure time, they aren’t the lead domino that was causing me to waste time. As a matter of fact, it’s my curiosity that was causing me to waste a lot of time.
If you don’t know me, I am a very curious person. I like to learn new things. I think of questions or thoughts about the world. Naturally I feed this curiosity by going on Google and Wikipedia for answers.
The lead domino in action
How does the curiosity rabbit hole look?
An idea or question pops into my head. I get on my computer and go on Google and search for the key terms are related to the idea.
I then open one to five tabs that have articles related to what I’m thinking about. I skim through the articles. Then at the end of one article I see a catchy headline for another article about something else kind of related but not really.
Naturally I click on that article and read it. Then I see another catchy heading on something even less related to what I was originally looking for. I click on it anyways, read a few sentences, then move on.
Then I go to my address bar in Chrome, type the letter F, hit enter. Now I’m on Facebook. I start browsing whatever’s on Facebook, go through a few more clickbait headline articles, and watch a video or two (sometimes more!).
What happens is that my curiosity led me to the internet. This led me to satisfy my question. Which ultimately led to me wasting 15 minutes or more on Facebook and other web sites.
Now I know where to focus
I don’t spend much time searching for things on the web. However, this is the thing that sets into motion me wasting. As a result, I’m more aware of what to fix first before eliminating those biggest time-waster.
I need to limit my curiosity searches online. I can approach this from two angles.
- I can avoid searching for things that make me curious all together or
- I can create a rule for every time I indulge my curiosity.
The rule is this: once I’ve found what I’m looking for, close the laptop and step away. Simple but not easy.
When I adhere to this rule I eliminate other activities that waste a lot of time. I notice that Facebook was just becoming a habit due to this routine. As I said, every time I click in that address bar type the letter F and Facebook was is the first thing that pops up (is this true for you too?).
Once the lead domino has been identified and a rule put in place, what next?
Facebook was even becoming a habit whenever I was on my phone. At work, with a few minutes of free time, I would naturally gravitate towards the Facebook app and that little red notification icon.
So I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. Part of it was to free up some time throughout the day. Part of it was to break that habits. And part of it has much to do with the recent election.
It wasn’t easy. I deleted the app from my phone three separate occasions in the past. But this time I’ve been able to stick to it. I still go on Facebook on the web browser. But even just that shift alone has cut down on my Facebook time by 50% or more.
One last tweak…
I also spend a decent amount of time watching TV. So I set up a few rules here as well.
Rule one: No channel surfing. This leads to that rabbit hole I was talking about. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself getting sucked into horrible reality shows because I believed I had nothing else to do.
Rule two: Watch with a purpose. If I don’t have an intention (a particular show or event to watch), then I’m not turning it on.
I do my best to watch TV with a purpose. I’m a big sports fan. Naturally I want to watch whatever big game is on or when my team is playing. So I plan my day accordingly and I know that a few hours of my day are going to be spent in front of the TV. And I’m perfectly okay with that.
A curious discovery
I was trying so hard to manage every minute of time. By focusing on what to eliminate, I’ve created a void to fill. I found that cutting those leisure activities created more time in my day. There are moments in my day where i’m just sitting around doing nothing because I’m adhering to those rules.
I feel inclined to fill the time with something to do. I’ve been writing more frequently here at FreeThinkr. (My goal is to post at least a couple times per month.) I’ve been meditating more often. I’ve been going on longer walks. I’ve been listening to more podcasts and audiobooks on those walks.
It feels more natural. I don’t feel pressed for time. By eliminating activities, I realize there is more than enough time.
What are some things you do in your leisure time that you could go without? What is the lead domino in your life, leading to lost time?