The #1 Way to Make the Most Out of Every Day

You have roughly 16 hours from the time you wake up in the morning until the time you go to bed at night to make the most out of your day. Even excluding the time you have to spend for work, chores around the house and various other responsibilities, you’d still think there would be enough time to do everything you want to do.

But I know it doesn’t necessarily work that way. Many years ago I’d regularly go through several days in a row where time flew by without accomplishing anything. So I came up with a way to take time back. Now when I wake up in the morning, I feel as if every day provides an opportunity to get the most of what I want out of life.

Ask Yourself This One Question

The first thing I did was observe myself for several weeks. I noticed I wasn’t using my time in the best way possible. There were a surprising number of unproductive things crowding up my free time that left little for what I really wanted to do. I just never noticed before because they were so embedded into my day I had no idea how much time they were taking up.

The trouble is many unproductive things like watching TV, surfing the internet and video games can shut off your brain and put you into a semi-hypnotic state. This is why “time flies” and you don’t realize where it all goes. Unless you actually keep a time log of all the things you’re doing, it goes by so quickly you underestimate it.

I turned things around by developing one consistent habit. Whenever I started doing something, I’d ask myself this question:

Is this the best and most desirable use of my time?

What I like about this question is that it breaks you out of that hypnotic state so many time-wasting activities can put you into. Plus if you find yourself saying “no” to the question, it makes you feel as if you should take action and change what you’re doing. After all, if you’re not making the best use of your time, you’re just wasting your life away.

My overall goal was to stop doing as many activities that didn’t meet at least one of these criteria:

• Makes my life better somehow in the long run
• Teaches me something new or develops a skill
• Helps me reach a dream or life goal I have

Replace Bad With Good

The more and more I asked myself if I was making the best use of my time, the more I realized how many time-sucking activities I was engaging in. I’m sure you can recognize many items on this list:

• TV
• Social Media sites like Facebook and Twitter
• Surfing the internet/YouTube
• Video Games
• Checking e-mail frequently throughout the day

These areas were the big things crowding my time. Whenever I started doing them, I asked myself that question. Once I admitted that it wasn’t a good use of my time, I took action to change to something else. So instead of spending hours each day on something like watching TV, I cut it down to less than an hour.

Eventually I found myself with a lot more time to make the most out of my day. I now use that time to accomplish things I really want to do such as writing, working out, meditating, learning new skills, planning my next travels and reading. I’ve also started some projects that I’d been putting off due to a “lack of time”.

As the days passed, I started to do the unproductive activities less and less and started up many other things I’d always wanted to do but never had the time. For instance, I started to teach myself French. This also put my TV watching time to better use because now I use it as a tool to learn the language by watching shows in French.

Make Each Day Great

It’s amazing how much differently my days go by now that I’ve cut out some of those activities that were taking up so much of my time. I don’t watch much TV anymore and I rarely play video games. It’s reached a point to where I haven’t become invested in any recent TV shows for years. I have too many interesting things going on to start watching any new programs.

I think if you were to watch what activities you spend your day doing and consistently ask yourself if what you’re doing is a good use of your time, you’ll be able to make the most out of each day too. As you cut some things out, you’ll make room to do other things you’ve always wanted to do. It’s a simple change, but you might just be amazed at all the things you can fit into a day.

What’s something that takes up your time that you could get rid of? Anything you’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t found the time to do yet?
photo credit: Alan Cleaver

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Comments

  1. You are so right about how easy it is to have time slip through your fingers with nothing to show for it. I had to uninstall solitaire from my computer. It wasn’t really enjoyable, but I found myself playing it way too much.

    My job is going through a slow phase right now, so I have a lot of free time during business hours. When the slow down first started, I found myself wasting a lot of time. Now each day I plan one self improvement goal for the day. I’ve taken many webinars, and I’m working towards a certification that will help me in my current job, as well as open up many new avenues in the future.

    • I know what you mean about solitaire. That game along with other casual games can suck so much time throughout your day because they are so addicting. I tend to stay away from them altogether. In fact, I don’t even know if my computer has solitaire installed or not. I just never bothered to look for it.

      Setting one self improvement goal each day sounds like a great idea. There are a lot of things you can do online or offline to develop skills or learn something so you should never really run out of things to do.

  2. Hey Steve,

    another awesome article and you are so right to highlight making the most of every day (and I’d even go so far as to say eery moment). I often say that every moment in life is a moment you will never have again. (so why waste it?).

    Some downtime (e.g. TV etc) is of course OK, but in general if you limit this time significantly then you will enjoy it even more whilst making more space for other great things to do (as you so rightly say).

    I love the idea of making space in our lives for the things and the people that we really care about and it is so easy for so many of us to unwittingly fall into the habit of simply wasting time.

    I love many points you make in this article and agree with all of them. Take back your time, learn something new every day, appreciate all of the things every day and every moment has to offer and you will be rewarded in many ways (including health and financially too).

    I can certainly relate to the idea of watching TV in French to also learn a language – I do a lot of that too, also reading books in French or German to practice and learn these languages.

    • sorry – I meant ‘every moment’, not ‘eery moment’ ;-)

    • You’re right that some downtime is good for you. I think it is good in moderation, but if you’re spending hours watching TV every night, you can probably cut some of it out and make room for other more productive activities.

      It’s amazing how much time you can find if you just observe yourself for awhile and see what you spend your time on. It really is about making space. One thing that I found interesting is how I feel about how I spend my time in general. I really can’t go back to watching TV or playing video games for long periods of time. Even when I’m in the mood for them, I can only last for a short period of time before I feel like I could be doing other things.

  3. I did an interview with Joel Runyon from The Impossible Blog once, and this stood out for me. He said:

    “If you sleep 8 hours a day and work 8 hours a day, you still have an extra 8 hours.”

    It looks so simple and real, like whoa, we have an extra 8 hours a day, even if you’re stuck with work, responsibilities and whatever.

    Even if you don’t use the extra 8 hours for something productive, I think putting in the effort with just a couple of hours, even 1 is good enough!

    • You’re right that even one hour a day can be good to do those things you want to do. Think about what you could do if you focused one hour a day following your passion or pursuing a dream of yours. You’d be pretty far along into it after awhile.

  4. This is cool. Js

  5. Steve,
    you make some really good points. I used to be really guilty of wasting time but out of necessity, (being on the road and travelling) has served as a natural remedy to wasting time.it’s forced me to really prioritize my time and become rather efficient. However, i’m still really bad with email. I check it too often.

    The one thing i’ve noticed lately is that I am guilty of spending too much time cooking. I know that sounds weirid but cooking is my relaxation and i sometimes overdue it and spend hours in the kitchen. My family doesn’t mind so much…. LOL

    • Hey Annie,

      I know what you mean about traveling as a remedy to wasting time. For some reason, when I’m on the road I get a lot more done than usual. For me, it is because traveling breaks you out of your rut and some of the bad habits I’ve built up within it.

      As far as cooking goes, I don’t think it’s that bad a habit. You’re building up a skill and being productive. Not too bad really.

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