What’s the Best Use of My Time Right Now?

by John Soares on January 24, 2011

If you want to be successful in life — whatever success means for you — and if you want to be happier, you must ask yourself this crucial question many, many times a day:

“What’s the Best Use of My Time Right Now?”

Ask this question to determine:

  • What to do more of
  • What to do less of
  • What to eliminate

It’s especially useful when you’re doing some passive activity that’s actually giving you little or no pleasure at the moment, yet you do from force of habit, like…

  • Checking your e-mail for the nth time today
  • Checking for new blog posts, tweets, mentions — anything to take you away from what you should be doing
  • Turning on the TV for “just a few minutes”
  • ________________________ = your major time wasters

The best use of your time often isn’t doing something to improve your business or career or something that’s clearly “productive.” Often it should be:

  • Exercising
  • Walking outside to look at birds, trees, the sky
  • Connecting with someone you love
  • Whatever makes you feel more alive and just plain happier to be on the planet

So What’s the Best Use of Your Time Right Now?

Tell us below — or just go do it.

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Hajra January 24, 2011 at 10:30 AM

I always have a book to read…it can be about anything. I think for me, the best use of my time is to read a book. Also, the one you mention – getting back in touch!

Nice post!
Hajra recently posted…5 STUDY HABITS NO ONE TOLD ME ABOUT!


2 John Soares January 24, 2011 at 12:01 PM

Hajra, I’m also an avid reader. I mostly read nonfiction, so I learn a lot from books. Reading is a great way for me to rest my brain from my work activities.
John Soares recently posted…3 Reasons Why You Should Co-Author


3 Melissa Dinwiddie January 24, 2011 at 10:59 AM

Such a simple question, and so important to remember! I ask myself this question many times a day.

How appropriate that you left a comment on my blog today, with this post live on your site, as I skirt the edge of burnout. :)

Short, sweet, and smart.
Melissa Dinwiddie recently posted…Weekly Review 42- In which our hero is still skirting on the edge of burnout


4 John Soares January 24, 2011 at 12:04 PM

Melissa, I smiled when I saw read your post and realized my post was quite relevant to the to-do list you have to deal with right now. Figuring out the most important thing to do at any moment is the best way to avoid overwhelm and beat burnout.
John Soares recently posted…Top 10 Ways to Generate Great Ideas


5 Melissa Dinwiddie January 24, 2011 at 12:25 PM

You’re so right. It’s not always easy to keep what’s most important *right now* at front of mind, what with all the seemingly urgent distractions out there. Thanks for a great reminder, with this post, of how to do that!
Melissa Dinwiddie recently posted…Weekly Review 42- In which our hero is still skirting on the edge of burnout


6 Tamiran January 24, 2011 at 11:41 AM

This is one of the teachings of my favorite author and motivator Brian Tracy.

I like how you relate that question to modern work life. Being more aware will certainly boost our productivity.

I think I will print this question out, frame it and hang it on my office wall so that I can see it everyday, many times a day.
Tamiran recently posted…Interplak WJ2CS Compact Rechargeable Water Jet


7 John Soares January 24, 2011 at 12:05 PM

Tamiran, posting this question prominently in your office is very smart. Even when you’re not consciously aware of it, your subconscious is.
John Soares recently posted…Download my Podcast on Freelance Writing for College Textbook Publishers


8 Brankica January 24, 2011 at 1:01 PM

Hello John,
first time visitor here :)
I used to spend so much time checking e-mails, and I have so many that it took forever to log in and out. I am using an e-mail client now to manage them all and that is helping a lot. I stopped watching TV completely and the only time I do watch is to see a movie I really wanna see. Nothing more.
I love reading so I think that is a great way to spend your time.
Also, having a new pup, it takes some time to play with her which is the sweetest time ever. Did I say play…no I meant chasing her around the yard screaming “don’t eat thaaaaaaaaaaaaat”….
Brankica recently posted…Sweet Sunny Saturday 1


9 John Soares January 24, 2011 at 6:48 PM

Brankica, I’ve also done away with regular TV. I only watch a few selected shows and movies through Netflix, and that’s just the one-at-a-time plan.

And I’ve had two golden retrievers in my life, the last one passing away in July, so I know the absolute joy puppies can bring — and the frustration.
John Soares recently posted…What to Do If You Take a Blogging Break


10 Cindy Bidar January 24, 2011 at 1:22 PM

Hi John, this is my first visit as well.

I love this question. It’s so simple, yet it makes you truly question whether you’re doing what you need to be doing. I can see where it might help me stay on track while working, but I also think there’s a benefit to NOT making the best use of your time. Sometimes goofing off is as important as using your time wisely.

Thanks for the thoughtful post today. I’ll be sure to visit again.

P.S. That’s an interesting specialty you have. It’s not what most people think of when they think of freelance writers, but I bet it’s interesting!
Cindy Bidar recently posted…5 Opening Paragraph Strategies- or Why You Should Stop Writing for Search Engines


11 John Soares January 24, 2011 at 6:52 PM

Cindy, I totally agree that there are times we need to totally goof off. I just think we need to choose it with awareness that it’s what we truly need and want at that moment and not just an excuse to procrastinate on important things.

And yes, I love my freelance specialty of writing for college textbook publishers!
John Soares recently posted…Why Freelance Writers Should Specialize


12 Dave Doolin January 24, 2011 at 10:23 PM

Sales calls.

Closed a sale today.

All this blogging I did for a year that everyone seems to think is such a problem provides me with *massive* credibility when doing workshops. And closing sales.

So that’s the best use of my time right now.
Dave Doolin recently posted…5 Tips for Social Media- Strategy First- Tools Second


13 John Soares January 25, 2011 at 8:51 AM

Dave, sounds like you are definitely clear on your priorities and exactly what you should be doing.
John Soares recently posted…What Magazines Do You Read


14 Debbie @ Happy Maker January 25, 2011 at 11:19 AM

Hi John,
This I like, “Whatever makes you feel more alive and just plain happier to be on the planet”
this is using time wisely,
Thanks John


15 John Soares January 25, 2011 at 8:12 PM

Great words Debbie! Thanks for sharing them.
John Soares recently posted…Download my Podcast on Freelance Writing for College Textbook Publishers


16 Andrew @ Build Blog January 25, 2011 at 12:24 PM

Great question, John.

Best use of my time would be spending it with friends over dinner and a beer!

Andrew @ Build Blog recently posted…Positive Bloggers Only Need Read This


17 John Soares January 25, 2011 at 8:09 PM

Andrew, you and I think a lot alike!
John Soares recently posted…Why Freelance Writers Should Specialize


18 Delena Silverfox@YouLoveCoupons January 26, 2011 at 5:02 PM

Checking email for the nth time is my downfall. Half the time I don’t even know why I’m so obsessed with it, either! I rarely get the emails I’m looking for, anyway. Mainly just spam.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to streamline my life. It’s not so easy with a five month-old at home, but I do the best I can. Most of the time, working from home, I just feel bad I can’t give her as much time as I’d like.
Delena Silverfox@YouLoveCoupons recently posted…iContact Coupon Code


19 Laura Brandenburg January 28, 2011 at 8:40 AM

Checking email and checking blog stats are my downfall. I’m getting better about email, consciously just shutting it down a few times a day. But blog stats seems like a harder habit to break. Any suggestions?
Laura Brandenburg recently posted…Coming Of Age- Building BA Capabilities In 2011 And Beyond


20 John Soares January 28, 2011 at 10:33 AM

Laura, I have all automatic e-mail notification turned off. I only check e-mail 3-4 times a day, usually after I’ve finished a major task.

I only check my blog stats once a day, usually first thing in the morning for just a couple of minutes. About 1-3 times a month I look at blog stats in-depth to look for patterns and think of ways to enhance my traffic.
John Soares recently posted…Top 10 Ways to Generate Great Ideas


21 Tom McGuire January 31, 2011 at 11:34 AM


You covered ’em all! Nice thoughts about valuing precious moments in life that are not necessarily geared toward increasing your wealth (but definitely your spiritual abundance!)
Tom McGuire recently posted…PT REYES- SINBAD CREEK &amp STEEP RAVINE- Three Fun-Filled Days Hiking- Biking- Birding- and Whale Watching in Classic California Style


22 Blase Ciabaton February 5, 2011 at 7:43 AM


What a thoughtful and timely post-thanks for sharing! This is my first time visiting your blog as well. I believe that time is absolutely the most valuable resource that we have. With 4 young kids and as the sole bread-winner in my family, I think about this a lot.

Like other commenters, I really enjoy reading and watch almost no TV. To better manage my time and avoid e-mail distractions, I’ve unsubscribed from almost all e-newsletters and instead use rss feeds as a way to stay on top of blogs that are important to me-I use Netvibes, but there are many other free reader options available.

My job requires me to spend quite a bit of time in the car each day, and I’ve found that listening to podcasts on topics of interest is a fantastic way to make productive use of time behind the wheel.
Thanks again! Blase


23 John Soares February 27, 2011 at 9:07 AM

Blase, I’ve also put nearly all website subscriptions in my feed reader, and I’ve created special folders for the most important ones by niche.

And we both like listening to podcasts in the car. I just recently bought a series of audios on Roman history.
John Soares recently posted…The History of Social Networking — Plus My Story


24 Veronica Cervera November 16, 2011 at 5:20 PM

I always try to prevent downtime, like waiting for something and not doing anything while at it. I hate those. That’s why I always carry my kindle or my iPod whenever I’m expecting times like those so I can at least read or listen to an audiobook or just plain music.

Time is something we never get back, why waste it? :)


25 Tahlia Newland December 16, 2011 at 5:34 PM

That’s it, I’m off for a walk. My brain is too fuzzy for work to be productive anymore


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