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40 Ways to Use Time Wisely

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“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” ~Annie Dillard

Time. It is arguably our most valuable commodity.

Unlike treasured gems, precious metals, and any other prized possessions, time can’t be hoarded, collected, earned, or bought with hard work, money, dignity, or our soul. It slips away whether or not we choose to pack meaning into it. Use it or lose it, so goes the saying.

Though we all know how limited our lives are in the time-space continuum, we sometimes act like we don’t know the value of time. We use words like spend, kill, or waste when we speak of how we while away the finite number of hours in each day.

Time management systems abound and still, we flounder and falter at making the most of every sunrise. We plan for the future and neglect to cherish the present. We’d rather look back wistfully even though the future is full of hope.

And yet, for many of us, it seems there are not enough hours in a day. We cram all that goes with living into twenty-four hours of ticking, bargaining with Father Time, naively expecting him to budge to our willful and resolute intentions to produce more, accomplish more, be more.

We paddle in paradox, limbs flailing, trading in the quality of our lives while doggedly pursuing an idealized quality of life.

Time. Like all the treasures in the world, we can’t take it with us when we reach our final stop. Some among us may never be willing to embrace happiness in and with the time that we do have.

For the rest of us, here are ways to improve our relationship with time. (Some things may appear to be contradictory. This is a testament to the complex nature of our relationship with time.)

Live It Up

  • Live in the moment.
  • Practice love-in-action.
  • Resist the urge to rush.
  • Single-task.
  • Do things that bring joy and require little to no effort.
  • Say yes when you mean it.
  • Do nothing. Instead, play.

Steal It

  • Block out a chunk of time only for yourself.
  • Make an appearance but don’t linger.
  • Take a vacation day.
  • Wake up earlier/go to bed later. (Habitual lack of sleep not recommended. Better sleep is.)
  • Delegate a task to your child (i.e. put toys away, make his or her bed, etc.).
  • Push back a deadline.
  • Double-task (i.e. go for a hike with a friend, an activity that takes care of two—social and physical—facets of your life).

Be Fierce

  • Do only those things that matter.
  • Limit (not cut out completely) dawdle time.
  • End a conversation/relationship that isn’t going anywhere.
  • Stop doing things that don’t bring joy or results.
  • Cancel a commitment.
  • Skip a task.
  • Silence all distractions.
  • Choose a task or a path. Don’t relent. Focus.
  • Say no.

Call Up Your Inner Sage

  • Take a minute to list what you’d like to accomplish while being realistic about how long each item will take to complete.
  • Arrive late/leave early (aka swoop in/swoop out—not recommended for one-on-one meetings).
  • Show up for things that matter.
  • Keep doing things that work.
  • Multi-task (laundry, dishes, Crockpot and Roomba/iRobot work well simultaneously with little drama).
  • Take advantage of in-between times (i.e. sneak an important two-minute call between appointments, take a few minutes for micro-meditation moments).
  • Respond/engage only when you’re ready.
  • Let efficiency increase naturally (don’t force it).
  • Do only those things that have an urgent deadline.
  • Screen calls/scan e-mails.
  • Partner with another taskmaster and take turns doing each other favors.
  • Make chores fun (crank up Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, dance around and get some exercise in).

Succumb To Its Might

  • Ask for help (hire a professional or an intern or enlist a volunteer).
  • Let chores slide (relax on the definition/expectation of clean).
  • Let things be (wrinkles, jiggles, warts and all).
  • Let go of guilt and enjoy every second.

Do you have a healthy relationship with time? What are some ways you’ve made peace with time?

Photo by North Charleston

Avatar of Belinda Munoz

About Belinda Munoz

Belinda Munoz is a mother, wife and a social change activist living in San Francisco. She’s a foundation director and political advisor who maintains balance through yoga. Visit her blog about choosing positivity at thehalfwaypoint.net and follow her on Twitter @belindavmunoz.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://positivelypresent.com positivelypresent

    Great post, Belinda! It's so important to use time wisely and these are great ideas. Life is short!

  • http://twitter.com/trevord209 Trevor Dobrygoski

    When you started your I was really excited to see what kinds of posts you would have. I love the quotes on twitter; the articles you have on here are great! Thank you for putting in the time.

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  • http://thehalfwaypoint.net/ Belinda Munoz

    Thanks, Dani! I think we must first understand how we perceive time before we can really know its true value. We may not always remember to value it with certain choices that we make. But it will always be finite for each of us — a fact that sooner or later we learn to accept. Glad you like these ideas.

  • http://thehalfwaypoint.net/ Belinda Munoz

    Trevor, thanks for taking the time to comment with your encouraging words. Isn't tinybuddha an awesome site?!

  • lisasonorabeam

    I am bookmarking this article forever — such a great list of reminders. In fact, I may just need to print it out and paste it into one of my journals.

    Very helpful. Thanks so much!

  • http://thehalfwaypoint.net/ Belinda Munoz

    Thank you, lisasonorabeam! I'm so happy to hear that you find this list valuable. I often think about how many awesome blog posts with great advice there are available to us for free, and how seldom we really take the valuable message to heart. Reading comments like yours means a lot because for me personally (and I suspect for all tinybuddha contributors and staff), I blog not just to be read but also to be helpful in any way possible.

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  • http://SourcesOfInsight.com/ J.D. Meier

    I like your one liner — practice love-in-action.

    I especially like how you gave examples of being fierce with time and I'm a believer in only doing things that matter (and of course, what matter is in the eye of the meaning maker ;)

  • http://thehalfwaypoint.net/ Belinda Munoz

    Hi JD. I like that line, too! I think it would solve a lot of our problems if we all practiced love-in-action. Too often we think love is just a feeling, like “falling in love” when really it's our actions, our thoughts, our words and so much more.
    Thanks for your comment!

  • http://thehalfwaypoint.net/ Belinda Munoz

    Hi JD. I like that line, too! I think it would solve a lot of our problems if we all practiced love-in-action. Too often we think love is just a feeling, like “falling in love” when really it's our actions, our thoughts, our words and so much more.
    Thanks for your comment!

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  • http://www.foxyhare.com/category/blog/ Sakima Oak

    Amazing!! Thank you so much for making this available!

  • http://gg.thisshouldhelp.net Sandra Hendricks

    What a beautiful post Belinda! The consideration and heart that you put into overflows. Thank you for sharing.

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  • Bubbasparx

    Any positive use of time is beneficial. Positive must be narrowed to the basics of life… God, self, family. Etc. Educating thyself is also constructive, you know what is right, so do it.

    - V

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  • http://www.bealertandmakenoeffort.com/ Ann

    I think time is something to be respected, valued, used wisely and treated with gratitude. As you say, it is arguably our most valuable commodity. To expand this analogy, we should be careful about how we trade it.

  • Vladica M

    I really find this useful,I might put it on my desktop,but Im definitely bookmarking it :) Thanks a lot!

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  • Kamile Ko

    These tips looks great but it is hard to apply them in practice, believe me :))) For me it is also important to spend time wisely, for that reason I always plan and I only pick up the best things in a market. For example when hanging out I trust only this page info- koncertai , because they provide info which is really reliable, moreover I watch films only high rated by ImDB :) So it also helps me to improve quality of my leisure time :)

  • buddha poop

    stop following buddha he is not a god!!!! u will realise later hen its too late

  • Justin

    This is a very insightful post! I find that I am always short on time and I’m confident that these outlooks on time management will help me. On a more practical note, I find a visual representation of time management really keeps me focused and on track. Whether it’s personal fitness, meditation, work, or sleep, I always keep everything organized with my wellness planner Owaves (www.owaves.com). It has a really unique fun and visual platform which I contribute my productivity to.

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    it is not fake hans