What’s the best gift you can give to someone?
It’s definitely not diamonds, expensive shoes, or the latest gadget – it’s your TIME.
Time is the most valuable thing we own because we can never take it back. However, many of us still struggle with our day to day tasks. We seem to not have enough hours in the day for work, family, or friends – but we surely have time to spare when watching YouTube videos, playing with our cat, or endlessly scrolling through our Twitter feed.
Before you blame your demanding boss or the limited hours in the day, you should look within yourself first. Have you ever thought that perhaps you have beliefs that might be hindering your productivity? As the old Chinese proverb goes: “be careful of your thoughts for they become your words, and your words become your actions”.
4 Beliefs That Take Away Precious Time From Your Day
Here are the top four beliefs that a lot of people follow these days – and how they keep us from doing the things that truly matter.
1. I need to work overtime.
Unless it’s absolutely necessary, experts advise against it because it’s detrimental to both the employee and the business.
If you’ve been doing plenty of overtime lately, you could already be experiencing some of its negative side effects, such as: fatigue, chronic headaches, stomach upset, and signs of depression. Aside from health risks, you also reduce your quality of life AND become dependent on your overtime pay. Instead of cleverly budgeting your paycheck, you see your overtime as a convenient way to earn extra cash (when you could be channeling your energy into less stressful means).
It’s a necessary evil in life – but you don’t have to believe that it’s the ONLY way to be successful or to make more money. Unless required, always aim to leave the workplace after your shift so you can spend time on more important things, like coffee with friends or playing with your children. Not only will you lessen your chances of feeling burned out at your job, you’ll feel happier too!
2. I can do it tomorrow.
Tomorrow is a better day. But what if it doesn’t come? What if you become swamped with other tasks? Procrastination is the bane of productive, successful people everywhere. Like the famous saying ‘there’s a time and a place for everything’, identify which tasks need to be finished TODAY. If you feel overwhelmed, create a TO-DO list for the most important activities (i.e. finish the business presentation, walk the dog, go grocery-shopping, etc.). This should help you stay in control during the day.
After all, tomorrow is a different day.
3. I can take several breaks.
Don’t get me wrong: breaks are good. In fact, a 2014 study proved that employees become more efficient in their tasks if they take 17 minutes of break time for every 52 minutes of hard work. However, unscheduled breaks OR even unnecessary ones could lead to slow output and wasted effort.
If you know that you’ll be busy (but you still want to get home on time to watch the latest series of Walking Dead), strategically take breaks to keep your focus and energy up. For instance: say you have a report due in three hours. Research and outline the report during the first hour, then pause. Layout the details and make edits on the second hour. Get up and take a short walk. Last, finalize the presentation and breathe out.
Remember: your Twitter Feed can wait.
4. I’ll check my email first (or some other small task).
You have probably heard of the ‘Big Rock Theory’. It’s basically a story about tackling the big concerns of your life first (your Big Rocks) so that everything else (your Little Rocks) will fit into place. Although this idea was originally intended to help people prioritize huge things in their life, you can also apply this on everyday scenarios.
Let’s take the previous example of an important report due by the end of the day. On top of that, you need to check and reply to your emails. Plus, your friends are expecting you for a couple of beers after shift. Now what? Finish your Big Rock (the presentation) first so that it’s quickly out of the way. Once that’s done, you can simply pace yourself as you open and reply emails. As long as there are no more huge surprises, you can end your work on time to meet your friends out for a few drinks.
Life Is Not Perfect So…
I know what you’re probably thinking: that life’s not perfect.
In an ideal situation, you can come home early and have enough energy to spend time with your loved ones. Unfortunately no – on most occasions, we need to render overtime. Most days, we just feel like scrolling endlessly on our social media feeds. If that’s the case, step back and objectively analyze if such feelings have an underlying cause.
Healthcare professionals for instance, work under extreme pressure and stress. It’s tough at first, but others eventually adapt and find contentment in the dynamic environment. Several though, opt out completely to take a break from the demanding lifestyle. A good percentage of physicians, nurses, and surgeons now work temporarily (also known as locum tenens) in order to have enough time for themselves and their family.
This is an extreme case and you hopefully won’t need to make such a huge leap. Take the time to reflect on what you need to get done, what you want to accomplish, and who you want to be with. Be careful with your ideas, because they could shape your actions.
And whatever we do, affects our time.