25 Things You Need to Stop Wasting Time On

25 Things You Need to Stop Wasting Time On

“Dost thou love life?  Then do not squander time,
for that’s the stuff life is made of.”
―Benjamin Franklin

This morning I received a thank you email from a reader named Hope.  She said our blog and book helped motivate her through an arduous recovery process following a serious car accident last year.  Although her entire story was both heartbreaking and inspiring, this one line made me pause and think:

“The happiest moment of my life is still that split-second a year ago when, as I laid crushed under a 2000 pound car, I realized my husband and 9-year-old boy were out of the vehicle and absolutely OK.”

Dire moments like this force us to acknowledge what’s truly important to us.  In Hope’s case, it was her husband and son.  And in the remainder of her email, she talks about how her family spends significantly more time together now, simply sharing stories, telling jokes, and appreciating each other’s company.  “The accident made us realize how much time we had been wasting every day on things that weren’t important, which prevented us from spending quality time with each other,” she said.

It’s hard to think about a story like Hope’s and not ask yourself:  “What do I need to stop wasting time on?”

Here are some things to consider, that I’ve been examining in my own life:

  1. Distractions that keep you from special moments with special people. – Pay attention to the little things, because when you really miss someone you miss the little things the most, like just laughing together.  Go for long walks.  Indulge in great conversations.  Count your mutual blessings.  Let go for a little while and just BE together.
  2. Compulsive busyness. – Schedule time every day to not be busy.  Have dedicated downtime – clear points in the day to reflect, rest, and recharge.  Don’t fool yourself; you’re not so busy that you can’t afford a few minutes of sanity.
  3. Negative thinking about your current situation. – Life is like a mirror; we get the best results when we smile.  So talk about your blessings more than you talk about your problems.  Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing.  Every great success requires some type of worthy struggle to get there.
  4. The needless drama around you. – Be wise enough to walk away from the nonsense around you.  Focus on the positives, and soon the negatives will be harder to see.
  5. The desire for everything you don’t have. – No, you won’t always get exactly what you want, but remember this:  There are lots of people who will never have what you have right now.  The things you take for granted, someone else is praying for.  Happiness never comes to those who don’t appreciate what they already have.
  6. Comparing yourself to everyone else. – Social comparison is the thief of happiness.  You could spend a lifetime worrying about what others have, but it wouldn’t get you anything.  (Read The How of Happiness.)
  7. Thinking about who you were or what you had in the past. – You’re not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or a week ago.  You’re always growing.  Experiences don’t stop.  That’s life.
  8. Worrying about the mistakes you’ve made. – It’s OK if you mess up; that’s how you get wiser.  Give yourself a break.  Don’t give up.  Great things take time, and you’re getting there.  Let your mistakes be your motivation, not your excuses.  Decide right now that negative experiences from your past won’t predict your future.
  9. Worrying about what everyone thinks and says about you. – Don’t take things too personally, even if it seems personal.  Rarely do people do things because of you; they do things because of them.  You honestly can’t change how people treat you or what they say about you.  All you can do is change how you react and who you choose to be around.
  10. Self-deception. – Your life will improve only when you take small chances.  And the first and most difficult chance you can take is to be honest with yourself.
  11. A life path that doesn’t feel right. – Life is to be enjoyed, not endured.  When you truly believe in what you’re doing, it shows, and it pays.  Success in life is for those who are excited about where they are going.  It’s about walking comfortably in your own shoes, in the direction of YOUR dreams.
  12. Everyone else’s definition of success and happiness. – You simply can’t base your idea of success and happiness on other people’s opinions and expectations.
  13. Those who insist on using and manipulating you. – What you allow is what will continue.  Give as much as you can, but don’t allow yourself to be used.  Listen to others closely, but don’t lose your own voice in the process.  (Read Codependent No More.)
  14. Trying to impress everyone. – One of the most freeing things we learn in life is that we don’t have to like everyone, everyone doesn’t have to like us, and that’s perfectly OK.  No matter how you live, someone will be disappointed.  So just live your truth and be sure YOU aren’t the one who is disappointed in the end.
  15. All the fears holding you back. – Fear is a feeling, not a fact.  The best way to gain strength and self-confidence is to do what you’re afraid to do.  Dare to change and grow.  In the end, there is only one thing that makes a dream completely impossible to achieve: Lack of action based on the fear of failure.
  16. Doubting and second-guessing yourself. – When in doubt just take the next small step.  Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life.
  17. People who continuously dump on your dreams. – It’s better to be lonely than allow negative people and their opinions derail you from your destiny.  Don’t let others crush your dreams.  Do just once what they say you can’t do, and you will never pay attention to their negativity again.
  18. Thinking the perfect time will come. – You can’t always wait for the perfect moment.  Sometimes you must dare to do it because life is too short to wonder what could have been.
  19. Band-Aids and temporary fixes. – You can’t change what you refuse to confront.  You can’t find peace by avoiding things.  Deal with problems directly before they deal with your happiness.  (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
  20. Close-minded judgments. – Open your mind before you open your mouth.  Don’t hate what you don’t know.  The mind is like a parachute; it doesn’t work when it’s closed.
  21. Other people’s mistakes and oversights. – Today, be tolerant of people’s mistakes and oversights.  Sometimes good people make bad choices.  It doesn’t mean they’re bad; it simply means they are human.
  22. Resentment. – Kindness is not to be mistaken for weakness, nor forgiveness for acceptance.  It’s about knowing that resentment is not on the path to happiness.  Remember, you don’t forgive people because you’re weak. You forgive them because you’re strong enough to know that people make mistakes.
  23. Any hateful thoughts at all. – Set an example.  Treat everyone with kindness and respect, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are.  Make kindness a daily ritual; it’s what makes life happier and more fulfilling in the long run.
  24. Regrets of any kind. – You don’t have to be defined by the things you once did or didn’t do.  Don’t let yourself be controlled by regret.  Maybe there’s something you could have done differently, or maybe not.  Either way, it’s merely something that has already happened.  Leave the unchangeable past behind you as you give yourself to the present moment.
  25. Every point in time other than right now. – Don’t cry over the past, it’s gone.  Don’t stress too much about the future, it hasn’t arrived.  Do your best to live NOW and make this moment worth living.

Your turn…

Truth be told, the most important decision you will ever make is what you do with the time that is given to you.  So let’s revisit the question I proposed in the intro:  What do you need to stop wasting time on?

Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Photo by: James Jordan


  1. says

    A truly fantastic list. As I tried to think of my own ones, I discovered most of them were already there!

    But here are a few I would add:

    1. Being cynical. Cynicism is always possible, but is always negative. There are times we need to be skeptical and not go jumping into anything that seems too good to be true. But cynicism comes from an assumption that the world is out to get you, that you know better and that there is no beauty or joy to be found in everything. Decide not to indulge in cynicism. And look for the beauty in any moment, in any object, in any person.

    2. Stop avoiding painful feelings. We often tell ourselves we ‘should’ feel more optimistic, be over our grief, not be angry. But the more we squash our feelings, the more they insist upon jumping out at the worst times. Find time to listen deeply to what is true for you. Accept yourself as worthy whatever that feeling is. In time (perhaps immediately) it will shift.

    3. Don’t worry about your worthiness. Assume people will say yes when you offer them the chance to work with you. Assume that connecting with you is an honor, just as you connecting with another person is an honor too.

    4. Avoiding the new / things you don’t know how to do yet. We are all beginners in most things in life. Bring that beginners mind to all you do and let yourself off the hook for failure, welcome help and advice, try things out without judging the outcome. Doing something new expands your horizons, your skill, your courage and your connections. Humans are build for learning. So learn without worry.


    • Krystal says

      #2…..spot on. My grief, or lack of grieving, and avoiding it has consumed me. It’s hard not to ‘cry over the past'; when the past is still so fresh. I would also add relationships. Wasting your time with someone you truly see no future with is pointless. You are missing out on figuring out who you are, what you want, and searching through the possibilities.

  2. Kim T says

    #1, as my children have all grown up now I love that they come “home” to spend time with us and gather at our home with their siblings. Their spontaneous visits make me get my “to do’s” done in advance and not procrastinate like would be my normal habit. I love their visits and don’t want anything to get in the way of spending time with them.

  3. Lauren says

    Great great reminders of how to live your life. My personal philosophy is don’t let fear define who you are or become, you and only YOU can define your future life is about taking chances, taking risks and always being true to who You are!

  4. Bacon says

    @ Devi

    “But the more we squash our feelings, the more they insist upon jumping out at the worst times. ”

    Sounds about right….. Sigh

  5. Sandy says

    “You CAN have it all [your definition] just not at the same time” great advise given to me when I was struggling with working full time, my desire to volunteer and the guilt of leaving my new baby in daycare. In the end we chose to work it out to keep me home full time. Then, when the time was right I reentered the work force less stressed and happier. Once my children moved on with their lives following their own paths, I started volunteering again. You can have it all, just not simultaneously.

  6. says

    Marc and Angel – I just love you two bright souls. Thank you for bringing your gifts to the world so beautifully and eloquently. I shared your post on Facebook today – clearly so many of us need to hear this message of empowerment. :* xxx

  7. Patrick Afubwa says

    This is great work you are doing. I am working on worrying about the future ,and comparing myself to others, and trying to impress too often. This helps.

  8. Solomon says

    Very insightful comments and thoughts. Where did you develop these thoughts? Were they based on experience or just a series of books that you read?

  9. says

    @Soloman: Everything Angel and I write about is our interpretation of how to apply what we’re read (hundreds of books on psychology, health, wellness, spirituality, etc.), as it applies to our own life experiences (successes, failures, adversities, losses, relationships, etc.).

  10. Cassandra says

    Everyday since I found this blog, I always open every article when I have time. I am one of the people who always want to move forward and let go of everything. In my work, my co-employees are too intimidated by me… whenever I asked them any questions it seems that they’re taking it badly. People mistakenly take my firmness to being rude. But I love being me. Being straightforward, and just being me. So I don’t waste too much time worrying about it.

  11. sheeba says

    I see that wasting time on arguing is going on a lot today with married couples! If we argue today, then the sex will be better tomorrow is the philosophy. However, tomorrow is not promised! The next split second is not promised and we must keep that in mind and never ever go to bed or leave the house with an angry heart. It clouds our thoughts and makes us turn into that same person that we are angry with! Be better than the person who hurt you…and remain in silence to them until you can speak with a clear heart of forgiveness!

  12. Smith says

    Hi, I just wanted to let you know that your blog is the one thing that has been helping me steadily move past my regrets, mistakes and the gradual self destruction of the life I built for myself. I’m not going to delve into any of sad stories here, we all have them. I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for existing and making a difference. That’s all.

  13. Dennis says

    This is truly amazing! I realized many things just right now and I’m happy that somehow I will be guided when adversities come my way again and again…

  14. lovebunny says

    It is so true, all we have is this moment, and we are a long time dead, but with thousands of thoughts going through our minds in one day it is difficult to try to do all the things suggested above. But I sure am going to try, thanks to you for the inspiration and encouragement, what a great article.

  15. Yinyanjan says

    I’m just relieved reading your posts is not on this list! Seriously, though, I just love your style and get so much benefit whether I do a quick reading or an in-depth study. Thanks to you both.

  16. Shibbo says

    This is great! Truly what I needed. I will stop blaming myself for my past mistakes and trying to be perfect. i will stop living with fear and constantly worrying that something is wrong with me and something bad will happen because in actual fact those are all things I have no control over. Thank you so so much.

  17. Matthew Murphy says

    Simply beautiful. How incredible to know hundreds of other people in just one post feel exactly the same way. Thank you for writing this :)

  18. says

    I waste too much time on thinking of what to say and do. There I go haha. But it’s just been like that for a while… I guess im a “verbal junkie” so to speak and try to perfect everything all the time. Also I spend too much time thikning about the negative things that can possibly happen, when I could spend that time being positive.

  19. Sandeep says

    Great article that more people need to read. I used to waste a lot of time watching TV. now I’ve substituted my love of watching by watching documentaries and movies that have relevance to people and the world we live in. It’s about trying to educate myself about real issues. We live in an era where time wasting has become an art or job itself. There’s so many ways to waste time. But there is also many more ways to use time wisely, to improve oneself, understand the finer points in life and make a positive impact on society.

  20. s.b. says

    I love this post. One thing I would like to add to #22 is that the reason I forgive people is because I can’t be happy until I let it go and not let it bother me anymore. This is mainly geared toward people who will never change and continue to hurt people with their actions, oblivious to it or not. These are people I limit my interactions with.

  21. Nick says

    I need to stop worrying about mistakes I made when I was just entering my teenage years. I’m sick of feeling like crap everyday for a mistake I made when I was barley 14. I know I’m better than my past and I know God has a great future in store for me.

  22. Patti says

    As of NOW, I am finished with waiting on people. I’m tired of people telling me they will call at a certain time, come by my house at a certain time, do something by a certain time. So many times, what ends up happening is the person never calls, never shows up or calls to say they’ll be later and I just deal with it. Well I’M DONE! In the end, I realize that none of these people is respecting my time, my schedule, or me. So from now on, if someone is late calling or coming by or whatever, I will no longer be available. Wow! It feels great to say that!

  23. says

    Ah, where to begin with this question: “What do you need to stop wasting time on?”

    The social comparison aspect is a good place to start. My general approach when I encounter somebody who has achieved great success is to ask myself “what can I learn from this person?” On occasion, I might slip into a less productive perspective. This article is a welcome reminder of the importance of maintaining the right attitude in dealing with others.

  24. Padishyia says

    This was truly a wonderful post! I had just stumbled upon your blog, looking for some inspirational and uplifting thoughts. I am glad to say that your insights really put everything in perspective and made me reflect on what’s important in life. Thank you so much, Marc! Good people like you are what keep this world going round.

    Also, I never commented on a blog before, but the way your words spoke to me compelled me to sincerely thank you. :)

  25. Ellen says

    There are so many things that I have wasted my time on. Someone above made a point about waiting for other people. I am guilty of that! When someone says that they will call me or stop by, I will no longer wait all day for that person.

    Over the course of my life I have improved significantly with #3, Negative Thinking about a current situation. What is ironic is my mom, and sometimes my aunt who used to criticize me for low-self esteem will now make a mountain out of mole hill. If people would not waste time and energy on being negative about everything, my family would be better with #1. While our families who are in town sometimes do spend time together, it is only because of an arising occasion or holiday. It is really sad that people in our family don’t make the time to spend time together or make special moments. Looking at things as an adult, I think it because there needed to be a reason or don’t do it at all. Or using family time to nit-pick at people’s personal lives. My family is guilty of gossiping about people and “mistakes” or choices that they have made.

    I was also raised with the impression that I always needed to be busy. So #2 Compulsive Busyness is a big problem. My mom always focused on housework, so for me, we did not spend a lot of quality time together as mother-daughter. My mom tries to use things such as family or church events as the way to make time together. To me, that doesn’t really count because it is then about church. Unfortunately, what I remember the most is my mom either yelling at me a lot or putting me down in front of other people. I am sure that is a big factor in why we do not have a healthy relationship.

    Don’t spend time with people who feel the need to put a political label on everything. Everything is polarized through the media, so people will feed on that and brand everything as Liberal or Conservative. There are a handful of people in my family who do that. I don’t always look forward to spending time with them because of that reason.

  26. NM says

    I really need to learn to deal with situations. I have just been kind of letting myself be treated like a door mat. And the negative side effects have completely torn me up. I need to stand up for myself. Thanks for the post.

  27. says

    Couldn’t agree more with those 25 things. If I could add one more thing…. Being in a bad relationship. If the person you are with makes you feel miserable, maybe it’s better to be alone.

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