Are you wasting your time and energy? Check your fuel tank

If it helps you become more disciplined, think of each hour of the day as a penny you get to spend.

In the 21st century, both time and energy are in short supply.

Many of us have plenty of food, maybe even too much. A lot of us have decent shelter, although it’s gotten more expensive. But we struggle getting everything done, day to day and week to week. After time with our kids, our partner, work, laundry, the yard, the house, shopping, cooking and cleaning, we are short on time and energy for ourselves.

After all of those “to do’s,” we’re out of gas. Each of us only has so much vitality, both physical and mental. Some of this is constitutional — don’t you just hate how your friend always seems to be on the go but never looks tired? They’re always ready to do one more thing. Some adults are gifted with constitutions that have a lot of fuel in their tank. Others, maybe not so much.

Other factors can influence our energy level too — diet, quality of sleep, health status, and the worst offender — age. I can’t help but notice that as I have gotten older, my energy has declined. Now I have more time, but not always enough energy. It’s not fair.

So, we have to be thoughtful about activities that waste time and energy. And, we have to be aware of how to improve our vitality. Some of it’s just common sense. But then again, sometimes we all can be on our own worst enemy.

Here are a few things that can waste your time:

Social media, texts and video games. Handheld devices can suck the life out of you, but more importantly, they suck time from your day. Is it really necessary to take pictures of your meals and post them on Instagram? Do you have to respond to every text you get from every friend or family member right away? How much time do you spend scrolling through social media looking at trivia? Exercise discipline. Use the time for something more enjoyable.

Television. Sure, I like to watch a movie here and there. But binge watching a Netflix series can rob you of hours. Sometimes, we’re just too tired to do anything else but plop ourselves in front of a screen and watch a show. But make sure it’s one that you really enjoy.

Work email. Work is important — but who wants to work 24/7? Set regular times to read and respond to email. Don’t look at your device every time your work email on your phone pings you. Better yet, consider not having work email linked to your phone.

Puttering. A little power puttering is fine. But sometimes, if I’m not aware, I can spend several hours doing a little of this or that, without really doing anything at all.

Here are a few things that can drain your energy:

Eating too much junk food, sugar, coffee, or skipping meals. Yeah, we need to make sure that we put high-quality gasoline into our engines at regular intervals to keep our energy up.

Not enough sleep. All of us need 7-9 hours of sleep to be adequately restored. If we don’t get enough sleep, we are surely going to have an energy crisis that even a quadruple latte won’t fix.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a well-known Buddhist monk, reminds us that every morning we when rise, we are given 24 shiny pennies that represent each hour of the day. Some of these pennies must go toward work and sleep. But be very thoughtful how you spend the ones left over. Each one is precious. Be disciplined about your time and energy.

So, how can you use your time and energy more enjoyably? Think about it.

Paul Schoenfeld is a psychologist at The Everett Clinic. His Family Talk blog can be found at

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