3 Ways to Deal With People Who Waste Your Time

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Someday Is Today" by Matthew Dicks. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do certain people drain you of energy and keep you from getting things done? After being around them, do you feel like your time was wasted?

Your time is limited and precious. So, you must say “no” to some things—and some people—if you’re going to get on with accomplishing what matters in life. In Someday Is Today, Matthew Dicks shares a few strategies to help you avoid being distracted and drained by unhealthy relationships.

Continue reading for three practical recommendations on how to deal with people who waste your time.

Dealing With People Who Waste Your Time

Dicks recommends that you minimize the time you spend engaging with—and even thinking about—negative people. Basically, these are people who waste your time in one way or another. When you do spend time with them, you waste time thinking about things that don’t matter, like what caused their harmful behavior or whether you deserved it. Further, their negative behavior can rub off on you and cause you to be more negative—more self-doubting, more unmotivated, and so on—which sabotages your productivity.

(Shortform note: In Be Your Future Self Now, Benjamin Hardy agrees that the people you spend time with impact your ability to succeed. However, rather than focusing on managing the negative people in your life, Hardy emphasizes building new connections with people who are better than you or embody your ideal self. When you spend time with these people, their positive behaviors will rub off on you, and you’ll learn how to become successful from watching their strategies.)

Dicks presents three main tips for managing negative people so you don’t waste time thinking about them.

Tip #1: Try To Understand Them

Dicks explains that understanding why someone acted negatively will make it easier for you to forgive them and stop thinking about the situation. Further, even if you can’t forgive them, understanding them will put the issue to rest in your mind. This technique is most helpful when the offender is someone you have to remain in contact with. 

Tip #2: Avoid Them

If you can’t understand the other person, Dicks recommends avoiding them. Do this by either removing them from your life or creating boundaries to minimize your exposure to them. For example, if your parents frequently invite themselves over for dinner just to criticize your home and your cooking, create a boundary where they can’t come over anymore—you’ll go to them. This will prevent further criticisms that will plague your thoughts.

(Shortform note: Some experts reiterate Dicks’s recommendations here. However, they argue that before blaming negativity on others and taking action against them, it’s important to understand yourself and your emotions: Consider whether you might be the underlying problem. For example, you might label tardy people as “negative” and forgive or avoid them to protect your peace. However, their tardiness isn’t the real issue—everyone is tardy sometimes, and you can’t realistically remove every tardy person from your life. Instead, the underlying issue is your negative response—you don’t need to get angry whenever someone’s late. A more sustainable solution, in this case, is to address your negative reaction.)

Tip #3: Add Them to an Adversaries List

If someone did something so horrible to you that you can’t understand them and avoiding them doesn’t prevent you from thinking about them, Dicks recommends adding them to a list of adversaries. This will help you put your thoughts about them aside for now. In the future, you can try again to understand them, or you can plan your revenge.

(Shortform note: Some experts agree that setting an issue aside for a while is a good idea because it helps you develop new perspectives on the situation, which can foster mutual understanding. However, saving an issue for later with the intention of getting revenge isn’t recommended. While revenge can provide catharsis at the moment, it doesn’t rid you of negative feelings. Instead, it starts an endless cycle of retribution, causing you to waste more time on negative feelings.)

3 Ways to Deal With People Who Waste Your Time

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  • Why most people delay taking action toward their dreams and goals
  • Tips for accomplishing extraordinary things in life
  • How to maximize your time, efficiency, productivity, and creative potential

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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