The shocking ways people waste time and 4 smart ways to invest it better

Time is the ultimate currency.

Like our money, our time is ours to waste, spend or invest.

We all have the same number of hours every. But it’s what you decide to do with that time that directly impacts your success in life.

If you are not sure where and when you are losing time, these are the most common ways many people waste their time:

Trying to do many things at once — in the end, you hardly make real progress. Reacting to all those emails — email is one of the biggest time-sucking tools ever created (despite its benefits). Don’t get trapped in the cycle of answering every email in real-time.

Obsessively checking your social media updates — how many times have you caught yourself social updates when you should be doing great work?
Putting off or delaying or deferring high-value actions — no one sets out to procrastinate, but it happens. Saying yes to the many requests from others — defend your time like your productivity depends on it because it does.
People who find success in life and career are often willing to not only to put their limited time to good use but invest it in the things that truly matter.

When you just spend time, you’re not really looking to get anything back.
But when you in something, you expend quality resources with an expectation of getting a good return on your investment (ROI).
Investing your time means that you engage in activities that are calculated to bring you meaningful rewards.

Not everything brings the same return on your time. “Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door, ”says
Coco Chanel

So the real question today is: What are you doing with your time?
Time is free but priceless, and you are either investing, spending or wasting your time with every choice you make.

1. Invest in the right systems to get things done

“Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things.” — Peter Drucker

There are 168 hours every week.

That is a monumental amount of time. Where could it possibly go?
Or better still where are you spending all those hours?

In his book, “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”, David Allen says, “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

Are you spending your time furthering someone else’s agenda, or are you investing your time in working to achieve your long-term goals?

Do you have control over how you use your time?

Many of us work in an endless stream of tasks, emails, notifications, meetings, multitasking in the process, never pausing to measure the significance of our daily inputs versus our outputs.

What are you working on this week? Are they your most important tasks?
When you are doing too much at a time, you are constantly switching from one task to another, constantly interrupted, constantly distracted.

Pursuing more and more every day doesn’t mean you will accomplish more. Remember the 80/20 rule (20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results).

Many of us confuse being “busy” with being effective, or efficient.
Your time is limited. Doing everything is not an option.

Doing one thing means not doing something else. And there is a big difference between the things that should be done and the things that must be done.

Resist the temptation to multitask.

If you have several items to focus on within the same day, try breaking your work time into short, focused bursts.

Aim to make as much progress on your work, as possible despite the other reactive tasks that demand your attention.

2. Invest in building stronger relationships

“Treasure your relationships, not your possessions.” — Anthony J. D’Angelo
We are wired for connection with other humans.

As with most things in life, when it comes to building good relationships, quality is more important than quantity.

According to Harvard’s Grant & Glueck Study (which tracked more than 700 participants over the course of 75 years), the key to long-term happiness and fulfillment comes down to the quality of our relationships.

When was the last time you invested in your relationships?

Spending time with people and building better relationships is an investment.

The benefits of having strong long-term relationships are greater than the immediate pleasure of hanging out with others just to spend time.

Are you just spending your time with friends and family (going out for a movie, a meal and visiting them on during holidays) or investing time to create a stronger bond with the people you cherish?

Invest time in your partner– talk about your dreams, share your values, fears and hopes. Help each other achieve dreams.

Offer moments of connection. Give your partner your full attention. Express gratitude to your close friends and family. Investing time in relationships strengthens and deepens them.

The wise investment of time in your relationship will provide dividends or returns for years to come. In the end, your relationships with people are the most important factor in your well-being.

3. Invest in thinking time

Plato once said, “When the mind is thinking it is talking to itself.”

The state of your mind determines everything. It pays to make time to pause, reflect, refresh and start over.

“Time to think” is a priority if you want to be increasingly efficient, solve problems better, and improve how you work.

Mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity.

Edward de Bono, the author of The Six Thinking Hats, says, “Everyone has the right to doubt everything as often as he pleases and the duty to do it at least once. No way of looking at things is too sacred to be reconsidered. No way of doing things is beyond improvement.”

You can’t afford not to plan for downtime.

You make time to exercise your body to stay strong, and healthy. You have to do the same thing for your mind.

Schedule time when you can be alone to do nothing but think.

Thinking involves slowing down and actually soaking in a problem and your creative brain thrives in a “break” mode.

All great creators and innovators make time to rest, get a break or think.
Leonardo Da Vinci had a bed in his studio and when patrons accused him of wasting time, he said, “If I don’t do this, you don’t get the work.”

Starting today, shake up your routine and create white spaces for yourself.
Schedule it. Block off 15 minutes every day, on your calendar, if you can — in the middle of the day — to THINK.

Find a place comfortable and quiet. No Internet. No television. No other people present. Just you and your thoughts.

Time spent thinking is an investment.

But don’t overthink issues you don’t even have to spend time thinking about.

Balancing thought and action is a challenge for many people.

When you spend too much time picturing what a project is going to be like, too much time thinking about how awesome it will be… and too little time actually making the thing, you make no progress.

Results come to those who “act” while others are discovering the “right” ways to generate results. Think to generate better ideas, but act before it’s too late.

4. Invest in the right life-changing books

“I read a book one day and my whole life was changed.” — Orhan Pamuk
Reading expands your horizons, and offer all sorts of new opportunities for your career and life improvement.

It’s an investment that continues to give long after you are done with the book. Reading is to the mind what exercise is to your body.

It gives us the freedom to roam the expanse of space, time, history, and offer a deeper view of ideas, concepts, emotions, and body of knowledge.
In a world where information is the new currency, reading is the best source of continuous learning, knowledge and acquiring more of that currency.

Reading requires patience, diligence, and determination. Reading is like any skill. You have to practice it, regularly and constantly.

Where you prefer the alluring glow and convenience of a smartphone or the sense of control of a paper book, by all means, make time to read.
Next time you choose a book from the shelf or download a new title on your Kindle, stop and think about what you’re reading, and how you are spending your time — it could impact you more than you realize!

Beware of distractions

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” — Charles Darwin

Many people spend the best hours of their days distracted and reacting to too many things that barely move the needle.

Many of us spend the greater percentage of our time doing things that do not add value to our lives.

Among other things, social media, email, trying to change things outside of your control, waiting on other people, dwelling in regrets, worrying about the future without making concrete plans and worrying about what others think of you could be wasting your precious time.

You can easily be caught in a distraction loop if you don’t do something about it or admit you have a time management problem. One day, you will regret every single minute you lost if you did not make the best use of it today.

Instead of investing time in creating value, finding fulfillment, and making an impact in the world, most of us waste time-consuming information.

When you create value instead of consuming media, your capacity for pleasure increases, as opposed to your need for it.

Investing time in better experiences and relationships gives you far more lasting and deeply satisfying happiness than consuming ever will.

Instead of handling interruptions and notifications immediately, plan to attend to them at a specific time.

Or add them to your to-do list to come back to later. Instead of following up on your ideas immediately, keep a running list of thoughts you want to come back to later.

Set aside unstructured time during the day to review your list of things that need your attention.

Key takeaway

Each part of our lives plays an important role.

Invest some time and resources to improve how you work, think, relate to others and how to better deal with distractions.

Manage and own your time, instead of reacting to everything others require of you. This is to guarantee an overall balance in life.

If one part is neglected, the others are unable to thrive. However, if you give attention to all of them, you can live a holistic life. Learn these parts and how to invest in them and your life will never be the same.

A better investment of your life can return an intimate relationship, well-adjusted kids, a circle of close friends, a successful career, good health, financial security, and a legacy you’re proud of.

This article originally appeared in Medium.