7 Areas Where You Shouldn’t Spend Your Energy and Time (Motivation, Personal Growth)

7 Areas Where You Shouldn’t Spend Your Energy and Time (Motivation, Personal Growth)

Time and energy are our most valuable yet limited resources. With demanding work schedules, family obligations, and countless distractions in the digital age, it’s too easy to deplete them. However, managing these resources is vital to sustainable progress in our personal growth and motivation.

The biggest pitfall lies in spending excessive time and energy in areas that yield little reward. These unproductive activities sap our precious time and mental bandwidth, detaining us from pursuits that could help us learn, develop healthy habits, foster relationships, or achieve aspirational goals.

This article covers seven common areas where we allocate resources without much ROI. We can channel our efforts toward what matters most by raising self-awareness in these areas and taking proactive steps to avoid such traps. The personal growth dividends of such conscious choices compound over time.

1. Committing to Unimportant Tasks

A prime area of wasted resources is getting overly caught up with tasks that don’t align with our core priorities or values. This could involve either the volume of functions or time spent on them. For example, we are obsessively checking low-priority emails multiple times a day or over-preparing for a meeting that isn’t critical.

Some ways to calibration check whether tasks are genuinely unimportant include:

  • Does this directly contribute to my primary goals and projects?
  • Will this matter in 6 months or a year from now?
  • Is someone else better positioned to handle this task?

Strategies to avoid overload of marginal tasks:

  • Batching: Grouping similar tasks and setting specific times to tackle them.
  • Learn to say no respectfully when nonessential questions come up.
  • Ask clarifying questions on expected output before committing.

2. Perfectionism in Everyday Tasks

Perfectionism can be defined as spending excessive time and effort to make something flawless, often at the cost of diminishing returns. Aimed at the right endeavors, high standards can drive growth. However, misplaced perfectionism in routine tasks leads to wasted energy.

For example, you spend an extra few hours rewriting an informal email to colleagues to get the wording right or staying late arranging your desk items so they align perfectly.

The key is balancing quality with efficiency:

  • Define the minimum viable quality needed for each type of task.
  • Weigh if the extra 10% quality warrants 50% more effort.
  • Remember, perfection can be the enemy of good enough.

3. Dwelling on Past Mistakes

Replaying past mistakes in our heads can become an addiction as pernicious as substances that give temporary relief while slowly poisoning us. Each mental replay strengthens adverse neural pathways and feelings of regret, anger, or embarrassment.

Dwelling on the past has no tangible upside while having a massive downside:

  • Stifles our creativity, productivity, and motivation in the present.
  • Compounds errors by not letting us course correct and extract learnings.
  • Anchors our identity and self-narrative to those past failings.

Some ways to break free from this pattern:

  • Write down learnings, then consciously let go of residual emotions.
  • Visualize mistakes disappearing into the past as you breathe slowly.
  • Notice when you meditate and deliberately shift thoughts to the present.

4. Trying to Please Everyone

Seeking universal approval and appreciation is a brief pursuit with guaranteed disappointment. One person with diverse personalities and preferences can’t always be universally liked or respected.

Yet many expend tremendous time and energy trying to shapeshift to please others, often at the expense of being true to oneself:

  • Stretching yourself too thin trying to accommodate every request.
  • Oversensitivity is when some people inevitably don’t connect with you.
  • Molding your views, style, and even identity to avoid rejection.

While considering feedback, self-validation is critical:

  • Connect with your core values and goals, then align actions to them.
  • Recognize you cannot control how others perceive you.
  • Pursue mutual understanding without compromising your essence.

5. Worrying About Things Beyond Your Control

It’s human nature to play out scenarios around uncertainties that make us feel anxious or vulnerable. Financial markets, health news, or relationship situations are external factors where worries run rampant. However, excessive worry is counterproductive because these variables are wholly or partially outside our control.

Hallmarks of fretting over external factors:

  • Rehashing worst-case scenarios, however unlikely.
  • Letting imagination construct scary scenarios.
  • Feeling emotionally drained, helpless, and paralyzed.

While we cannot change every external variable, we can control our responses:

  • Identify if actionable steps can influence the situation in any way. If yes, focus energies there with equanimity around elements outside your influence.
  • Compartmentalize time for constructive action vs rumination.
  • Practice mindfulness, perspective, and radical acceptance around aspects beyond your control.

6. Engaging in Negative Self Talk

Like an infuriating bully who lives rent-free in our minds, the voice of negative self-talk can shatter our confidence and poison our outlook when we least expect it. Fueled by internalized fears or limiting beliefs from past experiences, it feeds us disempowering narratives laced with absolute condemnations of perceived flaws or setbacks.

Left unchecked, negative self-talk can:

  • Cripple motivation by fueling feelings of unworthiness and self-blame.
  • Reinforce false narratives that prevent growth.
  • Close our eyes to our accomplishments, talents, and inner light.

Countering negative self-talk patterns:

  • Notice when self-sabotaging narratives get triggered, as that awareness can disarm them.
  • Actively cultivate realistic and compassionate internal dialogue aligned with your truth rather than resignedly accepting disparaging narratives.
  • Script affirmative statements about your strengths and capabilities to repeat when old tapes start playing.

7. Comparing Yourself to Others

Social media have drastically amplified our tendency to benchmark ourselves against others constantly. These curated snapshots of achievements seen through peers can feed unhealthy obsessions and a scarcity mindset.

While some comparisons can help calibrate our goals, chronic comparison comes at a high cost:

  • If we feel behind others, it can diminish our self-worth and motivation.
  • If we feel superior to others, it can breed toxic ego and entitlement.

Either way, comparisons often provide a distorted mirror of our perceived inadequacies or strengths.

Rather than seeking external validation through comparisons, the path forward entails:

  • Comparing yourself to your past self and use that as motivation.
  • Appreciating people’s accomplishments without tying it to your worth.
  • Focusing on your fulfillment benchmarks aligned to your unique talents and situation.

Case Study: John’s Journey

John was stretched thin, trying to be all things to everyone while making little traction toward his creative goals. He struggled with perfectionism, negative self-talk, and worrying himself sick over factors out of his control.

By learning to set boundaries around marginal tasks and people-pleasing requests, he carved out time for what ignited him. He channeled his perfectionist tendencies into defined spheres while embracing imperfection in others.

Letting go of past failures, he focused on extracting lessons while being kinder to himself. He took ownership of the things within his power while letting go of anxiously controlling external factors.

As John celebrated small wins in aligning actions to his values, he found growing confidence and fulfillment. His case demonstrates that progress happens in increments by building self-awareness around where we over-invest limited time and energy.

Key Takeaways

  • Audit where maximum time/energy goes; prune low ROI areas
  • Counter perfectionism with minimum viable quality + efficiency
  • Let go of the past; focus energies on the present
  • Seek self-validation over universal approval
  • Control reactions to externals rather than trying to control them
  • Quiet self-sabotaging inner narratives
  • Compare yourself to your past self, not others


Progress in our personal goals relies intensely on how judiciously we invest our most scarce assets — time and mental bandwidth. This requires insight into areas of over-investment that yield low returns.

By understanding the seven domains covered where we tend to allocate, we can catch ourselves when stuck in these traps. Self-awareness marks the first step to change, whether it’s people pleasing, perfectionism, past regrets, negative self-talk, or comparison obsession.

From there, building muscles to say no, defang unhealthy narratives, focusing on the present, and celebrating our authenticity over chasing external benchmarks are essential to lasting transformation. It won’t happen overnight. But vision coupled with mindful small steps compounds over time.