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Top Five Time-Wasting Activities

Written by Matt Jabs - 32 Comments

Time = Money…

…so if you’re wasting time, you’re wasting money. Keep this old adage in mind as you read through this article.

“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.”

-Harvey Mackay

As you consider what I’ve written, please keep in mind that you can always earn more money, but you can never earn more time. From birth, the precious time each of us is allotted begins slipping away. Whether you are a homeless, alcoholic bum or the the President of our great United States, you only have so much time.

How are you using the time you have been allotted in this life?

Please note that some of these “pastimes” may be used properly and productively but, more often than not, they’re nothing more than time sucks. In other words, while they may be fun or beneficial in some ways, they’re far from being a necessity.

Top five time sucks of the average American

1. Watching TV

There exists no device or “leisure activity” that wastes more time than the old boob tube! Don’t believe me? The following breakdown lists the average number of hours that Americans spent watching television in 2007:

  • Men = 4hrs 35mins
  • Women = 5hrs 14mins
  • Teens = 3hrs 21mins
  • Children = 3hrs 25mins

Have you had a chance to see the movie Wall-E? Well… If we don’t change our habits, we’ll soon be a country of obese shut-ins just like in the movie.

Or are we there already? After all, we currently nearly double the television watching statistics of any other country in the world. Now that you know this, get out from behind that time sucking vortex and go do something productive!

2. Internet

A close 2nd to TV, is the sometimes glorious, sometimes notorious World Wide Web! This is by far my biggest time drain. Yes, I use it for business, but I also waste a lot of time playing around with this virtual cornucopia of information.

Self-restraint and time management practices are absolutely crucial if you wish to utilize the power of this beast without letting it steal away untold hours of your precious time. I could go on for days about this, but a few of the biggest time sucks are social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. Trust me, I know first hand.

3. Gadgets

  • Mobile phones: These little suckers have been popular for less than 10 years, and yet they’re everywhere! Don’t believe they’re a huge time-waster? Next time you’re waiting in a public place, take a look around and check out how many people are staring into these hypnotic little electronic goodies just-a-wastin’ time away.
  • Video games: If you’re not careful, you can spend 10 hours straight trying to “beat” or “solve” one of these little buggers. Sure they’re fun, but in the hands of the undisciplined soul… They can quickly become your purpose in life.
  • iPods: From the first time you contemplate the purchase an iPod – whether you admit it or not – it sucks a ton of your time… And for what? You research the purchase, research the best price, make the purchase, read the manual, play with the device, install the software, play with the software, search through your worthy CDs, rip your CDs, download music… You get the picture. It may be fun… But this is a huge time suck.
  • HDTVs: Like other gadgets, one can spend a tremendous amount of time researching, saving for, shopping for, setting up, learning, tweaking, and paying off this impressive piece of modern technology. At the end of the day, HDTVs are very nice examples of human ingenuity, but they do little in the way of helping us reach our goals.

4. Sporting events

Although I’m a huge football fan, I have to admit that watching sporting events is a huge time suck for the average American. One example is fantasy football. You would be amazed at just how much time one person can spend playing a fantasy sport!

I would have to say that I used to spend at least 10 hours/week setting up my team. I then spent another 10 hours per week watching games, checking scores, etc. What was in it for me? Nothing but entertainment — and bragging rights.

Do yourself a favor. Turn off the TV, put away your foam #1 hand, and go spend some meaningful, quality time with your family and friends.

5. Personal appearance

Yes, it’s important to be clean, presentable, and dressed appropriately, but…

Many people take their personal appearance to such an extreme that they spend the better part of every day consumed with how they look. This near obsession with personal appearance can, in many cases, be tied to a lack of self-confidence brought on by things like a constant barrage of advertising.

Our consumeristic society wants us to BUY BUY BUY, but what’s truly important in life? The 20 pairs of shoes and 50 different outfits in the closet? Do yourself a favor. Reduce, simplify, focus on necessities, and stop spending so much time trying to impress others with your appearance.

Unless you’re something like a fashion model, copious amounts of shopping, primping, and posing will not help you accomplish anything of lasting value.

In closing…

As I noted above, some (if not all) of these things can be used properly or productively but, more often than not, they are nothing more than a waste of time.

Less popular alternatives include: working, giving, volunteering, loving, reading, studying, learning, hobby-ing, journaling, goal setting, and goal striving. That said, it’s important to remember that nearly anything can become a time suck if you let it. Moderation and balance are the keys.

Published on September 24th, 2009 - 32 Comments
Filed under: Productivity

About the author: is a thirty-something IT manager and blogger who wants to help himself and others get out of debt. He writes about personal finance and debt-free living at Debt Free Adventure.

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32 Responses to “Top Five Time-Wasting Activities”

  1. 1
    Alexandra Says:

    For me, I don’t differentiate much between reading for pleasure and any other form of entertainment. Someone tucked away in bed with a romance novel is somehow wasting less time than someone watching Biography on television? I don’t think so.

    Your last sentence sums it up nicely – balance and moderation (even in tv watching) are the keys.

  2. 2
    George@Moneylounge.net Says:

    I agree that the 5 points are time sucking activities. But your closing section confused me a bit, with everything being a ‘time suck’ and ‘moderation’ is key. Is anything considered not a time suck?

    Are our lives just a compilation of time sucking activities? If so, why don’t we just strive for our few passions and enjoy those few instead of achieving a balance?

  3. 3
    Matt Jabs Says:

    Please, don’t confuse this post. Take it for what it is…

    A call for each of us to stop wasting time on things that don’t matter and start spending time doing things that do.

  4. 4
    Justin Says:

    I agree with the five listed above. I’m guilty of at least the top 4. I don’t spend much time picking out clothes. However, I will say gadgets may save me time at some points, especially when stuck in traffic or waiting for meetings.

  5. 5
    Nickel Says:

    George: I don’t think that the point here is that everything *is* a time suck, but rather than anything can become a time suck — if you let it. For example, Matt recommends things like work in place of TV watching. But I would venture a guess that Matt would be strongly opposed to becoming a workaholic — i.e., letting work suck up all (or at least too much) of your time.

    As Matt points out in his comment (#3) it’s important to figure out what matters (to you!) and then pursue those things while skipping over the stuff that really don’t add value to your life.

  6. 6
    Craig Says:

    I agree, TV and internet kill me with time wasting, I always think there is something else I should be doing whether reading, work, be active or something. But sometimes after work at night all you want to do is be a little lazy.

  7. 7
    Corporate Barbarian Says:

    You can have my remote when you can pry it out of my cold, dead fingers! Seriously, I do watch too much baseball and football. We usually Tivo our favorite shows, and watch them at our convenience, less the commercials. That saves some time. But it is by far my biggest vice.

  8. 8
    Kevin@OutOfYourRut Says:

    I find that when I’m busy and productive, there’s no time for TV, and I don’t miss it. It’s filler of the highest order.

    Now, if I can only detach myself from the computer…

    (Just being dramatic here. When you have a website, the internet is where you spend much of your time anyway. But the time seems to pass so quickly when you’re there!)

  9. 9
    memewithoutdebt Says:

    I don’t believe in such a broad generalization of categorizing TV, internet, game as time wasting . They can all be productive, relaxing and social. It all depends on how you use them. Don’t you think tailgating with family and friends is meaningful social activity?

  10. 10
    Paul @ FiscalGeek Says:

    Fortunately for me #5 involves finding a semi-clean pair of jeans and t-shirt, done. One of the perks of the job, but dang I can be the time suck king. Curse you Top Gear! I’ve just been thinking more and more lately about what it is that I really want, and it’s a new vocation so somehow learning about the twin V8’s of the Bugatti isn’t going to help me in that regard unless I start my own Auto site.

  11. 11
    Matt Jabs Says:

    @mewithoutdebt – from the article:

    “Please note that some of these “pastimes” may be used properly and productively but, more often than not, they’re nothing more than time sucks. In other words, while they may be fun or beneficial in some ways, they’re far from being a necessity.”

    And again:

    “As I noted above, some (if not all) of these things can be used properly or productively but, more often than not, they are nothing more than a waste of time.”

  12. 12
    pat Says:

    “Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save”

    ( — Will Rogers)

    “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time”

    ( — Bertrand Russell)

  13. 13
    Jim Says:

    I think the problem is differentiating what is simple normal leisure activity and what is wasteful. Where do you draw the line? Is 4 hours of TV “too much” or is 2 hours?

    I think the context is important. If I’m working 40 or more hours a week, spending time with firends family, keeping the lawn mowed, attending church, etc. then why is it “wasteful” to spend 4-5 hours watching TV?

    Plus I think its important to realize that any kind of leisure activity is really no better than another. I personally see no more benefit in reading or scrap booking than I do in surving the net or watching football. So to suggest one is a time suck and recommend replacing it with another is showing a preference for one leisure activity over another. We all have our individual tastes in leisure activity and what is fun for one person isn’t fun for another. No leisure activity is more ‘right’ or wrong than another.

  14. 14
    Matt Jabs Says:

    @Jim: This article is written to get people thinking about what they waste time on, not to preference one activity over another.

  15. 15
    Tyler Says:

    I find internet message boards to be one of my biggest time sucks.

  16. 16
    George@Moneylounge.net Says:

    @Matt and Nickel: Thanks for the clarification!

  17. 17
    Ellen / Money Lounge Says:

    How about just multitasking? You can watch tv while you update your iPod, and check your email on your phone.

    But seriously, I have to agree with your point. We only have so much time, so why waste it on these unimportant things. Furthermore, the time you spend texting, or on the internet, or watching tv is time that you are not spending with someone who might have a lot less left…

  18. 18
    Matt Jabs Says:

    @George My pleasure! :-)

    @Ellen – HA HA! My wife & I were JUST talking about multi-tasking last night. She said the same thing to me and I said, “baby… I’m a man – I do one thing at a time and give it my full attention!” :-) Past that, what you left in your comment is of GREAT value – a call to consider the time of others and how much they may have left. Excellent, thanks for that.

  19. 19
    Patty Says:

    That list can truly make you think.

    I did curb some tv watching – Mother Nature sent lightening through the cable (now on a protected line). It scared the dickens out of the cat and he sat on the remote from that point on!

    Since I didn’t want to buy a new TV and this one had still some of the warranty left – I took it to the shop where it sat for four weeks beging repaired. It was a little tough at the beginning, yet by the end of four weeks I had found other great items to do – and truthfully – they were activities that involved personal attention to others. IMO – better quality!

    Thanks for the lively discussion!

  20. 20
    Kathleen Says:

    At college I realised one night that I’d just spent 3 hours in front of the tv and I would never get that time back, so I made a rule that I couldn’t sit in front of the tv without doing something constructive – paperwork or translation or writing or mending or drawing. Now, of course, the constructive things distract me and I don’t turn the tv on (I wouldn’t have one at all anymore except my sister moved in with me and brought hers).

  21. 21
    Jesse Says:

    Ah just TV/movies and maybe Internet for me. I don’t usually get on the Internet by choice but work where I am on the net all day long I sometimes feel like I’m wasting away. I also go to online college so I have to be on the net for that too, but really I think I just need to kick TV.

  22. 22
    Financial Samurai Says:

    I love college football, but feel highly unproductive if I don’t do anything else for the 3 hrs. Hence, I like to surf and write during the game.

    My goal is one 3-hr football game = 1 post, 150 situps, and 90 push ups. :)

  23. 23
    Matt Jabs Says:

    @Jesse: All I can tell you is… it is a hard habit to break, but the less I watch the happier I am – no joke.

    @Financial Samurai: Ha ha! Way to waste time productively! :-)

  24. 24
    Hank Says:

    Great post! The last two really caught me by surprise and are definitely a different idea on the normal tips. Thanks!

  25. 25
    Jesse Says:

    @Matt Jabs
    Thats for sure. I usually do something else while watching TV so I don’t feel too wasteful but still, it saps the time like nothing else…

  26. 26
    Clark Griswald Says:

    I’m certain I spent more than 4 hours and 35 minutes watching TV in 2007.

  27. 27
    John DeFlumeri Jr Says:

    You hit it on the head, all 5 times! If our our kids knew it.

  28. 28
    Ferne Says:

    My husband watched so much TV that he used to get stuck in front of it upon entering the door from work. When I got divorced (ah ha) I had a new younger boyfriend and NO TV…guess what we wasted our time doing???

  29. 29
    Hepworth Says:

    You call that a list? Ha.
    Actually, you hit a good lot of the big ones. I have a few more on my site, but it’s more geared towards putting the PRO in procrastinators. A “how to” of wasting time.

  30. 30
    Accountant Directory Says:

    We all waste so much time on a daily basis that it’s amazing. Put a pop-up on your computer that asks – “are you being productive or just wasting time?” This will help.

  31. 31
    Accountant Marketing Says:

    Everybody needs to make a conscious effort to stay productive during the day. Wasting time can be the enemy to the business owner. If you try to save at least an hour a day you will see huge returns.

  32. 32
    Virtual CPA Says:

    The fact that you realize that you are wasting time is the first step. Many folks don’t even realize this. Saving time is something you need to may a conscious effort to do.

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