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Time is money, right? And how many of us are guilty of wasting it? I definitely am. Purple has to remind me every week to stop wasting my freaking time on Reddit (it’s a huge time suck, let me tell you!). But that got me thinking – what else do we waste time on? What are the biggest time sucks that prevent us from doing what we should be doing? And how to we stop?
The Biggest Time Sucks
Reddit is my biggest time suck. I can spend hours just browsing through the front page, reading random stories from random people, and laughing at adorable animal gifs. Sometimes, I’ll open my browser around six or so, and suddenly, it will be seven or eight, even nine o’clock at night! Where did the time go?
The time went down the Reddit rabbit hole, that’s where it went. That time could have been much better spent writing, reading, or even engaging with my partner. He likes Reddit too though, so sometimes we just sit around sending each other fun stuff we saw on it. Still a huge time suck, but at least we’re doing it together!
Other Social Media
Is Reddit social media? I guess it can be grouped in that category, but I don’t really consider it to be. Sure, there is that social aspect of it, but it’s also very anonymous. I use it to read interesting stories, not to get to know people, so I consider it to be different.
But, the one thing Reddit has in common with all those other social media sites (I’m looking at you Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!) is that they are the biggest time sucks ever. Regardless of which is your poison, I’m sure you’ve spent ungodly amounts of time on one of them. I prefer Twitter, but I can get sucked into the Facebook or Instagram hole on occasion as well.
A good way to avoid the time suck of the internet (Reddit, Social Media, or whatever your poison is) is to have books around. I’ve been reading 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, and I just finished House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewsk. And you know what I learned? Reading at night is a thousand times more relaxing than surfing social media (or watching TV, for that matter).
Speaking of television…
The average American spends nearly four hours a day watching TV. That’s a lot. Now I get it, sometimes we need to come home and just veg. I spent three hours watching Buffy last night. And when a brand -new show comes out that we can’t get enough of, sometimes we just have to binge the whole thing right there.
But, let’s be honest with ourselves. Four hours a day every day is a lot. That’s 28 hours a week – more than a full day! That’s three and a half full work days per week dedicated to television. I think that makes television one of the biggest time sucks for most people.
So, what can you do instead? I know we are tired after working, and plopping down in front of the TV is easy, but there are other options. First, you can cut your cable cord. I gave up cable almost two years ago, and I don’t miss it. Now, I don’t have a random channel running all the time for background noise. I actually have to make an effort to chose what to watch. That helps prevent me from watching too much tv though– choosing what to watch is just as hard as doing something else.
Another option is to give yourself a television limit. You can either do this by time or by making sure you get your other stuff accomplished first. The time limit is harder for me….it’s hard to stay dedicated to only watching two hours of tv a day if it’s only 7pm and this show just got good! Using TV as a reward system works better for me.
I wouldn’t allow myself to turn Buffy on until I worked on my blog for an hour after work. But by then, I was hungry, and it was time to make dinner. I wouldn’t turn the TV on until it was time to eat. By that time, I only had about two hours left before bed, so my evenings didn’t turn into four-hour television fests. Give yourself a task or two that needs to be done before the tv goes on. Then, your tv time is a reward for completing that task.
I’m not one of those people who hates on video games. I freaking love video games. I’ve been playing Breath of the Wild on the Switch, and it’s freaking amazing! However, I can’t deny that it’s a huge time suck. I’m sure I’ve put over 100 hours into the game already, and I still have tons of playing to do. That’s a lot of time. I know I’ve been neglecting my blogging for it, and that’s a problem.
So, what can you do if you’ve been sucked into the wonderful world of a video game? Well, beating the game is a great option, because then it’s done and you have your time back. But, you can’t put off everything else for it.
I generally only allow myself to play on the weekend evenings. That gives me time during the week to work on my blog stuff, and the gaming is a reward for a week well done. I also make sure I at least get my two posts for Partners in Fire done per week (So sorry Jama Time – I really wanted to make you happen, and maybe after I beat this game I will!). This way, I’m not wasting all my time on a game and I’m still getting my biggest priorities done. I know that I’m not hugely addicted to video games, and the only other game that will take my time like this is BoTW2 when it comes out next year.
But video games can be a more serious problem. The puzzle games like candy crush (is that still a thing?) are some of the biggest time sucks out there. You can’t beat them. They keep on going, and keep offering deals to suck you back in. I consider these to be similar to social media. Sometimes you just have to put your phone down and read a book, regardless of what you’re doing on your phone.
I might get some slack for this, because I hate shopping and I’m sure others enjoy it. But man, retail shopping is such a huge waste of freaking time. If you don’t need anything, why are you at the mall looking at clothes?
I’m guilty of this as well, though clothing isn’t my poison. I can spend hours at an office supply store or a bookstore. But why? I don’t need anything, and I usually just end up wasting money in addition to wasting time.
In order to avoid this, my best advice is to avoid the store all together. If you’re bored and looking for something to do, wasting money as well as time probably isn’t the answer. Instead, you can go for a hike, go to a park, or check out a local museum. These things get you out of the house and have the benefit of keeping you active.
People You Don’t Want to Deal With
One of the biggest time sucks of all is dealing with people that you don’t actually want to be dealing with. These can be family members, friends of friends, or even that pesky busy-body coworker.
Sometimes, we have no choice but to deal with these people. We have to be respectful and cordial, right? But, we don’t have to let them waste more of our time than necessary. Don’t let yourself get roped into hanging out with someone you don’t really like (unless it’s an in-law or someone important to your partner – have some common sense here).
If the workplace gossip corners you and starts trying to talk your ear off, let them know that you are busy. It can feel impolite to enforce your boundaries, but you aren’t obligated to listen to someone talk about nonsense when you have work to do.
You also don’t have to waste time at an event making small talk with people you don’t like. If someone you don’t want to deal with starts engaging you, politely excuse yourself to use the restroom, get a drink, or say hi to someone else who just arrived. You don’t need to feel trapped engaging with people that you don’t want to be engaging with. It’s a waste of your time, and theirs as well. It gives them the opportunity to interact with people who actually want to be interacting with them.
Things You Do Out of Feeling Obligated
Another huge waste of time is doing things we don’t really want to do. This can be with people we don’t like (a double whammy of wasted time!) or things we aren’t interested in with people we do like.
My mom had this coworker back in California who would always ask her to help with stuff after hours. My mom, being the saint that she is, always said yes. But this woman would never return the favor, and constantly complained about the way my mom helped her. I advised my mom to start saying no. This wasn’t a friend, this was someone who was just using my mom’s kindness. Learn to say no to users.
To be clear, I’m not saying don’t do favors for people. No one wants to help their friends move, but we do it because it’s the right thing to do, and we know they’d have our back if we needed it. It’s important to build and maintain those relationships.
I’m talking about being pressured into something that everyone else thinks is fun, but you aren’t interested in. I’ve felt this way about shopping trips. All my friends were all about going to the mall, and I’m like “why?”. I went, because I felt pressured to, but I didn’t enjoy myself at all, and I was bored the whole time. Even the great company of my best friends couldn’t make trying on thousands of different pairs of jeans exciting. I’m sure they sensed my boredom, and it probably would have been better for everyone had I stuck to my guns and not gone.
Instead, be firm with your no and your boundaries. You don’t have to be rude about it, you can just say something like “no, I think I’ll pass this time, but thanks for the invite” and stick with it. Then, plan something for a different day that suites your interests more, and be gracious if one or two of them aren’t into it. Everyone doesn’t have to go to every event every time.
This wouldn’t be a financial independence blog if I didn’t think work was a waste of time, right? I know, I know, we have to go to work. We need the money (at least I do!). But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a waste of time! I could be doing so much more with that forty hours per week! I’d be having adventures, traveling, writing, reading, beating BoTW, working out, creating masterpieces…I’d accomplish so much! But instead, I’m stuck inside an office.
The thing is, I don’t really think work is a waste of time. I know we need money, and in our current system, we exchange our time and labor for money. But, there are way too many jobs that require us to be there for forty hours per week when we could get our jobs done in a fraction of the time. That’s where the waste of time comes into play. Why did we decide that we need forty hours? If the work is finished, why can’t we go home?
I love that some companies are experimenting with more flexible hours, but unfortunately due to our insidious work culture, that usually results in people working more hours, not less.
The only way to change this is with our votes and our dollars. Vote for politicians who support programs such as UBI, that give people more control over their money and their time. Use your dollars to support companies that allow their employees greater flexibility (without hurting their wages), if you can find those companies.
What are Your Biggest Time Sucks?
Clearly, this post was mostly about how I waste time. But, I think most people can relate to the things that suck my time away. Is there something that you waste tons of time on that I missed? I’d love to hear about your biggest time sucks in the comments!
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.