6 Tips to Avoid Wasting Opportunities

One of the major areas that I’ve seen massive change in my personal life and career in the last 3 years or so, is becoming more effective with my time, and not wasting as many opportunities.  Maybe this was an inherited result of becoming a father with the time commitments that come from it, or my difficult (and ongoing) ventures into entrepreneurship.  Or just maybe I’m overthinking it and it was plainly and simply realizing how precious time is and how easy it is to be inefficient with your time.

Since then, I’ll admit I’ve had an increasingly hard time biting my tongue when I hear people complain about how “busy” they are, or tired, frustrated, whatever.  My brain always wants to scream out, “Dude, we’re all right there too!”  What amazes me the most is how controllable these situations are, and yet, how so many individuals act as if they’re not in control of their time usage.  It’s crazy.

As I think back through some things that have made a profound difference in my life and work processes, I wanted to throw together a bit of a more “personal” post on this topic.  By the way, I know in the title I mention “not wasting opportunities”.  This is broad, I know, but in my albeit biased opinion, not using time efficiently is directly correlated to why you (or I, or anyone) wastes opportunities.  This is far too often missed and underemphasized, hence my compelling duty to write about this.  I plan to tackle this list very quickly, so let’s do it.

1 – Don’t waste time.  Every single thing you do, should be asked the same questions.  Does it create value in my life?  Value for others?  Is it necessary for my daily survival?  Do I have a choice?  Should I be doing something else instead?  You get the drift, and there’s other questions I’m missing of course, but the POINT of this exercise, by the way, is to identify if you’re missing out on opportunities or other activities, because you’re putting mindless or unnecessary activities as a higher priority.  I hate to say it but so many of the “I’m busy” complainers, aren’t that busy, they just waste a lot of time.

2 – Apply the 5-Second Rule – I saw this technique recently, pioneered by Mel Robbins, and was blown away.  I highly encourage you to check it out.  The premise is simple, Mel argues that we all have a small window of time (5 seconds) to decide if we “feel like” doing something.  After that, it’s impossibly hard to convince yourself to do it.  She says in her TEDx Talk: “If you don’t start doing the things you don’t feel like doing, you will wake up one year from today and be in exactly the same place.”  This premise is powerful.  Make the small, easy decisions simpler than you do now.  Again, goes back to not wasting more time.

3 – Be confident, and start putting more value on your time.  This one is huge, and I was so incredibly guilty of this.  I would admit that at times I allowed myself to get taken advantage of with regards to time.  It became so frustrating and stressful.  Attending every meeting, often without an agenda, never asking questions to identify why I should attend.  Taking meetups with friends and associates, always on their schedule, on and on.  YOUR time is valuable.  Act like it.  And by the way, I am NOT talking about skipping class or blowing off a meeting with your boss because you “think” it’s not important.  I mean this topic to be far more internal to yourself.  If you treat your own time as important when you are distinguishing how you spend it, you will inherently be more productive on the things you want to do.  Start there, and then move to setting more boundaries with others who ask for your time.

#4 – Get a routine and stick to it.  I love hearing people argue that disorganization is a sign of genius and a messy schedule, desk or work life is “creative”.  That’s crazy.  First, you’re probably not a genius, and being scatterbrained and disorganized is not a “creative work”, no matter how you spin it.  Speaking of creative, some of the most creative minds take this “routine” thing to the uber-extreme.  Rumor has it that the likes of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg go as far as wearing the same outfit every day to help them focus on the more important tasks at hand.  The point is, having a routine and plan will help you succeed in what matters, and miss less opportunities for positive work.

#5 – Act Responsible.  This is so basic.  Act as if you are responsible for how you spend your time.  Because you are.  Don’t pretend someone else is ordering your time around.  You can get a new job if you don’t like the time spent on the one you’re in.  You can stop watching Food Network if you don’t have “time” work out.  It’s a matter of priorities, that’s it.  Be responsible for your time.

#6 – Treat More Things Like Investments – The last point here is to treat time as if it has real, cash value in your life.  Groom it and treat it as if you were investing every dime you have into that time.  In a way you are.  Treat your college classes as if you were paying for them out of pocket right there – again, in a way, you are.  Treat your company’s resources as if you were the owner.  And, most importantly, treat your own personal time as if it actually matters to you.  Sometimes merely looking at time commitments and making a “value” decision on it will help you say “no” to time wasters and “yes” to the things that you should be spending time on.

These are just my thoughts and learnings over the past 3 years, but I have seen a direct result in productivity, work improvement, and better time management in my life.  All of which make a profound positive impact in quality of life.  Find the ways you can better leverage your time to not waste as many opportunities.  Regularly keeping yourself honest in these areas is huge.