Why You Should Protect Your Time

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In post-college life, time is limited. You work all day, maybe go to Happy Hour or the gym, watch an episode of (insert favorite show here) and then only have a brief period of time before you should be in bed. Some days you work late and time is even more limited. Basically, time isn’t overflowing like it does when you’re in college and can take a two-hour nap during the day and no one even notices.

Because of this, you have to be protective about how you’re spending that time. Since it’s so limited, it’s become a valuable commodity. Lately I’m realizing that certain things and even certain people can become drains on your precious time and energy. You can literally let someone or something else take your time and energy hostage and waste a commodity that you should hold near and dear to you.

For example: The Internet. Ah, yes, one of the greatest time wasters of them all. I’ve been doing a lot of Internet bashing on here lately, but it’s not all the World Wide Web’s fault. The Internet simply feeds into every human’s inherent procrastination traits and allows us to fall into its rabbit hole (as I call it), thus clicking from one window to another until two hours have disappeared before we even realize what happened.

On the other hand, the Internet can be amazingly useful when you need it to be. You can find out all kinds of information, do all of your holiday shopping, and stay connected to friends. It’s an amazing invention, but you have to use it for good and not for evil. The next time you’re wondering where all your free time is going, think about your Internet usage. I, for one, have a terrible habit of writing a paragraph, not knowing what I want to say next, and going right to Firefox instead of simply sitting there and thinking about my next words. It’s really bad. So instead of writing paragraph after paragraph, I’m writing, surfing for ten minutes, then writing again. I didn’t even realize I did it for a while, but now that I’m more aware of it I make a conscious effort to keep unnecessary tabs closed until my work is done. Once you realize where your time is going, it’s a lot easier to protect it.

Maybe your time is stolen by your TV. You set out to catch up on that episode of “Homeland” that you missed, and end up sitting through an entire season of “Mad Men.” Whoopsy doopsy, bye-bye hours and hours of free time. If the TV is your time thief, fight the urge to bask in its warm glow after the episode you decided to watch is over. Just shut the thing off.

Perhaps it’s a person who’s stealing your time. Got a friend who always has a different sort of problem? As the Rolling Stones might say, she can’t get no satisfaction? You spend hours on the phone only to find that she ignored your advice, is still having that issue, and picked up a few other dilemmas along the way? We all have a few of those, and these situations can drain your energy pretty quickly. Instead of spending hours upon hours on the phone three nights a week, limit your time. You don’t need to cut this person off or abandon them when they need you, but it’s okay to limit the amount of time you spend rehashing what her co-worker meant when she said that thing on the way to the breakroom.

Also, you don’t have to reply to every text message or phone call or e-mail as soon as they come in. I know that may startle you, because the revelation started me too but…it’s true! We’re like Pavlov’s dogs who drool when we hear the dinner bell; we blindly grab our phones as soon as they buzz. But why? Unless you’re expecting an urgent call or message, why do you need to keep that thing glued to your side at all times?

I’m slowly starting to realize that my phone’s presence blocks my ability to relax at night. When I’m sitting on the couch just trying to unwind and my phone is lurking next to me, I feel like I’m waiting for something to happen. And in a way, I am. I’m waiting for an e-mail or a text to respond to. But I’ve realized I can put the phone in the other room and wait half an hour to respond to that message and it will probably be fine. The next time you’re feeling unsure about separating from your phone think about this: are you expecting an urgent message? Will a slightly delayed response REALLY matter? Probably not. Let it go and let yourself fully relax.

Do you try to protect your time or do you let it get stolen too much?  Is your phone always glued to your side too?

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