40 Ways to Stop Wasting Time and Get More Done | Christopher Ming Blog (2024)

Last updated on November 3rd, 2021 at 03:46 am

Summary: Below is a list of 40 ways to stop wasting time and get more done. It’s what has worked for me, your mileage may vary. I tried avoiding rehashing old ideas as much as possible, though for the sake of completeness, I did include some classics.

At every phase of my life, I feel I’ve unintentionally wasted too much time.

In college, I barely wrote for myself. That’s 3½ years of production, lost. When I moved to Los Angeles, I became more disciplined about my writing, so how I used my time jumped a level. Then I started working for Ramit, and I observed the processes that kept a 40+ person team running. It made me realize:

I was still wasting too much time.

I adopted a lot of what I learned, and my output jumped another level. Recently, I beat my social media addiction, which unlocked more time… but I know there are more levels to go. In the meantime, I thought it’d be helpful to share what’s helped so far.

Before we start, two caveats:

1. This is personal. It’s what worked for me, and your mileage will vary. Also, how you define wasting time is up to you. For example, the day of a UFC Pay-per-view fight, I could spend 4 hours watching highlights reels and breakdowns before watching 6 hours of beautiful brawling, and that’s a great use of 10 hours of my life. On the flip side, for me, 7 minutes spent in front of the television watching a Lifetime original movie is sin.

(Hallmark Channel is another story though…)

Everyone needs some escapism and varying degrees of it. This article is in no way a judgement of how anyone spends their time. But if find yourself constantly beating yourself up over “wasting so much time” or feeling “lazy,” hopefully this article can help.

2. I’ve broken this out into three phases: Tactics, Strategies, Paradigm. Within these phases, whenever possible, I put methods into specific buckets.

The tactics are things anyone can implement today to stop wasting time.

Strategies are longer endeavors. It might take a week to implement, or even a month. A lot more effort is required, but will pay dividends over the long-term.

When you change your paradigm, you really unlock ways to save time. But it requires completely changing the way you look at the world. Some paradigm shifts you might be able to implement tomorrow, others never.

If you have any questions about this list, you can ask me on Twitter.

The tactics are the best place to start. The right tactics will save you hours on the week. However a common mistake is to obsess over tactics. Instead, get it 80% right and move on to strategies and your paradigm.

I grouped tactics into 3 buckets.

Bucket 1: Beat social media

The amount of time you waste is directionally proportional to time spent on social media.

But beating social media is hard. Which is why you need multiple defenses, tactics on tactics to buttress yourself against technologies and platforms that try and steal your time.

Turn OFF push notifications on all apps. This means you aren’t pinged whenever you’re tagged on Instagram or someone sends a friend request. Instead, you’ll find out when you log into the app. Make sure “badges” (the red counter in the upper right corner of your app icons) are off, too.

If you’re worried about missing messages, leave notifications on for one-to-one messaging apps, e.g. texts, FB messenger, WhatsApp, Slack.

And anytime you download a new app and it asks “Do you want to turn on notifications?” your default answer should be “No.” You can always turn notifications back on if you change your mind.

Arm yourself against social media. Going into this fight with will power alone is like bringing a knife to a gunfight. You’ve already lost and you just don’t know it.

40 Ways to Stop Wasting Time and Get More Done | Christopher Ming Blog (2)

Companies like Facebook, Netflix, and Google have a deep understanding of human behavior, plus thousands of your preferences saved. Here are tools I recommend to defend your time:

  • Kill News Feed. A Google Chrome extension that blocks Facebook newsfeed.
  • Inbox When Ready. A Chrome extension that prevents showing your inbox when you go to gmail. Instead, you have to click, “Show Inbox.”
  • DF Youtube. This one blocks the YouTube feed, so no more videos based on your viewing history.
  • Freedom. Blocks specific sites at scheduled times across all your devices, or you can just pause the Internet. An amazing tool for building good habits and killing bad ones.

Scramble your apps. I find this oddly effective: every two weeks, move your apps around to random places on your phone. The two extra seconds it takes to find the Twitter app (this is called a pattern interrupt) could prevent an hour-long rabbit hole.

Put your phone on airplane mode. If you’re not using your phone, cut off internet and phone access. Set a time (20 minutes, an hour, half a day) to come back.

If you’re a parent: Use “Do Not Disturb” instead, then add important phone numbers to your “Favorites.” You can set it so these contacts will still be able to reach you via text or phone call, even with “Do Not Disturb” on.

Physically separate yourself from the phone. For extraordinary circ*mstances, do this after you’ve put your phone on airplane mode to really defend yourself from the vagaries of the internet and the outside world.

Bucket 2: Stop wasting time at work

Everything goes into the calendar. Don’t trust your memory. Get it out of your head and onto a calendar. Include links to documents or websites you’ll need, so you don’t have to search for it later (h/t Ramit).

Use a text expander. Text expanders allow you to create your own personal keyboard shortcuts. There are many options. I use aText ($5). Use this for common things you type and numbers you can’t memorize (e.g. passport number, known traveler number, etc.)

Eat similar meals everyday. Years ago, my boss and his colleagues literally spent 45 minutes a day figuring out what’s for lunch. What a waste. Eat similar meals, or if you think the monotony will kill you, set a schedule so you don’t have to make this decision everyday.

Unsubscribe from newsletters. How many daily, weekly, and monthly digests or round-ups do you need? I have a newsletter, and I appreciate any reader. However, if you think you’re wasting too much time, consider unsubscribing.

Unsubscribe from eCommerce emails. Occasionally, you’ll find a great deal. But each time you open one of those emails, you’re losing minutes as you debate whether you need those boots or if that sweater would go with those pants. Unsubscribe. Instead, if you decide you do need something, go out and buy it.

Buy a big ass water bottle. If you’re tired, you’ll waste time. The two major reasons you feel tired: Lack of good sleep. And dehydration. Stay hydrated with a big ass water bottle. I recommend this one (get it with the straw lid. If you have to open/close the bottle you’ll drink less).

Set a hard stop on your workday. Add to your schedule when you’re going to close the laptop and stop working for the day. It doesn’t matter if it’s after lunch or at 8pm. Without a hard stop, you can always fall back on, “I’ll do that later.” Set a schedule, then be ruthless about your time.

Bucket 3: Save time at home

Have a morning routine. Everyone on the internet has written about their morning routine. I don’t have anything to add except: It works, so do it.

Have a night routine. A night routine gives the mind enough time to wind down and shut off. Set a time to turn off electronics, bathe the baby, read a book, then go to sleep. Keep it at the same time each night.

Mise en place. Another classic. This is chef’s speak for, “everything in its place.” When you walk into your home, your keys go in the same place, every time. Your wallet, your bag, your phone — all go back to their respective “homes.” No more frantic searching for keys at 8am as you’re trying to get out the door.

Do the dishes as you go. Ed Latimore said it best:

“Inertia is real. If I’m already moving, I don’t want to stop moving.”

If you’re putting your dishes into the sink, keep the momentum by cleaning those dishes right away.

Only Handle It Once. Aka OHIO. When dealing with mail, magazines, bills, etc. your rule of thumb is to “only handle it once.” Instead of coming back to the same piece of paper a dozen times, set a time to process it and get it done in one go.

Setup auto-pay for all your bills. The goal is to never have to look at a bill and never write a check. Start with small, consistent bills (e.g. gas, cell phone, Internet). For rent, use a free check writing service (Capital One has this) to send a check directly to your landlord.

Outsource one task. Take one task that you do every week and delegate it. If the idea makes you uncomfortable, just try it for one occasion. For example, get your house cleaned, have dry cleaning delivered, or hire someone local to mow your lawn.

Afterwards, ask yourself: “Was the time I saved worth the money I spent?” If no, you don’t have to do it again. If yes, make it a recurring thing.

I think of strategies as my time insurance policy. What does that mean?

It means with the right strategies in place, whether you’re being super productive or bingeing YouTube videos again, the right things are getting done, automatically. The right thing could be eating healthy, investing, or getting your laundry done.

Robust strategies will save you weeks out of your year.

Stretch. Take 5 minutes everyday to stretch. I recommend doing it in the first 30 minutes of your morning.

As Conor McGregor noted:[note]http://www.esquire.com/sports/interviews/a34377/conor-mcgregor-interview-0515/[/note]

“We’re the only animal that wakes up and doesn’t stretch. Start there.”

I can’t think of a bigger waste of time than getting injured, and stretching is one of the best ways to prevent injury.

Invest in a comfortable workstation. This also falls in the vein of injury prevention. A few things go a long way:

If you work on a laptop, get an external monitor. Set the monitor at eye level. Sit at your desk so your shoulders are relaxed while typing. Rest your feet on the ground to remove weight off your legs (if they can’t reach, get a foot rest. I use the InteVision Foot Cushion ($23).

Also optional, a way to convert your desk to a standing desk — I use the Avantree Adjustable Laptop Table ($30) recommended by Nick Gray. If you use a standing desk and your feet hurt like mine do, get a standing mat. I use the AmazonBasics one ($30), which works fine.

Don’t be an idiot and use a setup like my old one below:

Simplify your wardrobe. For years, I owned 2 t-shirts and a pair of crocs. It wasn’t high fashion, but I saved a lot of time. Thanks to athleisure wear, it’s socially acceptable to wear joggers and yoga pants all day (so much so that UnderArmor’s hurting[note] [https://qz.com/1116216/under-armours-decade-of-growth-is-officially-over-ua/](https://qz.com/1116216/under-armours-decade-of-growth-is-officially-over-ua/)[/note]).

If looking spiffy is your thing, here are guides to minimalist dressing ( men, women) yet still looking fresh.

Meal prep each week. The idea of meal prepping intimidates some people because they think you have to go all-in. You don’t.

Start by prepping one meal on the weekends — I recommend breakfast or lunch, something where you’re used to eating the same thing, anyway. When you start, buy everything pre-made, like cut vegetables, cooked chicken, rinsed greens, etc.

Keep it super simple and build your meal prep repertoire from there.

Automate anything you do more than once. Setting your bills on autopay (mentioned below) is the first place to start this, but it’s a small step in automation. The goal is to automate the mundane and schedule reminders for the important, so you can focus on things that really matter. If it happens on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis, you can work towards automating it.

Some examples:

  • Every day, If This Then That creates a new journal entry for me in Evernote.
  • Every week, I go grocery shopping, and my list is saved in AnyList so I don’t have to start from scratch.
  • Every month, I get an email reminder to take progress photos.
  • Every year, I get a reminder to reflect on the last 365 days to think about goals for the next year.

Start every week with a plan. I started doing this on July 29, 2014 and never looked back. Pick one day a week where you can sit down for 30 minutes to an hour. Write down what went well the past week, what you want the following week to look like, and how those things align to your big goals. Scott Dinsmore introduced this idea to me.

Make every week similar. Consistency is king. The greater your consistency, the less friction you’ll experience. The less friction, the more you’ll accomplish in less time.

What about variety? It’s important, but we’re talking about trying to stop wasting time. Bake variety into your weekends. During the week, if you have meetings, keep the same times each week. The gym should happen on set days. Drinks with colleagues, set days.

Sleep. Another classic that must get mentioned. If you can’t get through the day without 2-3 naps, it means you’re not sleeping enough. Sleep matters. You will get more done.

Master the scramble. In grappling, the scramble is the time between exchanges you create or destroy space, to put yourself in a more advantageous position. Often, the difference between great grapplers and legendary grapplers is efficiency in the scramble.

In a normal day, how do you manage your time between tasks? Do you put yourself in an advantageous position by seamlessly moving onto the next task? Or are you wasting time due to uncertainty?

If the latter, is it because you need to create more space? Or destroy it?

Clear the deck. Sometimes you’re just not going to get to it. No matter how hard you try, you won’t read that magazine or reply to that email. You won’t get to that project or read that article. In that case, just let it go. Clear the deck and move on.

My general rule of thumb: if the task has been sitting there for a month, I won’t get to it. I feel bad for about 2 minutes, remind myself I’m human and I’m doing my best, then get on with my life.

Paradigms are how you see the world and structure your life. Working on your paradigms not only saves you time, but frees you from anxiety, headache, and heartache.

Working on your paradigms is the process of making yourself mentally bulletproof.

These are big changes. They’ll affect your values, your loved ones, your self-esteem. Changing won’t come easy. It’s painful and can take years.

However, one change at the paradigm level can dramatically save you years of your life.

When you see someone you admire who genuinely seems to have their life together, it’s more likely that they spent years getting their paradigms right, not that they installed the latest productivity app.

Begin with good intent. Anytime you hesitate on a decision (Should I send this email? Should I raise my hand? Should I say “hi”?), ask yourself: “Are my intentions good?” If yes, proceed. If no, don’t.

That’s it.

Good intent doesn’t make your decision-making foolproof. You’ll still make mistakes, but it inoculates you against analysis paralysis. Focus on doing right, and you’ll worry less about getting it wrong.

More about good intent here.

Call home once a week. No one’s invested more into you than your family. And they won’t be here forever. Tim Urban points out if you’re in your 30s, you may have already used up 90% of the total time you’ll ever have with your parents.

So treat that time as precious. Actively work on that relationship. After social media, regret is the source of the biggest waste of time.

Keep your “favorites” contact list updated. Anytime someone on the “Favorites” list calls you, you pick up. Everytime.

Even if it’s just to tell them you’ll call them back. Invest time in the people closest to you (see above about regret).

Training is a painkiller. Don’t treat it like a vitamin. Moving your body and objects through space is a part of being alive. You’ll suffer when you do it, or suffer when you don’t. Suffering because you’re training happens to be a more efficient use of your time. Looking better is a side effect.

What if you don’t have time to train or workout? As MMA coach Firas Zahabi puts it:

“If you can’t make time to train, you better make time to get sick.”

How to start: Make it impossible to fail. Do 2 push-ups when you wake up. If you can’t do 2, do 1. 1 > 0.

Create before consume. Make your own first, then try someone else’s. Applies to words, drawings, videos, and social media. This paradigm shift will dramatically improve your output. See Tim Federle.

EASY: making fun of stuff
HARD: making stuff

— Tim Federle (@TimFederle) September 23, 2017

Work from home. If you commute 20 minutes to work one-way, every year you’re spending 166 hours and 40 minutes on travel alone. Start by negotiating one work from home day a week, and go from there.

Travel light. You’ll spend less time packing, less time worrying about your physical belongings, and move through airports and train stations faster. If you’re having trouble getting started, pack how you’d normally pack, then take one piece of clothing out of your suitcase.

Make decisions quickly. Most decisions don’t matter. Make a call, find out if you’re right or wrong, and roll that information into the next decision.

Pick a partner with the same values. Partner is the key word here. You’re a team. Teams work towards common goals, and our goals are shaped by our values.

Your values are non-negotiable. Everything else is a compromise.

Over-communicate with your partner. None of us are the same person we were 5 years ago, nor will we be the same 5 years from now. Perspectives and goals shift.

“What are we building towards? What’s important? What isn’t?”

Constantly communicate with your partner. If you’re not in lockstep, get there.

Everything is your fault. The faster you accept responsibility, the faster you can make changes. Didn’t get the promotion? Your fault. Furious with your partner? Communicate better.

Can’t keep the weight off? Don’t blame your genes or carbs or the holidays — it’s on you.

I’m not saying they don’t have an effect. Yes, genes affect your physical appearance. Yes, public policy, sexism, and the vagaries of the market affect an individual’s success or lack thereof.

What I’m saying is: The fastest way to make the situation better is to change your behavior, not the behaviors of others, and not “the system.”

Some of these (especially the paradigm shifts) probably require more explanation. But hopefully this list will get you started on wasting less time and getting more done.

Any questions, feel free to ping me on Twitter.


Photo Credit: Kevin Ku, Toledo Blade

40 Ways to Stop Wasting Time and Get More Done | Christopher Ming Blog (2024)
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