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.

Facing reality

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:

  1. Watching TV (usually some sporting event)
  2. Perusing Facebook
  3. Getting sucked into  reading clickbait articles
  4. 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.

  1. I can avoid searching for things that make me curious all together or
  2. 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?

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39 thoughts on “Be More Greedy With Your Time

  1. This was a great write up! I’m a student in med school and it requires me to really give it all of me. Night long studies just manage to trim through the passing percentage!

    I realised, after reading your post, that the Domino effect is indeed a thing…
    I have already limited myself to reading only three articles of my interest per day and a bit of a novel at night…Im not on Facebook so that’s good.
    I realised..I spent too much time on planning what to do. Instead of just sitting down and doing.
    Once I begin thinking..I have all kinds of negative thoughts about how I won’t be able to complete the portions on time..how much I really need to cover up and the back log I need to clear..
    That send me down my rabbit hole.
    And I become too mentally exhausted to sit with a fresh mind and study.

    I have sleep trouble…and I realised how much I think about sleeping. Quite funny to hear.. but im always thinking about how I can fall asleep. Its hard to live with this constant draining feeling of not having enough sleep.
    The more I think of sleep, the less I get of it.

    My Domino is thoughts.. I keep thinking.

    Thanks again for this post!
    This might help me. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it! Have you tried out meditating or other mindfulness exercises? I know that feeling of having endless thoughts. It’s not fun!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice points, Justin, and thanks for visiting my blog, the Joy Report. My biggest time suck is by far the Internet, made worse by the fact that so much of my business activities are online. But the good news is, I actually get sick of it after a while and yearn for more satisfying ways to live, like connecting with friends in real time and playing music.

    Like

    1. It makes it so hard when we have to rely on the internet for business among other things! I’m glad you’re able to get over it and use it more productively connecting with friends and playing music (actually, learning to play music is one thing I’ve been wanting to do for a while).

      Thank you for the comment Phyllis!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s all the motivation I need! Sometimes just listening to music is a great remedy. I imagine it’s even better when you’re the one creating it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Justin, great article. I like the analogy of the dead domino. I too spend too much time on the internet ‘researching’ anything that pops into my head. And yes, too many questions, too much curiosity can sap away the productive hours of the day – and maybe Netflix!

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    1. It’s so tempting, isn’t it! Sometimes having everything at our fingertips can be so overwhelming and draining. Thanks for the kind words San San 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In order to lose weight, you really have to be aware of everything you eat – same goes with time management.
    Never give up exploring what you are curious about…..OK maybe put a time limit. HAHA
    Facebook – all that I can definitely easily live without.
    Most important – go outside everyday for a little bit. Walk around and see what’s going on out there. Not waste of time at all – healthy in so many ways

    Like

    1. You’re point about curiosity had me thinking…I guess a lot of it depends on where the curiosity comes from. If it’s something I’m naturally interested it, then I shouldn’t have any problems going down that rabbit hole. It’s those things that I wasn’t curious about before getting on the computer (clickbait articles for example) that end up being a huge time suck.

      Also, I agree about going for a walk every day. About a year ago I started making an effort to get outside at least 2-3 times per day, usually on at least 1 long walk. What a huge difference it’s made physically and mentally!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think I am your curiosity twin. I have a weakness for doing the same thing. I have a serious urge to learn something about everything! Our TV is now in storage. I delete most email, barely looking at the subject line, every day just to keep it cleaned out. I make myself look at the bare message on email that I subscribe to – no farther into that tempting rabbit hole! I got sick of Facebook because it was loaded with politics. I just quit looking at anything.
    Curiosity killed the cat, as they say. It brings us to information overload.

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    1. Myra, it sounds like you have it figured out! I very much agree about emails and Facebook. Emails can be so tempting, especially when you consider the people who come up with those subject lines do that for a living. No wonder their so tempting.

      I feel the same about curiosity as well. I try to focus on being curious on those things that may actually benefit me someday down the road. Some curiosities just need to be left alone.

      Like

  6. This is a well written post, and I enjoyed reading your detailed progression from problem to solution. It is important — essential, some might say — to be curious, but getting lost in it is definitely dangerous!

    Like

  7. Wat a timely post! I was telling my foxling last weekend that we are all bequeathed with the same 24 hours, 1,440 minutes with which to move mountains or lay on the couch devouring Doritos… her choice. =)

    I too find that my curiosity gets the better of me and the rabbit holes make way for entire villages buried under the surface of what I actually need to be doing. Over the years I have gotten into a routine that works for me and as long as I focus, I stay productive enough to meet all my goals and have some quiet time at night as well.

    Funnily enough, I think the real turning point for me was when I decided to add more tasks to my evenings, to accomplish before I could read for pleasure, watch tellly, go out with friends, or other pleasurable pastimes.

    At any rate, great post, thanks and have a lovely!

    Like

    1. That’s great that you’ve figured out how to best manage your time! I think it’s a great motivator to get yourself to accomplish your tasks before doing those thing for pleasure only.

      I think that strategy works quite effectively, and it makes those pleasurable things much more enjoyable since you earned them. Keep up the good work!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Everything around us is screaming out to catch our attention. We have to be able to, more than ever, filter out that which clogs our brains. “Do it ALL” has become a mantra for self-destruction!! The term “waste of time” or “waste my time” is very subjective. For example, yoga and meditation slows the mind down. You’re not “doing” anything. You’re not even focusing on your thoughts. But it’s a wonderful thing to be occupying your time with. That is, within limits!!

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    1. I agree completely Jane! I love yoga and meditation. Even though it my be “nothing” it’s what makes them so great. Meditation has been great for me to help hit the reset button and refocus and filter out all the noise. Thanks for the comment Jane!

      Like

  9. Thanks for visiting my blog. This is a great and timely article. My greatest time waster was Facebook. Many hours each day was wasted on it. I deleted the app from my phone and disabled the account for four months. When I resumed using Facebook, I had a singular purpose in mind. That has kept me focused whenever I go on it. There are other vices that I must replace. This article will greatly help me. Thank you very much.

    Like

    1. Smart move on deleting Facebook. I think so many others could benefit by following in your footsteps. I find Facebook to be so toxic and completely different from what it was when I first started using it. That’s what motivated me to cut way down on it. Thanks for the comment Michael!

      Like

  10. Loved this post, Justin! I think most of us are finally figuring out that Facebook is an addictive time sucker. On the other hand, I have been doing experiments with taking time away from Facebook and TV, replacing with all kinds of things I want to do. I want to do it all. I want to meditate every day, do QiGong or yoga, run a 5K, go on two hour hikes in the woods, write a book, keep a blog, etc. You can reach a point where you’ve turned off the TV, stopped smoking (a huge time waster, if you’ve ever been a pack a day smoker before), and you are staying off Facebook. You make schedules and To Do lists. You will eventually reach a point where “There isn’t enough time” is no longer a false narrative, but you don’t have enough time. That’s where I am right now. What are the most important things? What is unnecessary? I think making an effort to optimize your time and walk away from all the rabbit holes and enticing yet tiresome political debates on Facebook is a good exercise. I like your attitude. You are experimenting, almost the way a scientist would do it.

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    1. Thank you so much George! We sound very similar. There are so many things that I want to do. I just need to realize that I can do everything, I just can’t do it all right now. I need to focus on those 1-3 things that are the most important to me at this moment and focus.

      Derek Sivers has a saying: “Don’t be a donkey,” which has had a big impact on me and my outlook on life. Here’s his article if you wish to check it out: https://sivers.org/donkey

      Like

  11. I have only just learned about lead dominos through a podcast and book called The One Thing. I am working on getting 7 hours of sleep, no more no less. Anything more or less makes me feel groggy. In February I’ve upped the ante and moved my alarm clock across the room and I don’t snooze.

    I always find myself getting distracted (I’m distracted right now, laying in bed writing a comment instead of closing my eyes) but I’m typically distracted by notifications in the form of text messages and Facebook messages. Putting my phone on do not disturb while I finish a task works wonders for me. I’m still figuring out all my quirks. Thanks for the great article!

    Like

    1. That’s awesome! I find that turning my phone off or turning off all notifications can work wonders for me as well. It continues to amaze me how much one or two minor interruptions can be so disruptive for productivity.

      I’m sure you’ve had the experience where you get interrupted, reply in less than 10 seconds, and get completely derailed. This is one of those things I continue to work on myself. Thanks for sharing Dolores!

      Like

  12. Great post!

    I really like the domino idea – I’ve never thought of breaking up my time wasting activities and really examining which one takes the most time. It reminds me of the battery saving app on my phone, which lets me know which app takes up the most energy.

    I also find it useful to give myself a set time to do tasks. For example, if you set yourself 15 minutes max to idly browse the web, you might make sure you don’t end up doing it for 3 hours.

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    1. The battery saving app is a really good analogy! I think that analogy could be useful for managing time, energy, money, etc.

      Also, I need to get better at setting aside time for myself like that. It feels like it’s feast or famine for me. Either I’m ultraproductive or I’m lazing around all day. I need to get that balance. Thanks for the comment!

      Like

  13. I love this post! I 100% experience the curiosity culprit, too–it ends up being such a time waster!

    I’ve cut down my social media usage from multiple times a day to maybe once a week–and it’s been SO GOOD. I’ve been spending more time reading, writing, and thinking, and I feel I have been so much more productive. I feel better because I’m a) not experiencing unnecessary bouts of FOMO/experiencing negativity from political posts/rants and b) I feel more rejuvinated because I’m spending my down time doing activities that actaully serve me, which, in turn, bolsters my general productivity. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we become aware of how we are currently spending our time and what we can do to improve the way we spent it.

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    1. Britta, you are dead-on regarding FOMO and political talk on Facebook! That’s what led me to want to cut down on my Facebook consumption. I realized I was spending so much time reading articles about things that I either don’t care about or that piss me off. How does that make my life any better!?

      That’s awesome that you’ve been able to open up that time for much better activities. Keep up the good work!

      Like

  14. Why do I relate to every word articulated above!!? Sadly I find myself in the same seemingly bottom less pit from time to time…aimless scrolling really kills productivity like nothing else. As someone who’s home schooled, your achievement requires a ton of self discipline…and though I find myself having everything organised and planned out with regards to work loads and exams, a little buzz on the internet seems to throw everything off the rail. I guess keeping yourself constantly in check, with the bigger picture in mind, the higher goal that a couple minutes of screen time would ultimately hinder, is the key to overcoming this weakness🙈 I love the way you articulted this and the fascinating idea of the domino effect! It really is a good tool in self evaluation😊

    Like

  15. Great post, Justin! “Be more greedy with your time” is definitely a mantra I need to work in to my life.

    You talk about your personal time here, but I think the concept is equally important to apply to ones work time! Often there can be situations or activities at work that are very much like the TV watching and Facebook browsing situations you discuss… leading down a time suck rabbit hole. The trick is trying to figure out what they are!

    One thing I’d disagree with you on, is having to eliminate the activities you feel suck up a lot of your time. I mean, who doesn’t love aimlessly channel surfing, or hitting up Facebook and clicking through to a lot of clickbait headlines! I’d argue that instead of eliminating the activities altogether, you simply recognize them for the time wasters they are, and deal with them accordingly. Everyone I know on a diet always has some sort of cheat day… think of these things like that slice of chocolate cake! Don’t indulge your desire for it all the time… instead, save it up for a treat on a day when you feel you have a bit more free time than normal! What do you think?

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    1. I agree with you about recognizing what those time wasters are, and setting aside a little bit of time every day or every week indulging in those activities. I think it’s important to indulge and give yourself permission to do those things, as long as you’re aware you’re doing it!

      I also agree with your point about work! I’ve never really thought about applying the same mentality here, but there are definitely things I do that lead to a huge time suck if I’m not careful. I’ll have to start thinking more carefully about those things that I do now…

      Thanks for the comment!

      Like

  16. This is a most excellent article! And many of the comments are gold nuggets themselves! Justin, you have highlighted and focused on an aspect that other “time-management” authors have barely touched. I definitely want to come back and revisit this post again; if I get around to writing my own take on “time-management,” then I most likely will be hyperlinking back to here. …Well, I better stop this comment now before I end up writing my own post on this topic right here and now! Again, thanks for putting this great info out there!

    Like

    1. Raylene, thank you so much for the kind words! When you do write your post on time management please let me know. I’d love to check it out 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Certainly! I’ll create a hyperlink to your post if I reference/quote you (which I probably will), so as long as pingbacks are allowed on it, you will be notified.

        Liked by 1 person

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