Waste Time, Not Energy

“I believe in wasting time, not energy.”

This was the prime quote from, by far, the best conversation I ever overheard two people having on the subway.  It was between a pair of guys who boarded the 1 train near Columbia University, and as we rode the local train all the way downtown, I pondered how to put that very idea into practice.

To make a broad generalization, fast-paced, high-functioning people probably also tend to be overthinkers and they can be derailed by all that thinking. But they know that their minds are rich with great ideas and capable of a lot of really great, productive brainstorming... when the time is right. So how can they train themselves to waste time (if they see fit), but not their precious energy?

I have a few strategies in mind:

1. Keep the thoughts slow first thing in the morning.  If you get great ideas in the morning, for sure, write them down!  But like the lyrics to the lovely Jack Johnson song “Banana Pancakes,” wake up slow.

2. Is a problem or something that’s causing you to think immediate, as in, in front of you, or requiring action or strategy at this moment?  Alternatively, if you need to brainstorm on a problem or issue, do you have a pen and paper in your hand?  If not, thinking about it is probably tapping your energy reserves and not moving you closer to the solution.

3. Don’t talk to people who aren’t there.

(Doesn’t this one blow your mind?!  Alas, I can’t take credit for it.  My mom taught me this one, and I think she heard it from someone when she was in her early twenties)

4. Keep in mind that you are not your thoughts.  There is a fun, easy exercise in the book the Untethered Soul: Say “Hello!” in your head.  If you can hear that voice, then clearly that voice is not you.  Your internal monologue is simply a ceaselessly chattering roommate.  In an ideal world, we’d all train ourselves to learn to quiet our inner roommate (or at least teach them to only say nice, encouraging things).

5. Simply be aware that you can be capable of depleting your own energy levels.   That awareness alone might be enough if you want to create new habits of thinking (or rather, not thinking) so you can preserve your stores of energy for doing what you do best as you go about your day.