4 Quick Time Investments That Are Totally Worth It

Sean Kernan

There are simple, easy things that make your life better, that might even seem painfully obvious. Yet most people don’t do them.

Swap in these habits and it will make your life more efficient and free of tension. You’ll better connect with people.

And you won’t be late.

The peril of infinite distractedness

The tall man spilled 80% of his chocolate smoothie across the pickup counter. It was a huge brown lake.

The manager, Andy, who I know, was pressing down to hide the anger on his face. I only noticed it because I know him so well; I’m at this Smoothie King every morning after my workout.

The man who spilled also got a paper towel and started helping clean it up. He’d been playing on his phone, not looking at the smoothie as he reached to grab it.

Then, as he walked out, he was still playing on his phone, and he dropped his wallet on the ground. I went and picked it up and followed him out and gave it to him.

When I went back in, it was just the two of us. I said to Andy, “I haven’t seen you look that agitated.”

He said, “This happens a lot. Someone isn’t careful, spills the smoothie, and then looks at me like I owe them a free smoothie.”

“I offer them 50% off but I have to cover my costs.”

“It’s always for the same reason too — they are playing on their phone.”

I instantly recalled my single days. I lost count of how many women I met, who were checking their phones mid-date. Even when they were having fun and interested in second dates, they still couldn’t go without checking their phone. I eventually met a woman, Jill, who I found myself complimenting because she went on a whole date without playing on her phone.

It is a pathetically low bar for praise.

More broadly, people have lost the ability to do just one thing. To be in the moment. To enjoy the person in front of them, to fully complete the mundane task of picking up a drink without knocking it over. They’ve become unintentional cats.

Embrace the idea of letting the remaining world fade away as you zone in on one thing at a time.

When you talk to someone, don’t let anything else steal your attention except for what they are saying. When you sweep, hold the broom, look at the ground, and sweep. You’ll learn to get into a flow state and boost your attention span. You’ll get the job done sooner and get that time back.

Don’t let that pocket demon disrupt you and drag your day out.

The other issue

There were always a few savages on each commute. Someone is late to work and so they fight to claw back that time on the road. They honk at us within .001 seconds of a light turning green.

Then, they roll down their window and shouted at us as they pass, even though we are obeying the law.

We have a massive road rage problem here in the US. One study showed that the more bumper stickers a car has, the more likely they are to engage in road rage incidents. In Russia, this is partly why so many cars have dashcams — it’s insurance against road rage incidents, accidents, and scammers.

But to the point: Punctuality is a virtue. If you running behind, don’t use the road, and its inhabitants, to claw back that time to your convenience.

Sometimes, you must accept that you are late for something, and that it isn’t worth risking your life and ruining other people’s morning to change that fact.

Also, if someone is raging at you on the road — don’t pull over and confront them. It’s one of the most dangerous things you can do.

Always stay busy in the kitchen

Just after my divorce, I had to start cooking for myself more often and even grew to like it to some degree.

This skill was particularly useful when I began dating again (it might seem obvious but it’s worth iterating: women loooove when you cook for them).

The thing that is painful about cooking is the cleanup — that alone justifies going out to dinner for many of us. The trick is to clean while you cook. Often, there are a couple of minutes when you aren’t actively engaged with your stove. You are just standing there.

It's the perfect opportunity to make use of that time rather than get juked by social media.

Clean pans off while they're hot. The food comes off easier. Get the process started because — it’s harder after you eat. The couch is comfortable. You get that post meal buzz and crash that makes a mountain of dishes even more daunting.

I always try to clean a little bit each day. If you let things pile up, it makes cleaning feel like an insurmountable task. I also try to clean up a bit before a trip. It’s awful coming home to a trashed house.

Just ask simple, specific questions

It works in so many situations.

If you are getting to know someone, it gives them a reason to talk about themselves, and it gives a reason to listen and a way to practice listening.

Great listeners are disarming because they are so rare. They listen to understand, rather than wait to talk.

You can even ask questions to influence someone. It’s damn near impossible to change someone’s mind. But when you ask them questions, you can help them change their own mind. You would be amazed how how effective empathetic moments of true attention, directed at someone can be.

I have a pet peeve with people who never bother bothers to ask you anything about your life, and who always steer every conversation back to themselves. It reflects selfishness and a me-centric worldview.

A recap for memory (for me as well)

  • Give someone your undivided attention. Embrace the power of doing only one thing at a time. It boosts attention and focus.
  • Clean while you cook and always do a little each day.
  • Be mindful of your time. Don’t claw back time and resources at the expense of others.
  • Embrace the power of asking someone questions with true intent, curiosity, and insight that shows you have listened to what they’ve said.

And please, please don’t check your phone in the middle of a conversation.

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