5 ways to limit junk time and take control of your day
Updated: Mar 16, 2020
Okay so I want to keep most of my posts strictly related to the application of exercise science to the common gym-goer, so this article is already an outlier, however I aim to make my articles quite juicy on the topic so they take some time, I'm working on a big one at the moment and I've been procrastinating a fair bit this week.... Therefore, this article will serve as a quick reminder for not only yourself, reader, but also me to keep focused on what you want to achieve with your limited time.
Junk time has been taking up too much of my days recently. Junk time is anytime where you're not really serving any purpose, just wasting time. Looking in the fridge 5 times in a row hoping there will be more food, checking my phone, overthinking things and all other things that cause you to suddenly lose an hour of time are all examples of junk time. Playing video games for me is not junk time because it helps me feel comfortable and have fun, I place that under the "entertainment" category. Playing with my doofus dog Teddy or skittish kitty Alby are "entertainment" as well because they help me enjoy the moment and calm me down. Some things can be both "entertainment" and junk time depending on how it is used. Listening to music on the train can be a cathartic experience for me but if I just put it on out of habit and don't even enjoy listening then it becomes junk time which could be spent better elsewhere such as listening to podcasts. "Entertainment" time should also be limited but at least if I spend hours on entertainment I feel like I'm relaxed and ready to produce more work. Spending hours on junk time just makes me more stressed, craving relaxing "entertainment" time but with even less time to do the things I want to do. I think it's important to make this distinction between things you enjoy and behavioural patterns that are sucking up your time and turning it to junk.
With that out of the way, here are 5 ways you can limit your junk time:
1. Identify your vulnerable times.
The first thing you can do right now is to think back over the past week to all the times when you felt like you wasted your time and write down any patterns that you see. For me, I know that if I pull out my phone while sitting on the toilet I'll be there for at least 10 minutes or straight after waking up I can end up lying in my bed for way too long on my phone. Sometimes just identifying that "oh, I usually end up wasting a lot of time in this situation" can be enough to change your behaviours. But if it isn't...
2. Make yourself accountable.
Agree to do something with another person at the times when you're most vulnerable. If you know that spending too long doing nothing will upset another person and reflect badly on you, you're more likely to avoid that behaviour. For example, ask to meet up with a friend straight after your vulnerable times or set a post schedule for your blogs so you know you have to work on it after your naps. I know I find getting up difficult when I have nowhere urgent to be but getting out of bed for my work is a lot easier for me because I know there will be consequences if I show up late. Put yourself in a situation where there will be consequences for junk time and see how much you change your behaviours.
3. Set alarms/reminders.
Have you ever gone down a social media black hole? Clicked on one youtube video then found yourself watching your whole recommended section? Clicked on a Facebook notification to find yourself scrolling the news feed? Checked Instagram to find a friend and got distracted? Social media is deliberately designed to be as easily addicting and thoughtless as possible to get more people on them daily. Luckily most of them are acknowledging how predatory this can be and at the very least have a setting to remind you every 15 minutes to take a break. This can be absolutely lifesaving. Find it in the settings section and turn it on for 15 minutes. Every 15 minutes when the reminder pops up: lock your phone, look up and ask yourself if you are enjoying what you're looking at. A lot of the time I find that when I stop and think about it I'd rather be doing something else than watching clips of Tom Holland being Tom Holland for 4 minutes and 26 seconds. If you're on computer you can also get websites which automatically close the tab for you after a set amount of time which I found to be helpful such as www.minutesplease.com.
4. Avoid Danger Apps.
Okay admit it, we all have apps or websites that we spend way too much time on. For me it's Reddit. If I open the Reddit app, no matter what things I had planned to do for that day, I will straight up lose an hour of my day. I don't even think I really enjoy it and I definitely can't remember much of what I did for that hour, but it is so damn addictive that once I've opened the app I'm pretty much hooked. So it's simple: unless I have an afternoon to waste, I don't go on Reddit. The app has been kept off my home screen so I have to deliberately go searching for it to find it, too. I know basically the only time my mum will stay up late is if she opens up Spider Solitaire in the evening. Everyone has that one thing that keeps them hooked, so it's simple, just avoid the real danger apps unless you're prepared to get your time consumed.
5. Remember your days.
As Socrates once said "A life not reflected upon is a life not worth living" (Or something like that, my 5 seconds google search came up with some varying results). At the end of the day look back on what you did that day, what went well and what didn't. You don't need to go over every single detail in your head but just acknowledge what has passed. Why, you ask?
Picture this: two people have a day off. Person 1 sits around on the couch having a Star Wars movie marathon and eating their favourite food with some friends. Person 2 Sits around on the couch looking at other people on their phone with some netflix show on in the background that took them 45 minutes to pick that they're not even sure what the main plot is.
They've both essentially done nothing all day but one of these people has a great day getting some Rest and Relaxation in while the other person is merely passing the time before they have work the next day. Person 1 is doing something that they love (even if it isn't necessarily a healthy binge) whereas Person 2 is just accumulating junk time. At the end of the day Person 1 can look back and be happy with what they have accomplished (getting through all 9 Official Star Wars movies, lol good luck, but also enjoying their favourite food and hanging out with friends) whereas Person 2 will look back and hardly remember what they did with the previous 24 hours.
If you find yourself not remembering where all your time went, and not getting in enough productive time, try out the previous 4 steps to try and reclaim the time you lost to junk.
So there you have it, 5 of my best tips for minimising harmful junk time. If you boil it down they all come down to different methods of being mindful; throughout the day ask yourself this question "Do I really want to be doing what I am doing right now? Am I enjoying it as much as I can?" If the answer is no then close it down and go do something productive.
Like finish writing up that blog post on recovery after exercise.... Okay that's enough mental coaching through personal anecdotes Daniel, back to what this website is about: scientifically based information for the common gym goer! New article on recovery coming in a week's time. (or two...)
Need more help with bad habits taking over your life? I recommend checking out www.headspace.org.au to read up more or get in touch with someone who can help