13 Ways to Waste Time -- and How to Get It BACK!

09/29/2015 02:47 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2016

My writing partner Paul Kraly and I decided that while we were still not suffering from triskaidekaphobia, we'd brainstorm a companion piece to the recent blog "13 Ways to Organize and Save Your Sanity." Here are 13 everyday time-wasters and suggestions on what to do instead. As the old adage goes "ᅫ퇘왜ᄡ£ᄑ봬ᄑ £ᄐトᅫ뽸뫠ᄑ" (nothing in excess), which appears at Delphi, and that works for time-wasting too!

1. Learn something useless. Funny thing about triskaidekaphobia. There are so many reasons why people have taken a dislike to this number. It goes back to Hammurabi's Code (or maybe not, as it was a clerical error), the Vikings, early Christians, the arrest of Jacques Du Molay and the Knights Templar, Apollo 13, Jason Voorhees (however, to be fair, his mother was the killer in the first "Friday the 13th"). See all this? This is all pretty much information you will never need to know, unless you wind up on Jeopardy.

Instead, learn something meaningful to you. Learn things that are important in your daily life, or enhance your hobbies. For instance, if you're a good cook, read and try a new recipe. If you like a weekend drive, check for exciting or interesting events going on in the area.

2. Spend countless hours on YouTube. The average length of a YouTube video these days is about three minutes. Combine that with the fact that after you watch one video, YouTube happily informs you of scores of others you might like too, and suddenly you could be staring at the screen all day.

Instead, limit the number of videos you watch. Set a time limit and stick to it. Videos with hundreds of thousands, or millions of views aren't going anywhere, and you can actually choose the option to "Watch Later," and bookmark the ones that appeal to you. Also, if you use Google Chrome, Safari, or Opera as your browser, you have YouTube options available under Appearances, and you can select "Hide video suggestions." Now you won't be asked if you'd like to watch something else!

3. Never turn off the TV. Sure, it can be a friend, companion, or secret lover, and there's a lot of channels to sift through, but again think about your time. A movie on TV will usually last around two hours, while a series episode goes on for 22 to 44 minutes. Even with energy-efficient HDTV models these days, it seems pointless to leave it incessantly blaring if you're not around.

Instead, make your own personal TV guide. The internet can help you find out what's going to be on for several days in advance. Look up the shows and movies for the week you absolutely can't miss, then keep the schedule close to your TV. This is a great way to limit your TV viewing, watch what you really want, and get on with the rest of your life.

4. Read all the junk emails in your inbox. Honestly, how many daily emails do you get that promise you the sun, the moon, the stars, the golden apples of the west, and the perfectly sized... um... cucumber? A corollary to this is to read all the junk in your snail mail too.

Instead, clear away the junk. Your email software should have a spam filter or junk folder. Check to see what is available, and use them. Empty your trash folder daily also, so you don't get tempted to read anything you tossed out. Tell your postal carrier to put you on a no-junk mail list -- unless you're like me and use them to pick up spills or the cats' little accidents. It saves on paper towels and they can be very durable.

5. Get lost. It's rude to be late to anything, and finding yourself on a dusty, deserted road, with no idea where you are, is a terrible situation. We spend a good portion of our lives out on the highways and byways, driving aimlessly, looking for exits, following the wrong directions. It's wasteful, and if you're late to a very important meeting, shameful.

Instead, get your destination. There is no excuse anymore. A GPS or Google Maps function on your smartphone, your laptop, or even in your car is more than capable of getting you where you need to be. We always call where we're supposed to go, if we don't know our way around there, and ask someone. Usually they can tell us if there's any major construction going on that might cause delays or detours too. Print out any directions and keep them with you -- preferably not on the seat next to you though. A good rule is to consult them only when stopped. Better yet, have a friend navigate, especially for longer rides.

6. Stand in line and wait. It's tough not to. A recent article claimed Americans spend about 37 billion hours a year standing in line for something. What better way to spend quality time than standing there, grumbling, and complaining until everyone else in line wants to hit you, or be so obnoxious that you embarrass yourself, your companions, and anyone in the vicinity?

Instead, make the best of time. I've gotten into the habit of keeping a paperback I really love inside my purse. My smartphone has video player capabilities, so I can watch Netflix or something. If lines are really long at checkout aisles, especially at grocery or department stores, I've actually gotten out of line and re-shopped for about five or ten minutes, and when I returned, the lines were gone or much shorter. It's impossible not to wait for things. All I'm saying is, it's not impossible to still get some other things done while you wait.

7. Excessively post on social media. Like YouTube, some websites out there seem designed to dazzle you with countless social outlets to comment, complain, vent, or rage. Facebook, Tumbler, Reddit, Twitter, all of these have a major internet presence, and with them a seemingly endless amount of people, places, and things to write about. You can actually spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week on one of these sites, for the rest of your life, and never see everything.

Instead, pacify your posting. Of course, it's probably impossible to cut yourself off cold turkey, especially if you have loved ones and good friends to talk to. But when people carry on whole conversations online, when they could be using a phone, it boggles the mind. Also, I've had it with social justice warriors. These are people who do nothing but rant or flame over something terrible that happened thousands of miles away from them and is of little personal concern -- and in some cases, the incident never even happened. (So, if you must rant about something, check the facts first.) Use common sense and limit your time in the social media jungle, and then get on with your real life.

8. Go to the gym and do nothing. You too can pay a monthly fee to stand around waiting for Mr. or Ms. Right! Don't laugh. I've seen this happen so often. People go to the gym, planning to swim, or jog, or lift weights, and for one reason or another just... don't.

Instead, incentives! Write down some of the things you would like to do at the gym. Next to each one, make a few notes as to why you want to do them. For instance, "lifting weights -- build up my arms," "swim in the pool -- get my tummy more trim," "jog a mile -- great for heart health." Don't be too concerned about who's watching you, or what they're doing. You're at this gym for your body, not someone else's -- although noticing a hot body or two is perfectly fine. Mmmmmmm,

9. Take a good, long nap. Crash on the couch for a few hours and sleep until it's time for dinner, then scarf down the food because you're starving, and then wonder why you're still wide awake at 3 a.m.

Instead, go for the second wind. We all get tired. Train yourself to just rest, not to fully sleep. A good time limit is 15 to 20 minutes for a "cat nap," just enough relaxation to ease pain, shake the cobwebs, and then get you jump-started. The minute you're on your feet, do something. A quick walk or drive, a chore around the house, something that'll keep you active, and avoid another "nap" until bedtime.

10. Lose something, then waste hours tearing the house apart to find it. It never fails, does it? A misplaced document, a set of keys, a phone. Any personal or important thing you own could be there one moment and gone the next, especially when you need it most, and quickly.

Instead, relax and relate. First off, stop and take a deep breath. Don't think about what you're looking for just now. Let it completely leave your mind for the moment. Now, slowly go through your house or room, as if you're cleaning things up a bit. If the missing item is usually in the kitchen, wash a few dishes. If it's in your office, do a little spring cleaning and organize things. Try not to think about what's not seen, and look at what you see. Your mind should be able to free-associate. I'll give you a good example. If you lost your uncharged phone at home, think about the people you've talked to recently and where you might have been. You might remember talking to them while looking at a painting on your wall. Maybe you even talked about it. Head for the painting and what do you know? There's your phone, on a bookshelf beside it.

11. Watch the news incessantly. In the 24-hour/7 day a week news cycle, it's easy to get caught up in the inanity of the candidates, the crimes, the wars, the anguish. There's just too much going on, and now there's way too many outlets in the world to cover them.

Instead, look at the local. See what's going on in your city or neighborhood. Go to a city council meeting and see what's important to your life where you live -- not several hundred, or even several thousand miles away. Sure, if you have relatives who are in a newsworthy hot-zone at the time, by all means keep up to date on what's going on. But keep in mind, this doesn't happen very often either. You have your own existence to worry about, so if you or your loved ones and friends aren't the topic of CNN News, get on with your life.

12. Talk to telemarketers. Mess with their heads a little, lead them on, and basically be a jerk to them while they stay on the line, hoping you'll buy whatever they're selling - or give them the money they're trying to scam from you.

Instead, refuse, delete and hang up. Why do some people find it so hard to say "no"? There are a few ways to get on no-call lists, either through the Federal Government (https://www.donotcall.gov), or by asking the caller to add your number to a list. Most smartphones and internet phone services have block capabilities as well, for scammers or ex-boyfriends. If you don't want something, say so. Inform them of your lack of interest, ask to be taken off the list, wish them a good day, and hang up. It's really that easy.

13. Think up other ways to waste time. You're at the end of your blog, and you have no idea what to write, so you sit there and stew and mull and puzzle until you work yourself up into a tizzy, and you end up letting valuable time pass right by you.

Instead...

You know what? This was a silly blog.

I'm off to the gym to swim a few laps and maybe meet Mr. Right. Ya'sou!