Stop Waste

Bill Abbate

It is not uncommon to attack areas of waste in the business world. But what about areas of waste in our lives?

Eliminating waste in business can save considerable money and time. Eliminating waste in your life can save something far more valuable!

Read on to learn more!


The one thing you can waste far more valuable than anything in business is your life. And the lives of those for which you care.

Do you know how much of your life you will have wasted when you reach the end? I squandered far too much of mine in more ways than I care to confess.

But what exactly does it mean to waste life, and how do you find these areas of waste?

Finding waste in life

“Time is the coin of life. Only you can determine how it will be spent.” Carl Sandburg (1878–1967)

To understand what this waste in life is, let’s examine life so far and where we want our life’s path to take us. This line of thought brings two questions to light.

  • How good are we at identifying where we have squandered portions of our life?
  • How good are we at determining where we want our life to go?

It is easy to identify the big wastes in life. Wasting life is tantamount to wasting time. In my mind, life takes on more meaning than time, as it is more personal. You will see the word life often used in this essay, with time thrown in on occasion.

The largest amount of wasted life from my past is clear in hindsight. It always is.

For years I practically lived between airports, rental cars, and hotels. My daughter was young, and I kept an insane pace for too long after she left home. Sure, I had the typical excuse — who doesn’t want to be a good provider for their family after all?

I now realize how much life I missed with Charlotte, my wife, and our daughter. When Charlotte died of cancer at 51, this wasted time hit me particularly hard. My daughter grew up far too fast, but then they always do.

A major regret in my life was not carving out more time for the two people that mattered most when they were alive. Because of my position in the company, I could have worked and traveled less. Unfortunately, I chose not to.

Yet the past is past. There is nothing we can do to change what was. We can only learn from it and try not to repeat our mistakes.

Beyond looking at our past, we must consider the life we have remaining. Let’s examine what we can do in the present and future by exploring various opportunities to reduce wasted life and live a fuller, richer existence.

Areas of waste

“Short as life is, we make it still shorter by the careless waste of time.” Victor Hugo (1802–1885)

Waste is not always obvious and requires slowing down to give it some thought. If you never slow down to consider how you might be wasting life, you can become stuck on the same treadmill as most people. There is ample opportunity to examine the crucial areas where waste can occur. Some of these include:

  • Rarely slowing down to think and plan
  • Staying in your comfort zone
  • Being too negative
  • Not appreciating life
  • Never taking time to smell the roses
  • Living in the past or the future
  • Fostering the wrong mindset
  • Worrying about the small stuff
  • Being undisciplined
  • Overindulging
  • Overusing your strengths
  • Not working on yourself
  • Never planning what you want to do, where you want to go, and where you will wind up in life
  • Forsaking learning
  • Not saving for your future
  • Not maintaining a healthy lifestyle

These are only a few areas of waste and opportunity, and I am sure you can think of others. It would be a simple matter to write an essay on each of the above items, but for the sake of brevity, let’s look at a few as food for thought.

Example 1 — Rarely slowing down

How often do you take time to slow down and think? Most of us are guilty of not doing this. In our busy, instant-everything world, we can reclaim some of our lives and sanity if we slow down occasionally.

By slowing down, you can step back and look at what you are doing and what is happening in your life.

You will gain a better perspective when seeing the forest instead of only a few trees. When you slow down, you can make better decisions about what you are doing or should be doing.

Practicing mindfulness techniques can add tremendously to your life. Most great leaps forward come from slowing down, not from non-stop activity. The bottom line is you will reduce wasting life when you take the time to slow down and think about it.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” John Hughes (1950–2009)

Example 2 — Fostering the wrong mindset

There are two fundamental mindsets in the world. One is called a fixed mindset, and the other a growth mindset. When you continuously develop your growth mindset, you unearth tremendous opportunities to take back your life and reduce waste.

Think about it — a fixed mindset restricts your life with the fear of failure. It stops you from moving forward to new things.

A growth mindset opens you up to learning, trying, and failing. When you are in a growth mindset, you know failing does not make you a failure and is part of growth. A person with a growth mindset wastes far less time, especially when it comes to worrying.

Example 3 — Never planning

Planning is one of the best things a person can do to reduce waste in life. Dale Carnegie once stated an hour of planning saves 10 hours of doing! Imagine how much time and life are wasted by not doing this simple thing.

Each of the above areas is a weakness. But what about your strengths?

Example 4 — Overused strengths

This final example is an area in life often overlooked. With any strength you develop, you can do more harm than good when it is overused. Knowing when to reign it in and when to release it is crucial. For many people, overused strengths create significant waste in life.

A few often overused strengths include:

  • Diligence
  • Leadership abilities
  • Persuasion
  • Pursuit of money
  • Enthusiasm
  • Discipline
  • Patience
  • Determination
  • Creativity
  • Dedication
  • Problem-solving
  • Socializing

Again, most of us could easily write an essay or even a book about each of these overused strengths!

Following are a few examples of overusing your strengths to begin considering.

  • Diligence — Some put so much time and effort into work they ignore what is essential to life in the long run. Avoiding using breaks, making time for the family, taking vacations, or ignoring your health can waste a great deal of your life, especially the quality of it. And we do it all in the name of diligence. As mentioned previously, this area created great regret in my life. Please don’t let it happen to you.
  • Pursuit of money — While this may sound strange to some, I have known more than one person with a real problem with money — having too much of it! Some people can be so good at making and saving money that it becomes an overpowering focus. This strength can easily be overused, always seeking more instead of enjoying it with your family. Why deny them a good lifestyle in the name of making and saving more? As the old saying goes, you can’t take it with you, so why not use it before you die? Any time you allow yourself to get so caught up in making money, putting everything else behind, you lose. You can lose your family, health, friends, and many other things that make for a good life. By hoarding money, you restrict your life, creating enormous waste.
  • Creativity — I have struggled with overusing my strength of creativity many times, and it is an area well worth working on if you are similar. We all know highly creative people who constantly move from one thing to the next without completing their last project. They become like a builder, building foundations all over town but never putting up buildings. Doing such a thing will ultimately bankrupt the builder, as it will your life.
  • Socializing — I have met some people who are so strong at socializing they make friends instantly. While it seems odd, many so-called people-oriented individuals often neglect those most important to them. Overusing this strength can cause tremendous waste of life, especially when it leads to socializing with so many they ignore their spouse and children. Too many of these friends seem to end up in divorce.

Final thoughts

“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” Harvey Mackay (1932-present)

Developing the skill of reducing waste in your life is vital if you want to live the best life possible. The tragic thing about wasting life is you can never get it back. But it is never too late to start working on reducing this waste.

Give some serious thought to a few areas of life to begin reducing waste. You only benefit from wasting less of your invaluable, precious life. What could be better than that?

I wish you a full, satisfying, fruitful, and healthy life with as little waste as possible!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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