Yeah, yeah, yeah: you’re young, you’re invincible, you’re going to live forever, you’ll never regret anything. Can you guess the percentage of older people who used to think the very same things? Try 100%. Here are three ways to waste your time, big time. And if you stop doing them, you’ll be happier, more productive, more confident, and a lot less likely to look back on your life with regret a few decades down the road.
- Not asking other people for help
This is one of life’s greatest time-sucks. You’re faced with a problem or an obstacle, whether in your personal or your professional life. You’re afraid to ask for help. Why? Usually it’s because you think asking for assistance is tantamount to admitting you’re incompetent. That is your pride speaking. Tell your pride to shut up. Everyone in the world needs help from others. From teachers, mentors, experts, friends, family. When you ask for help, people are flattered, not amused by your request. They don’t think you’re a loser. They think you’re smart enough to know when outside information is needed. And when you do ask for help, a wonderful thing happens: you actually receive help!
- Worrying about what other people think
We spend endless amounts of time fretting over what the people around us think of us. Do they like us? Do they agree with our ideas? Do they think we’re witty, pretty, smart, stylish?
This is not to say that making a good impression doesn’t matter at all: of course it does. We need to be appreciated by those with whom we work and those we love. But we waste huge quantities of time trying to curry favor with “everyone”, from that really mean cashier at the supermarket to total strangers posting on the Internet.
We agonize over what to wear or what to say, then forget to enjoy our days, our conversations. Can you imagine all the time we’d save if we just let go of such unimportant things, focusing instead on enjoying ourselves at work and at play? When we worry less, we can give more of our attention to the tasks and decisions before us. And that empowers us to devote our time to more ambitious and worthwhile dreams.
- Remaining in bad relationships
All relationships, from the personal to the professional, require maintenance to flourish. But there’s a big difference between spending time and effort maintaining a good relationship and wearing yourself out trying to force a bad one to bloom. Sometimes you can make things work. Sometimes, you just need to end things.
It isn’t easy to find a job that fits you like a glove or to meet that special someone whose goals align perfectly with your own. In both cases, you need to be flexible, but there will always be things you cannot negotiate on.
For example, if you’re not willing to move to Iceland but your manager is insisting, it may be time to “just say no”. Likewise, in your personal relationships, if you discover that your goals and those of your partner have evolved differently, of course you must try to see if you can make it work. But if not, you could waste years of your life hoping for something that will never happen. Moving on is always hard, but remaining in an unsatisfactory relationship can be something you’ll regret for the rest of your days.
Marilyn Monroe summed it up beautifully: “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together”.