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7 Ways to Reclaim Your Time by Letting Go of Non-Essential Tasks

Your time is valuable — so focus on what’s essential.

pathdoc/Shutterstock
pathdoc/Shutterstock

When we were kids, time usually went really slowly. Summers seemed to stretch on for ages, and one rainy day could feel like an eternity. Then at some point, the opposite happened — months started running into each other and there were never enough hours in the day. It doesn’t help that we currently live in an overworked, overscheduled, and overtired society that views exhaustion as a badge of honor. (For the record, it’s not.)

At some point, we have to draw the line and reassess how we’re spending our time. Chances are that some of the projects, tasks, and activities we think are integral parts of our lives are actually non-essential. One of the keys to reducing stress and avoiding burnout is to cut out the stuff in your life that doesn’t need to be there.

We asked the Thrive Community to share the non-essential tasks they have given up to reclaim their time. Here are some of our favorites:

Spending time and energy on other people’s drama

“I don’t get caught up in drama. If it arises in conversation, I politely excuse myself and move to another place, space, or frame of mind.”

—Beth Derrick, lifestyle coach, Dallas, TX

Blaming yourself

“I have learned to be more forgiving of myself if I don’t get it all done. I focus on what’s most important and that includes the people in my life and self-care. Instead of stressing about checking all of the boxes, I focus on the quality of my life.”

—Karen Swim, public relations consultant, Shelby Twp, MI

Activities that aren’t worth your time

“When it comes to reducing or eliminating non-essential tasks I have two filters. First: Is this task worth my time? Would I pay myself to do this task? Is it worth giving up time with my family, in my business, or doing something I love? Second: Does this task ‘spark joy?’ Does it serve my work in business? Does it light me up? Does it bring me pleasure or satisfaction? Based on these answers I can determine if my time is worth investing in this area or if I’m better served by outsourcing. For example, my hourly billable rate is higher than a gardener. So it’s not worth my time to do that work, but if I loved gardening I may still choose to do it. For the record, I don’t, so I happily employ a local company to do this work for me so I can get out and be with my kids, work on my business, or go for a run or mountain bike ride — things that light me up and serve my work.”

—Gillian Goerzen, author, speaker and coach, Nanaimo, BC

Worrying about outcomes you can’t control

“I’d spent so much wasted time worrying about outcomes that I have little or no control over and I finally realised it was time to let that crap go. I’ve spent so many nights worrying about something I couldn’t control. But now I’ve realised that was a complete waste of energy. I’ll tackle one day at a time and enjoy it while I’m at it.”

—Brian Canavan, coach and author, U.K.

Tasks you can outsource

“I gave up cleaning years ago. I gave up laundry on a regular basis (unless there is an immediate necessity) in the last 10 years. Most recently, I gave up feeling compelled to drive my kids to all of their activities when I wasn’t tied up in a meeting or physically at work. Just being able to do this comes from a place of privilege. I feel guilty saying that I have these privileges, because I recognize the inequalities that exist in our society. But I’m also away that research shows that if we can off-load tasks, it adds to our personal happiness and well-being.”

—Kristin S., social awareness entrepreneur, Lexington, KY

Watching a lot of TV

“One thing that I have given up to gain more time is watching TV. Every time I switched it on, it devoured massive chunks of my time that I could have spent studying, out in nature, writing, or doing any other activity that could have been way more productive than just sitting and staring at the screen.”

—Eugenia, life coach, Budapest, Hungary

Time-consuming grooming

“I have given up blow drying my hair and putting on makeup. As a mom of three with two businesses, my hair and makeup routine was an hour of my time that is better spent meditating, reading or being productive in other ways. Instead, first thing in the morning I look at myself in the mirror and remind myself of my own beauty and strength — no makeup or blowout is necessary for this belief to manifest. I do occasionally get a blowout at a salon when I need it for events or appearances but not ‘making my face up’ in the morning saves so much time and pressure.”

—Daniela Kelloway, entrepreneur, Toronto

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