Feel like you never have enough time? Pandora Sykes has some tips to help

Feel like you never have enough time? Pandora Sykes has some tips to help

Written by Ellen Scott

So much of our time is spent on stuff that feels… pointless. How can we make it better? Pandora Sykes has some ideas.

Our lives are made up of years, months, weeks, days, minutes, seconds, and the sad truth is that a lot of those moments will feel like a massive waste of our limited time on earth. Take waiting in a queue to return a dress that doesn’t fit or sitting through another meeting that absolutely could have been an email. 

When you think about all those minutes and hours that feel pointless, it’s not much of a surprise to discover that, on average, Brits spend over a day a week doing stuff that they see as a waste of time, according to new research from Microsoft Surface. That’s 52 and a half days a year sapped up by nonsense. 

We can’t just magic up more hours in the day (and let’s be real: if we could, they’d just be filled with more admin), but what we can all do is make some tweaks to our routines to better use our time. We can carve out space for things that bring us joy, whether that’s cooking a really great dinner or having chats with friends. We can limit the bits that feel like a waste so we don’t have to endure them for hours on end. 

How do we do that? Pandora Sykes has got us covered with her top tips on being a little more intentional with how we spend our time. 

But first, let’s dig in to what exactly feels like a waste, and what actually brings us happiness. 

The activities people see as a waste of time

According to the Microsoft Surface research, the most common examples of time-waste among British people were:

  1. Waiting for late people
  2. Waiting in a queue
  3. Looking for a parking space
  4. Ironing
  5. Trying to get tickets online for an event

Agreed. None of these are much fun. 

The most enjoyable and valuable activities

On the flipside, what are good uses of our time? The research looked at two categories: enjoyable tasks and valuable tasks. 

Most enjoyable activities:

  1. Having alone time with my partner
  2. Spending time with family or friends
  3. Watching TV/films
  4. Listening to music
  5. Sleeping

Most valued activities:

  1. Having alone time with my partner
  2. Spending time with family or friends
  3. Sleeping 
  4. Cooking for myself or family 
  5. Listening to music 

Notice a common theme on those lists? Connection with others is a big win on both counts, along with entertainment… and sleep. We could all do with more sleep. 

So the aim is to spend more time doing things on these lists, and less on the ‘waste of time’ list. Sykes shares how she does just that below.

Pandora Sykes’ top tips for making the most of your time

“It’s the modern conundrum, feeling like we never have enough time,” says Sykes. “But if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that spending our time intentionally on what feels meaningful to you is the most valuable asset of all. That means something different to each of us: cooking, rambling, even just watching telly, if it’s something you want to carve out time for. It’s all about planning ahead and feeling restored in what you choose to do.” 

You don’t need to give up tech entirely – just use it more intentionally

Don’t worry, we’re not about to tell you to chuck your phone in the sea, delete all social media and live in the woods. Tech is not an inherently bad thing – it’s all down to how you use it. If you’re using tech to be more efficient, minimising the time and faff spent on essential but uninspiring admin, that’s great. The same goes for using tech to connect with people you love, or consuming entertainment you enjoy. 

“I’m extremely wary of spending too much time on technology – it can make me feel jumpy and frazzled – but there are actually plenty of ways in which technology can aid us offline,” says Sykes. “Not so that you can be uber productive (another modern preoccupation!) but so that you can enjoy the time you do have, to the max, with the people you love the most.” 

It’s when you’re doomscrolling or mindlessly using tech and the internet that it can become a bit problematic. A solution to this can be consciously defining when you’re using technology and what for, and implementing screentime limits to avoid falling down a wormhole. 

“I’m really targeted with my social media usage,” Sykes explains. “I don’t keep the apps on my phone – instead I download them once or twice a week when I have content that I want to share, or engage with. This helps me feel rooted in my offline world and means the time I do spend online, is more engaged.”

Brain dump your to-do list so you’re more present in the moment

We’ve all been there. We’re meant to be doing something fun, spending quality time with someone we love or sleeping, but our brain is monologuing about all the stuff we have to do. Get it off your mind and onto paper or your tech, so you can be present in the moment. 

“I cannot get enough of a to-do list,” says Sykes. “I have been writing lists about lists since I was five years old – not just of things I need to do, but books I want to read, presents I want to buy people, places I want to visit. I love nothing more than dreaming about the future! Problem is, I often remember something to add in the middle of the night – and as an intermittent insomniac, my devices are firmly offline at that time. Microsoft To Do has been a game-changer for my scattered brain, as it means I can make changes to my (many) to-do lists when I’m offline, too.”

Consciously dedicate time to taking stuff in

Ever noticed that if you’re constantly binge-watching and background-consuming, whatever you’re taking in feels a lot less special? Sykes tackles this by having a ritual of setting aside time to take in information or entertainment. 

“To try and commit my attention to what I am reading, I now buy newspapers on the weekend and use Sunday evening to catch up fully on the week’s events,” she explains. “I’ve also begun re-reading books I loved 10 or 20 years ago – in part a form of resistance to this idea that you have ‘done’ a book or a TV series. A book, a TV series, even a newspaper article, can always offer something new!”

Use technology features to help you focus when you need to and limit distractions

Sykes says: “Like many, I am great at multi-tasking but can find it difficult to siphon off the noise in my brain and stay focused! I have used all sorts of workflow apps in the past (I’ve grown trees, raised animals, etc) and so I’m a fan of Focus Assist, which integrates with the Clock and music app to create a ‘do not disturb’ session. Do not disturb comes on automatically when you start your session (but I can customise it so as not to miss calls from my kids’ school) and then zones you out of it, once your session is up. It’s so useful having someone do all the fiddly bits for you!”

Optimise your commute time

The research found that we’re not fans of our commute – and don’t tend to think of it as a valuable use of time. That’s a shame, because on average, we spend around 11 and a half days each year travelling to and from work. 

Sykes is a fan of time bundling, where you tag on something you enjoy doing to a less fun activity. The research found that Brits love watching films and TV, as well as listening to music, so those could be good places to start. What if you pre-downloaded a new show to your tablet or laptop, so you could watch it while on the train (even with spotty wifi)? 

Image: Getty

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