“Don’t waste your time chasing things that will never be beneficial to your future.”
― April Mae Monterrosa
Are you wasting your time? Now that you are safely nestled into the routine of a New Year, it’s time to be honest about how you’d like this untouched calendar to be filled. You may have regret over how 2016 turned out for you and a possible repeat of regrets gives you the willies.
Instead of waiting to see what happens, ask yourself these tough questions about how you spend your time.
1. Are Your Priorities A Mess?
This is what it may look like: You want to be that person that everyone comes to for help so you never say no. Your calendar is bursting, you’re not getting enough sleep and you may feel like doing anything for yourself is selfish. This wastes your time because you’ve filled your calendar with stuff you don’t want to do in the first place.
The deeper problem could be that you have boundary issues. You’ve never respected your own boundaries, so you let others walk all over you. You may think that this is the way to keep everyone happy, but it’s only making you aimless and exhausted.
The solution could be: look for ways to say no, or at least limit some responsibilities. You could also take an inventory of how you spend your time and eliminate those tasks that don’t bring you joy. You could practice saying no to others and get a trusted friend to encourage you to be steadfast in your boundaries. You may also want to read BOUNDARIES by Cloud and Townsend. Saying no now can prevent wasting time later.
2. Are You Wasting Time Waiting For The Greatest Idea Ever?
This is what it may look like: you think that the Harry Potter series just settled in J.K. Rowling’s mind and you think that your successful future novel will appear much the same way. You may not understand that ideas are cheap and that only the ones with hard work behind them go anywhere. You may also have a unrealistic expectation of what creativity really is. This wastes your time because you could have been writing all this time, working a lame idea into a blockbuster.
The deeper problem could be that: you don’t want to do the work, you may falesly think that a discarded idea is a sign of failure or you just think that success in the arts should be easy.
The solution could be: learning all you can about the struggle authors face in creating things. It could be disciplining yourself for 10 minutes a day and just writing to show yourself you do want to do the work. You may also want to watch this video by Elizabeth Gilbert or read Do the Work by Steven Pressfield. Working on your ideas, even for 10 minutes, can prevent wasting time later.
3. Are You Wasting Time by Micromanaging?
This is what it may look like: You say that you want help, but the idea of delegating responsibility makes you stabby. Instead, you take responsibilities from others, to make sure it gets done correctly. Or you may waste a lot of emotional energy micromanaging the habits of others because you don’t think they’ll succeed. This wastes your time because your control freak tendencies will crowd out what’s really important (and they may damage relationships in the process.)
The deeper problem could be that you have a lot of fear in your life. You have unresolved anxiety. You are trying to control everything because if you don’t, you believe the worst will happen.
The solution could be: that you need to talk to a mental health professional, if for no other reason than to get some insight on what is worth fretting over and what is not. You may want to try delegating (and not micromanaging) small things once a week and reminding yourself that the world didn’t end if it turned out differently from what you expected. You may also try reading The Power of Surrender by Judith Orloff. Learning to delegate and expecting others to help can definitely prevent wasting time later.
4. Are You Wasting Time Worrying About What Others Think?
This is what it may look like: If they say you’re good, smart, beautiful, clever or wise, then you’re good smart, beautiful, clever or wise. You may use things like blog visits or Facebook likes to feel better about yourself. You may be looking for outside affirmation from a publisher or a reader or an editor, but you also may find that it’s not always satisfying once you get it. This wastes your time because instead of moving forward with a project, you keep looking behind and around you to get approval.
The deeper problem could be that: you are really insecure with who you are. You may not fully value yourself. You can’t appreciate your own awesome and this may stem from previous bad influences in your life who convinced you what they were saying was true.
The solution could be: that you talk to a professional mental health worker and be up front about your feelings of inadequacy. Keep a running list of your strengths and your achievements to remind yourself of your awesome. Consider saying positive things to yourself daily to get your focus off the approval of others. You may also want to read: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown. Being confident in yourself is a great engine revver. If you worry less about what others think, you can prevent wasting time later.
5. Are You Wasting Time Ignoring The Real You?
This is what it may look like: you don’t think that creatives are practical people, or your first responsibility is to those around you, or dreams are for the weak. You’re ignoring your true self. You are busy doing something because it’s practical or expected or secure. You may feel you’re too old, too experienced, too committed to being one way, that you can’t possibly change. This wastes your time because life really is short! You get only one chance and you are worth pursuing your dreams.
The deeper problem could be that: you’re in a rut. You have settled for a so-so, dissatisfied life because you don’t think there are any options for you. You may also be crippled by fear to try something new.
The solution could be: that you get honest about what would really make you full of joy and provide meaning for your life. You may also want to talk to someone who has made a change in their life so they can encourage you. You may also want to read: Living An Inspired Life: Your Ultimate Calling by Dr. Wayne Dwyer. You don’t want to come to the end of your life regretted you wasted it.
6. Are you afraid of failure?
This is what it may look like: you can’t remember your past successes, you only remember that time you tried and failed. You have people in your life who remember your failures. This wastes your time because fear is a paralyzer. Your fear may keep you from taking any action at all.
The deeper problem could be that: you’ve put far too much importance on the mistakes you made or the non-successes. You’ve allowed your past to define you.
The solution could be: go to someone who truly loves you and tell them what you’ve been thinking. Allow them to remind you of where you have succeeded. Make a list of all of your accomplishments and your strengths and think about them. Pay attention to times you make mistakes during the day and affirm yourself with “I am not the equivalent of my mistakes”. Consider talking to a mental health worker and maybe reading this book: Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Mistakes by John C. Maxwell. We’re all going to fail. Acknowledging and accepting this can prevent wasting time later.
7. Are You Wasting Time on Negative Thoughts?
This is what it may look like: your inner voice is on an endless loop of “you’re no good.” “This goof is just like you.” “Who do you think you are?” “Why are you even bothering?” “You’ll never amount to much.” If your confidence is shaken, you won’t be able to do much at all. And that will waste your time.
The deeper problem could be: those messages have been put there by someone else in your life. It could also be that you’ve never practiced disciplining those thoughts. Or maybe you need to show someone the door.
The solution could be: paying close attention to what you tell yourself and responding nine positive things for one negative. It could also be keeping a positivity journal or surrounding yourself with people who bring out the best in you. And, surprise! I’m going to suggest talking to a mental health professional about this too. You could also read this book: Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance At Work by Shawn Achor. Breaking this habit will make all the difference in your life and can prevent wasting time later.
2017 can only be awesome if you make it that way.
Don’t be afraid to ask yourself these tough questions, address the deeper problems and find good solutions.
The next twelve months are a gift. Don’t waste them.
Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread and a comedian wannabe. She is also the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. She also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community.