7 Ways to Stop Wasting Life and Start Living It


Stop Wasting Life and Start Living ItWe’ve all heard that life is short.  There’s just not enough time to do everything that we’d like to do.

I know I still have a lot of things I still want to accomplish before I die.  It sometimes seems never-ending.

But the problem isn’t that life is too short.  It’s usually because we’re not using the time we’re given effectively.

No matter how you look at it, there are only 24 hours in a day.  We have to fill that time doing something.  Instead of wasting that time, we should be living it.

Here are some ways to make sure you’re using your time living life to the fullest.

1. Question how you’re spending your time

Steve Jobs once said that he asked one question to himself every single day.

“If today was the last day of my life, would I be happy with what I’m about to do today?”

If the answer was no for too many days in a row, he knew he needed to make a change.

I’ve adopted this habit.  I’ve asked myself that very question every morning for months.  It causes you to search your thoughts and feelings in ways you might not like.

The great thing about this is that you have to acknowledge when you’ve said no for too long.  It’s easy to shrug each day off if you never ask the question.  But when you’ve said no for a long time, it becomes harder to ignore.

2. Quit your awful job

A typical eight hour job takes up 1/3 of your daily life.  If you’re spending all that time at a job you hate, you’re wasting your life.

I know it’s hard to find a job you’re passionate about and we all have to earn money somehow.  However if you’re going to a job you absolutely can’t stand, you need to make a change.

There are also those people who put in 60-70 hour work weeks.  If you love your job it can be worthwhile, but you have to acknowledge that this is a lot of your free time.  It’s not leaving you time to do much of anything else.

No matter how much you love your job, you should make time for other things.  Life has a lot of great things to offer: places to explore, people to meet and works of art to enjoy.  If you’re spending all your time in the office, you’ll miss out on a lot of it.

3. Cut out your negative influences

Are there certain people in your life that drain your energy, fill you with doubt or generally bring you down?  These are your negative influences.

Some people just have a bad view of the world.  To them, nothing good will happen so why even try.  No matter what you do, you’ll never change the negative circumstances.

They’ll try to get you to see the world just like them.  And when you do, you’ll start to wonder why you bother doing anything.

The next thing you know, you’re spending all your time in a bad mood and telling yourself why you can’t do something.

Sometimes it’s best to just cut those negative influences out so you can get the most out of your life.

4. Look at the legacy you’re creating

One day in the distant future, you’re going to wake up on your 80th birthday.  As you look back on the life you’ve lived are you going to like what you see?

That’s the question I ask myself all the time.  Nothing motivates me more than the thought that I will wish I had done something, but never did.

Every day we’re creating our legacy – the things we’ll remember.  What we have to ask ourselves is if what we’re creating is something we’ll be proud of.  Will we wish we had done things differently or taken some chances?

It’s better to ask those questions now instead of years in the future.

5. Start something big

We all have a big goal we’d like to do “someday”.  Why not make someday happen today?

The more you push it off, the more likely you’re making it that it will never happen.

Waiting for the right time to do it is time that’s wasted; perfect times rarely happen so you might as well do it while you can.

I’ve spent a lot of time around older people.  If there is a common regret they have it is this: they wish they had done that big goal when they were younger.  They simply put it off until it was too late.  Don’t let this happen to you.

6. Analyze and reorganize your downtime

What exactly are you doing with your free time?  Have you given it much thought?

It’s surprising how much of our day we waste simply because we don’t know how we’re spending that time.

I remember when I first started watching my free time; I estimated that I watched only a couple of hours of TV every week.  However, when I actually started tracking it, I realized it was closer to 10-15 hours.

That’s a huge difference!

It’s deceptive because you only do a little at a time.  You forget about some of them and it makes you think you’re doing much less than you actually are.

Keep a rough estimate of how you spend your free time and see if there is a time-wasting activity that takes up a lot of your free time.

Then make a conscious effort to do less of it by replacing it with a better activity.  Next time you start doing it, you’ll remember to stop doing it and replace it with the other thing.

7. Create an action plan for the next few years

Every couple of years, I make a plan for where I want my life to head.  It’s just a set of about 10-12 things that I want to see happen soon.

It’s not exactly like a bucket list although there are some bucket list elements to it.

A bucket list would be a list of something I want to accomplish over my entire life.  This list is something I want to accomplish within the next few years.

The items on the list might be something simple like some budget/financial goal or donating some of my stuff to de-clutter my apartment.  They might be bigger like quitting a job or a big travel goal.

Whatever it is, I try to make them all happen.  That way I feel like life is on the right track and I’m always doing things I want to be doing.
photo credit: Matt Gibson

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  1. Great post! I’ve learned the importance of being around people who are positive and desire to use the influence they have to make a difference. It’s true that we become like the people we associate with, either for the good or bad.

    • Energy is infectious. When someone is being positive or negative around you, it rubs off. It’s crazy how that happens, but it’s true.

  2. Steve, what a great list. I like that you mention what Steve Jobs did. Questioning everything is a huge part of my life (now). I think that doing something you love every day is very important. While I love the thought of doing what I love every minute of every day, I know realistically it’s not possible. But, I do a great deal of prioritizing. For example, by getting negative people out of my life, I have much more time. Why sit around and listen to griping and moaning? Ugh!

    I use a replacement theory to fit it all in. When I want to add something to my plate, I have to take something else off. Then I might reallocate the space on my plate: more time for writing, less for cleaning. More time for exercising, less for ____ (I was going to say TV, but we got rid of that too!).

    It’s really rather funny, but you should know that when we’re questioning what we should do in our spare time, I have taken to shouting out, “Do something cool!” So, thank you for that!

    • Oh I love that you do that. I’m going to start shouting “do something cool” when I’m figuring out how to spend some spare time now too.

      I do that replacement thing too. I get rid of something I think isn’t a good use of my time and I put something else that is. Less time doing unproductive things like watching TV means I have more time to do things like write or read.

  3. Steve! No throw-aways on your list of 7. This is rare in a post of this length. Usually, there is some bullshit point that sneaks in there. I am especially drawn to 2, 3 and 5. Quitting my crap job was a game changer in every conceivable way. I got my time back. Bumping out negative people is way underrated and people like to put all kinds of conditions on it. Just do it! It makes a bigger difference than we think. And we used to plan like wussies. That’s boring and breeds regret as you say.

    • A job takes up so much time. If it’s intolerable, you need to change it out. I know it can take time to switch to a new job, but it’s well worth the effort.

  4. I really like #2 on your list: Quit your awful job. Many people hate their jobs yet stay their till retirement or at least for many years. If you feel like you are unhappy everyday and your health is affected, save some money for a few months, update your resume and start looking for some other opportunities. Sometimes, even if you get the same kind of job, but in a different environment it can be a wonderful change for you. No more of those annoying lazy co-workers or pushy boss of yours. A lot of times, it feels good to start from scratch and look into a sea of new opportunities!

    • The environment of the job can make all the difference. It’s not always about the kind of career you’re in. Sometimes a bad supervisor or stressful workload can be enough to make you miserable.

  5. What a brilliant read. The legacy one creates is often the work of years, of imagination and of faith in the dreams that they have had. I think that looking at the legacy I am creating is the single thing that can keep me going.

    • The legacy I’m creating keeps me going too. It can be motivational and make you think in ways about how you spend your times that you might not otherwise.

  6. You never get time back. If it feels like someone is stealing it then do something [cool] about it.

  7. I love the reminder that even if you love what you do, 60-70 hours a week is too much. Michael Hyatt’s guideline of 55 hours a week has helped me a lot, and helped me to not feel guilty for not working more than that at my day job.

    • Yeah, it’s too much when you love your job. But imagine what it would be like if you didn’t love your job. That would be a nightmare.

  8. I asked someone the other day, what have you done worth mentioning the last 6 months? It blew their mind when they sat down and thought about it because they could not think of anything worth mentioning.

    I try to make myself learn or improve on something everyday. Even if its not much progress, its better than no progress. Two years sound like a long time to plan something but time flies by so fast though.

    Legacy is something I think people overlooked because they don’t consider their self important enough u know? Like because there no some big star or something,legacy dont mean anything. My dad thought me to Keep my name good and be a man of your word. As long as people remember me for being a man of word,thats good enough. Which people know me for that now.

    • I’m with you, I try to learn or improve on something everyday. I’m always reading a book (sometimes two) and building skills. Time flies quickly and there are just so many things I want to do.

      I think you’re right that people don’t think about their legacy much. Maybe we just think that a legacy is for famous people. But I know that future generations will look back on what I did even if I don’t become well known. My dad’s hobby is genealogy and has traced our family history back for centuries. He has a detailed list of how our family came together and what they did in their lives. Somewhere down the road, my legacy will be examined similarly.

  9. An action plan for the next few years??!! Scary thought! But it IS a great way to focus the mind and actually DECIDE to do things. The alternative is to look back at life in a few years and make the ‘what if…’ statements.

    I don’t think life is too short – I agree with you Steve – it’s about using the time in the best possible way.

    For me, it’s about doing something bold. And connecting with as many people as possible. That’s it !!

    – Razwana

    • That’s funny. Two years doesn’t seem like such a long time for me. Time goes by so quickly that it seems like it’s just down the road.

      At the same time, two years seems like enough time to make both huge and small changes. It’s close enough to make reasonable plans, but far enough to actually find time to make them happen.

  10. Awesome post man. I’d have to say #4 resonates with me the most and there’s a solid reason why.

    Today I am going on a web show called The Raw Truth About Entrepreneurship. This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this and it scares the shit out of me.

    But when I think about legacy I realize 1) Even if I fuck up today, it won’t be a big deal when I’m older. 2) This show will help build my legacy and create the extraordinary life I strongly desire.

    This couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks bro.

    • Good luck on your show. Those things that scare you the most are usually the ones that you’ll be most glad you did. I remember the first time I did a podcast, I was scared. I wasn’t used to being interviewed before; it was a strange feeling. I’m so glad I did it now though.

  11. I had a conversation with James Altucher on my podcast and he discussed his “negativity diet”. Exactly like your point about cutting negativity out. Just don’t put yourself in situations to deal with that type of thing no matter what.

  12. Awesome tips Steve, I really enjoyed reading. The article provided the little extra motivation I needed at the moment! :)

    Have a good one!


  13. Steve – great post. People wonder “how can I do something worthwhile? Something that makes me feel like I’m not wasting my life?” And because we don’t know how we promptly ‘forget’ about the problem. But this post is a great how-to guide!!

    I especially like #2, which is the work I coach people through. And I would say that if you have a job you don’t like you’re not only wasting your precious time, but your talents and gifts as well.

  14. Great stuff as usual Steve. We’re trying to figure out the whole career thing and its relation to happiness. I think work is a good thing, a necessary thing, but it takes up far too much time to do something that is miserable.

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