How Much Time Do You Waste- and How Much is it Worth?

How much time do you “waste”?

I’m not talking about time wasted at work skiving off, or taking an extra-long lunch break- I believe that to get ahead in your career you can’t waste time at work. You need to provide value at work to get ahead. So far this attitude has worked for me.

I’m talking about wasting your own time.

I waste a lot of my time. Especially during the working week. I get home and I’m exhausted- mentally- not physically. I turn into a potato most evenings. I waste time behind screens- binge-watching TV, or YouTube, and sometimes I catch myself crawling social media, or checking out the discussions on Reddit.

I’m generally very good at wasting time in the evenings.

Does any of that ring true for you? Do you waste time on TV and Social media? Do you think it’s a waste of time- or does it add value to your life.

How Much is Wasting Time Worth?

I like to quantify things. So I figured we could do some arithmetic to see if we can get a monetary value out of the time that we all waste.

Let’s say we waste just one hour a day- doing something that isn’t adding long term value to our life.

I suspect that one hour is a conservative estimate- I waste at least an hour a day.

1 hour a day- that becomes 7 hours a week- and 365 hours a year.

365 hours- That’s equivalent to 9 40-hour work weeks of time that we could be getting more value out of.

One Hour a Day of Lost Productivity

The average hourly wage in New Zealand is $32.42 in 2019.

Wasting just 1 hour a day equates to over $11,000 per year in hourly rates-before tax. Even at $20 an hour that equates to $7,300 per year. And over a 45-year working career, that’s $292,000. And if we compound that at 5% for 45 years that’s $1,165,811.

A wasted hour a day equates to 1 million dollars of time over 45 years.

So in monetary terms wasting one hour a day can add up- but in reality- that was just an exercise to show you that 1 hour a day adds up over time. If you spent that time productively – over time you can start to dramatically improve your life.

How to Stop Wasting Time

Many people believe that money is their greatest asset- that was my opinion for a long time too.

In reality- time is your greatest asset. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or who you are- time is the only resource that is finite.

You need to get a grip on your time management just like you need to get a grip on your personal finance.

The problem is that much of what is written about how to stop wasting time is focused on wasted time at work- but wasting time in our personal lives is just as, if not more, important.

There are several things you can do to manage your time more effectively.

1. Plan your days

Daily Time “budget”

I find that if I have a plan for the day- a list of tasks that I want to complete- I tend to use my time more productively.

It’s just like budgeting- you need to split your day into different categories and allocate a slot of time to them.

When I don’t have a plan- especially on the weekends- I can drift through the entire day. And when it gets dark I feel like I have not made any progress on anything.

If you feel your day has been wasted, then it probably was. You are not making the most of your time each day.

2. Avoid time drains

In recent months- I’ve become more aware of what I spend my time doing- and the one thing I have to keep doing- is to remind myself not to spend so much time on social media or the internet.

Turn off Notifications

The tick that has helped me- is to turn off all notifications from all my social media accounts- no more twitter updates, no more facebook updates, no more Reddit notifications. That way- I don’t get pulled in. This has helped me immensely.

3. Slow Down

Slowing down might not sound right when it comes to being more efficient with your time- but doing things at a slower pace might lead you to a better outcome.

One way to slow down is to only focus on one thing at a time. While some people think that multitasking is a strength- I think it is actually a weakness.

Every time you switch between tasks that you are trying to do at the same time there is a period of dead time- time that you spend getting back up to speed.

The more you switch between tasks the more dead time there is.

Slow down and only do one thing at a time- and really focus on that one thing. Who knows- since you are only focused on one task you might even complete it faster than you expect.

4. Speed up

Not all multitasking is bad.

There are some instances where multitasking actually works well. Certain tasks marry together and allow you to be more productive.

Take exercise, or your commute, for example. They are both times consuming, and to be honest my least favourite daily activities, but can be made more productive if you listen to podcasts.

There are many informative podcasts out there that can teach you about any subject. Check out my Tools and Resources page for some New Zealand personal finance podcasts. Also- check out my recent post on Podcasts.

Wasting Time might be Healthy

There is a school of thought that wasting time is important to your psychological health. Our lives are so busy that we always seem to have an endless list of chores to complete or work to do.

If we focus too much on making every minute of our days productive we will eventually burn out. We need to take real breaks every now and then. Even Bill Gates goes on daily walks to take a break.

Allow yourself to waste time

The thing is that you have to remember to allow yourself to waste time. You have to be able to relax and enjoy binge-watching your favourite show.

If you don’t allow yourself to waste time and continue to worry about everything that needs to get done, then you have just wasted your wasted time. You will find the whole experience less enjoyable and more stressful.

So try and spend one extra hour a day doing something productive for your future- But at the same time allow yourself to waste time to re-charge and declutter

Don’t berate yourself as a “couch potatoe”

I’m going to try and stop doing things that I know to be useless and counterproductive in my life- like scrolling social media feeds- and try do use the time instead to improve my life through reading… But I’m going to continue to let myself watch TV at the end of a working day.


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