How to Stop Wasting Time

Sheri Coburn

time, time management, self-care, well-being

If I had a penny for every time I heard “I don’t have time,” “If only I had the time,” or “I’ll have time when I’m dead,” I would be rich. This seeming lack of time has become the new politics: we are invested in complaining about it, yet feel powerless to change it. Our culture of martyrdom, perfectionism, helicopter parenting, and over-scheduling has stolen the one thing we can’t get back – time.

And not just any time – our most valuable time. Because as we all know, “Time stands still,” “Time drags on,” and “Time can’t go by fast enough” the entire weekend our in-laws are in town for a visit.

The reality is that we have plenty of time for plenty of things. However, in order to tap into this promised land of abundance, we must first be aware and willing to stop or at least spend a lot less time doing the unnecessary and the unfulfilling.

Stop Saying Yes When You Want to Say No

Do an honest assessment of how much time you spend doing things you don’t want to do. Are you motivated by guilt, a misplaced sense of obligation, or fear of judgement? If yes, your time would be better spent learning to set boundaries, determining who (if anyone) you really “owe time” to, and partaking in some self-reflection. Doing these things will actually save you time in the long run and free up time immediately to do the things you want with the people you enjoy.

Stop Being Resentful

When you have to say yes, own it! You own your time, and only you can decide when to give it away and for what price. So stop spending time being angry and resentful at the people and things that you allow to steal time from you. This includes being mad at the friend, family member, or boss who you feel doesn’t respect your time.

Time is not taken, it is given. Sometimes we all have to do things that we don’t want to do. But don’t waste time on anger – you said yes, so do it and move on.

Stop Trying to Prove Your Value

Know the difference between what you “want” to do and what you “need” to do to feel valuable. The things we want to do, we choose to make us feel good, productive, honest, and responsible. The things we need to do, we do in hopes other people will think we are good, productive, honest, and responsible. “Want” is about us taking opportunities to feed our already existing sense of value. “Need” is about seeking the approval of others to feel valued.

A tremendous loss of time happens when we don’t know our own value. Instead, we rely on an endless search for the right validation from the right people – a time-sucking search that will never end if our only sense of value comes from external factors.

Stop Depriving Yourself

Live life under a new rule: short-term gain, long-term gain. No, I don’t mean short-term pain for long-term gain, unless of course, you find the idea of taking care of yourself painful.

In a culture of perfectionism, people have bought the idea that taking a rest, going for a massage, packing a picnic lunch, walking the dog, practicing meditation, or taking a 20-minute shower is solely for the self-indulgent; that somehow running a full marathon is the only version of self-care. I am not dissing long-distance running, I am just suggesting that not everything we do has to be hard, challenge us, or be about reaching our “personal best.”

Make daily, brief, indulgence-driven investments in yourself. This kind of investment takes ownership of our relationship with time and divorces us from the idea that it must be conflictual and punishing. Learning to relax and see time as a gift, and not something that always needs to be managed and goal-driven means that we will not always be fighting against time or looking to buy more of it.

Stop Waiting for Time

Not only does time not wait for anyone, it also doesn’t come looking for us.

Take a look at steps 1 through 4. Where are you giving away your precious time?

  1. Do you say yes, when you really want to say no?
  2. Do you harbor resentments that take up space in your brain and time in your life?
  3. Do you spend time on exhausting efforts to solicit the validation and approval of others?
  4. Do you fail to engage in activities that remind you time is a gift not a punishment?

Make some small changes.

Remember, time is of the essence.


For more FREE RESOURCES on this topic and others, visit our free resources page.

Author: Sheri Coburn (MSW, RSW)
Trainer, Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute

Sheri is the editor and co-author of CTRI’s book, Counselling Insights: Practical Strategies for Helping Others with Anxiety, Trauma, Grief, and More. The book is available on our website.

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