One of the most important life lessons I learned was that you can always make more money, but you cannot get more time. Time means different things for different people: time with kids and family, time for working out, time for travel...etc. But we can all agree that we all want more time in our day. The problem is that we all waste much of our time one way or another.
Think about it, was it really worth it waiting 17 minutes in line at Starbucks for coffee that you could have made at home or in the office? If you answered yes, that’s alright because we all have different priorities. Either way, there are simple ways (unique to you and your schedule) to make more time for things that are most important to you.
Now, you can just skip to the list or read the psychology behind my trick in the section below.
Training your brain with classical conditioning
Remember learning about Ivan Pavlov and his experiment with dogs that salivate on the basis of expecting food? This is called classical conditioning and it goes something like this:
- You have a stimulus (event) that is not tied to any particular reaction.
- You create some sort of incentive to react a certain way when the stimulus happens.
- After repeated practice, when you encounter the stimulus, you get the desired reaction.
The image below explains it in a visual way.
It’s fairly simple to understand and has been greatly expanded by psychologist John Watson. Now, using this simple concept of classical conditioning I was able to find a quick and reliable way to change my behavior so that I would stop wasting time on certain activities.
The simple trick
First, we need some required materials. For this one, you will need the following: small rubber band, notecard, enough pain tolerance for a pinch on the wrist.
Step 1: List all of your time wasting activities on a notecard
Everyone is unique and our sources of wasted time can differ significantly. For this to work, you need to sit and think about all of the ways that you waste time. It can be tough to be honest with yourself, but only you can truthfully answer. For me, this was really easy to list (on a notecard that I keep with me). Being an ultra nerd, I also made a Google Sheet to see the time savings (which I am sharing for you here).
If you go with the sheet, I recommend that you still make the notecard so that you can keep it with you.
Step 2: Wear a rubber band on your wrist and “remind” yourself when you are wasting time
This is the fun part. When you catch yourself doing one of your time wasting activities, just grab that rubber band and pull it back a bit before letting it go. Yes, it does sting a bit but so does any kind of real progress. Hopefully, you won’t catch yourself doing this 10-15 times per day like I had to.
What’s going on here is that you are using classical conditioning to “punish” yourself everytime you do an undesired activity. So, for example I woke up a few weeks ago and pressed the snooze button. Right after, I gave myself a nice stinger with my rubber band. Today, I wanted to press snooze really badly but cringed right before I did. I then woke up and got my day started fifteen minutes earlier.
This may sound inhumane, but it only hurts slightly and is brief. Now I have more time in my day because I associated my snooze button with a painful reaction.
Step 3: Build the habit and reduce reliance on the rubber band
I know what you’re thinking -- “How long do I have to do this for it to work without the band?” I already did the Google search for you and found that it takes roughly 21 days to build a habit according to research by Maxwell Maltz.
If you followed the steps above, you’ll see that we’re doing nothing more than identifying time wasting activities, creating a negative consequence for when we do it, and following through for 21 days to build the habit.
This trick allowed me to spend an additional hour and a half per week doing things I care about (like working out). For some time wasting activities you may need to do some planning or take additional measures. Just imagine what you will do with all of your extra time!
Post Script: I found a really great way to stop wasting time on Instagram with a new “trick” that only took 1 second to do, see below.