The Great Time Suck

Of all the excuses why someone doesn’t get something, anything done that bothers me more than any other is TIME. It’s much easier to blame something than to admit that you lack discipline, accountability or some other personality trait. And since time can’t say, “You’re full of $*@#, we all have 24 hours in a day”; I’m here to tell you about it.

Here’s comes some tough love: You do have time, you just don’t prioritize it correctly. That’s the truth. It may be hard to hear, but you know that’s correct.

We all have the same 24 hours each and every day. All of us. There is no exception. So why is it some people can accomplish a seemingly impossible amount of tasks in one day, and others would be lucky just to get the mail out of the mailbox that day? For the most part, it’s because the latter has fallen victim to time sucks.

What are time sucks? I’m glad you asked!

Have you ever got lost in the wormhole on YouTube and looked up and an hour went by? Time Suck. Have you ever scrolled through your Facebook feed and realized you really haven’t look up in quite a while? Time Suck. Have you ever “binge watched” something on Netflix and next thing you know your Sunday is all but gone? Time Suck.

You get the idea. Time sucks are anything that you do that mindlessly occupies your time and you get little to no benefit in return.

With the advancements in technology, time sucks are becoming more and more commonplace. Today, we’re more interconnected than ever before. We have limitless information literally at our fingertips via smartphones, you can talk to anyone around the world face to face (i.e. Face Time/Skype) with just a few taps or clicks on our devices, and you can connect to almost anyone in the entire world via social media. What a time to be alive! But as this becomes more and more normative, we’re now beginning to see the ill effects of our “instant information/gratification” culture.

Let’s take social media for example. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. They’re all ways to connect us with others, and in theory we should be more socially advanced and connected than ever before, right? Wrong. Studies are now showing evidence that because our social interaction is becoming more exclusively on our smartphones or devices, we lack the real-life interpersonal skills that humanity requires to have a high functioning society.  Just look around. You see it everywhere! Go to any restaurant and look at the people around you. Chances are more than 50% (or more) have their faces buried in their phones. No talking, no interacting, nothing. They’re stuck in a time suck. Some research has linked correlation between social media use and high rates of depression and anxiety that is plaguing the population today. Seems counter-intuitive right?

Ask yourself this: when is that last time you ever felt good about yourself or the world around you after you got off social media? It’s crazy to think that something designed to make it easier to come together is driving people further apart and even affecting their mental well being.

Now I’ll be the first to admit, social media takes over a significant portion of my time. However, there are time I am using it for business, education, etc. Want to know how much time you spend on social media? Do this if you have an iPhone.

go to settings > battery > scroll down to battery usage > click the little clock on the right > scroll to your social media apps and see how much time you spend on social media per day or per week.

WAY more time than you thought, right? When I saw how much time I was spending on social media (literally hours), it made me angry. There was so much time WASTED that could have been put to good use elsewhere. I decided right then that my social media usage was going to drastically change.

Why do we get stuck in time sucks?

Let’s take the social media example again. Why is it so easy to get lost in the Facebook feed? Because it’s designed to make you get lost in it. Same with Instagram, Twitter, Netflix, YouTube and any other popular media platform. These programs are all designed to eliminate “stop cues” and keep you engaged as long as possible. A stop cue is something that gives your brain a chance to essentially say “OK, it’s time to stop this and look for something else to do.” Things like books have chapters that end, movies have credits that roll, songs fade out and stop. They’re all stop cues that your mind sees as a signal that this stimulus is done and over with. All those social media platforms don’t have stop cues.

The Facebook feed is endless. The Instagram feed goes on forever. Netflix has an automatic play function for the next episode. YouTube has an automatic play feature where videos just keep coming. Crazy right? All of these platforms want you to be engaged with them for as long as possible. Why? Simple. More time spent on their platform, the more popular they become, and more popularity means more money.

How do we get out of the time suck?

As mentioned before, I’ve taken it upon myself to start severely limiting my social media usage (my biggest time suck). Here’s some of the steps I’m taking to do so, and steps you can use to start eliminating time sucks from your life.

Start by slowly eliminating the time spent in each time suck. Just like changing a diet, if you stop the bad habits cold turkey, you have a higher likelihood of returning to the old habit. Reduce the time spent by just 30 minutes to 1 hour the first week, then increase as the weeks pass

Create your own stop cues for the platforms that don’t have them. Set a timer on a clock that is out of reach so when the timer goes off you have to physically get up and turn it off. That way your brain is forced to break free from the time suck loop and reset.

Eliminate the notifications on your phone for the apps that are the culprits. You can completely terminate any notifications from the apps in your settings. DO IT.

Figure out the times when you’re most likely use the platforms and purposefully plan other activities during that time to eliminate temptation. Is Sunday evening when you binge watch Netflix? Go for a walk instead!

I enjoy traveling to places with poor internet service. It forces me to stay away. Interestingly enough, my outlook on the world has seemed much more positive without the constant barrage of doom and gloom you see on social media these days.

My challenge to you is to recognize your biggest time suck and find a way to eliminate it! Replace it with something positive, and something that will benefit you in the end. Remember to start slow, but the most important thing is to start! Once you’ve freed up some extra time, find something to do that betters you as a person. Meditate. Go for a walk. Talk to the stranger next to you. Go to the gym (I know a guy…). Grab lunch with a friend. Share your time with others. You won’t regret it.

Put the phone down and look up. There’s a beautiful world out there just for you.