4 Easy Mental Tricks To Free Up Hours Of Wasted Time

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guy focusing on work

Most people only have a short-sighted or myopic approach when it comes to achieving more in life.

For instance, they only think about how to do and achieve more this weekend or this month. And the answer is simply to put in more hours of work.

However, when you talk about maximizing what you achieve over the course of a decade, there are other much better mental models than just "put in more hours."

Most people aren’t aware of these mental models; however, they can easily save you years over the course of a decade and decades over the course of a lifetime.

In this article, I want to discuss those mental models. Let’s dive in!

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Here are 4 mental tricks to free up hours of wasted time:

1. Try differently, not harder 

Here’s something that I’ve learned through years of obsession with growth and learning: Whenever you hit an obstacle you just cannot seem to overcome, the answer is to "try differently" and not to "try harder."

A popular example of this is the invention of the Fosbury Flop in the high jump.

Before the Fosbury Flop, high jump athletes used the straddle technique, Western Roll, Eastern cut-off or scissors jump to clear the bar.

But as Dick Fosbury entered the sport, he completely transformed the sport through experimentation.

You see, for a long time, Dick Fosbury was an amateur high-jumper at best. He kept trying harder and harder but he couldn’t improve the height of his jumps.

His coaches told him that maybe, the sport just isn’t for him.

However, Dick was determined to improve and become one of the bests. And so after trying hard for a long time, he tried differently. He experimented.

Instead of jumping over the bar with his stomach facing the bar, he tried something new and jumped with his back facing the bar.

At first, it seemed crazy. His coaches begged him to stop being foolish.

But as he kept trying this new approach, he ended up improving significantly. In fact, he ended up breaking previously held records and now, every athlete in the world uses the Fosbury Flop.

He changed the sport — forever.

It’s true that "trying harder" can lead to small consistent growth that can accumulate over the long term.

However, "try differently" or "experimenting" can help you overcome obstacles and make significant leaps of growth at once.

But the thing about experimentation is doing only enough leaves no room for experimentation.

For instance, if I need to write 12 articles a month to sustain a decent income and I do just that, I don’t allow myself room for experimentation. Because I know I’m writing only twelve articles, and I need to stick to what works.

However, if I write 20 articles when I only need to write 12, I can do lots of experimentation with the eight extra articles I’m writing.


  • Experimentation can lead to the overcoming of obstacles and significant leaps of growth.
  • But you psychologically allow yourself room to experiment only when you take extra action. This is because you can experiment freely only when you’re not afraid of your experiment fails.

That’s why, consistent experimentation permitted through an abundance of action can lead to extraordinary growth over the long term.

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2. Focus on truly getting to know yourself

Most people don’t know themselves very well.

And hence, even if they work very hard in life, it’s possible that they might be working on goals they don’t truly want to achieve.

Consequently, much of that time goes to waste because they end up achieving something that brings them no fulfillment.

Let me tell you a story from my life that shows how self-awareness can save you years.

Ever since I was a child, I wanted to study abroad. To that end, in my second year of medical school, I started studying for the US Medical Licensing Exam so that I can do my residency in the USA. However, due to certain issues, I was not eligible for the USMLE at the time.

So I thought that I’d work on getting eligible later. Meanwhile, just to be safe, I decided that I would prepare for the Indian post-graduation exams.

So I did. And I went above and beyond. I studied obsessively for months and years — and was all set to ace my exam.

However, one day, I met a childhood friend at a cafe and she told me that she was going to the States to pursue her master's! At that moment, I felt a sharp pang of jealousy because I realized that that’s what I wanted too.

Later that night, I dug into my feeling of jealousy and asked myself what I truly wanted in life. After a lot of contemplation, I realized that I wanted to study abroad because I wanted to have a ton of new experiences.

After many, many hours of turmoil, I reached a conclusion. I decided to stop studying for the Indian exam altogether! And started planning how I could study abroad.

As of now, I’m all set to appear for PLAB in November this year — an exam that will allow me to practice medicine in the UK. Something that I truly want in life.

So you see, I’m chasing the right goal for myself right now. But there was a time when I spent months and years chasing the wrong goal — and that too at full throttle.

That’s when I realized that self-awareness can save you years of time in life because otherwise, you often end up chasing the wrong goals.

Hence, if you want to protect your time in the magnitude of months, years, or even decades, focus on getting to know yourself and your desires down to the most intricate details.

3. Invest in headstarts

A few years ago, I was adamantly against courses and coaching. "Why pay someone else? I can figure it out myself," I thought.

But today, whenever I start something new, I always look for a digital course online from a reliable teacher.

For instance, I recently invested in the Handstand and Flexibility toolkits by Matthew Smith because I want to be able to do one-handed handstands and full front and side splits.

Now, I realize that I could figure it out myself as well. I could learn these skills through Youtube — for free.

However, my intention here is not to save money. I care about learning something properly and quickly — because I want to learn many skills in life.

To that end, I’ve found that structured digital courses from reliable teachers help much more than a random incoherent string of Youtube videos on the topic. They provide a headstart to learning and developing expertise that cannot be achieved in any other way.

That’s why, you should always invest in courses and coaching — if you can afford to, of course.

My end goal in life is to earn so much money that I have the freedom to hire world-class coaches for personalized coaching for any skill I want to learn.

That’s a long way down the road. So for now, I make do with courses.

I highly recommend that you too build a mindset of freely investing in courses and coaching.

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4. Remember that consistency trumps intensity

Many people have a delusional ego-tinged instinct for intensity.

I did too.

Whenever such people decided to go after their goals, they choose to go at full throttle.

  • They decide to study 10 hours a day.
  • They decide to have long workout sessions in the gym 6 days a week.
  • They decide to write 7 articles in a week.

However, what they fail to understand is that their intensity while planning is rarely paralleled while taking action. And they often end up doing less than they decided.

Even if they do as much as they decided, they’re unable to keep at it for very long.

This leads to a life that consists of a few strings of days with intense action, interspersed by many, many days of no action at all.

What I’ve learned lately is that while intensity looks attractive in the short term, consistency always wins over the long term. Always. No exceptions.

Planning with consistency might look something like this:

  • "I’ll start studying for 2 hours a day — minimum. I’ll keep at this for the rest of the semester."
  • "I’ll go to the gym 4 days a week — at least. But I’ll make sure to do it every week."
  • "I’ll write 4 articles a week — and then when I can manage that properly for several weeks — I’ll start writing more."

The consistency mindset wins for two particular reasons:

  • First, cumulatively and counterintuitively, it often leads to more hours of actual work done than the inconsistent intensity-biased mindset.
  • Second, long-term consistent action provides a stable mental framework over which you can continue to iterate and grow exponentially. Small bursts of inconsistent action don’t allow you to grow exponentially because there are a lot of gaps in between.

That’s why, rewire your instincts to plan for consistency, not intensity. Don’t let your ego get in the way — and you’ll accomplish more than your ego thought you could.

Also, I’m not saying there’s no place for intensity. There is. But it has to be slowly blended in to make sure everything goes smoothly. Here’s how it goes:

  • Take consistent action for weeks.
  • Then increase the intensity a bit.
  • Stay consistent with that intensity for weeks.
  • Then increase the intensity a bit more.
  • Repeat.

If you learn to do this with everything you do, the results will be beautiful. So beautiful.

Instead of thinking about how to save time on the small scale (in a week) think about how to save time on the big scale (over a decade). The answers can change your life.

  • Take more action than you need to — so that you can devote a part of that action to experimentation without the fear of failure.
  • Get to know yourself down to the most intricate details. This ensures that you’ll spend your time and energy chasing only the things you actually want in life.
  • Invest in headstarts. Always. You can figure out everything yourself — but that takes time. Invest in courses and coaching by world-class professionals and you’ll not regret it.
  • Rewire your instincts to plan your life for consistency, not intensity. Consistency allows for continuous iteration and consequent exponential growth. If you do want to bring intensity into the equation, do it one step at a time.

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Akshad Singi, M.D. has been published in Better Humans, Mind Cafe, and more.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.