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The time-wasting mistake you probably make daily

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY My 5-year-old has started to get into board games. I've never been a board game person, so when he suggests playing a game, I tend to suggest other activities. Sometimes, I spend quite a bit of time suggesting other activities. The other night, though, I finally got cornered into a game of Candy Land. It took all of three minutes to play. I realized I've probably spent more time protesting about how I don't want to play Candy Land, and thinking about why I don't want to play Candy Land, than the game would actually consume on any given day.

From studying how people spend their time, I realize this time warp is common. We view things we don't want to do as taking more time than they actually take. Slightly complicated errands (like getting a child's passport) loom large in the mind. We claim to spend more time doing household chores than we actually do, and even work hours are subject to massive inflation.

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But here's the problem with this time fog: Building up something we don't want to do in our minds means we spend time dreading the activity, sure of the mental space it will consume. Time spent dreading an activity is almost certainly wasted. Also wasted? Time spent protesting and arguing about something if you'll probably wind up doing it anyway. If you're not going to defend that "no" to the death, better to say yes fast.

So instead of dreading that phone call, make it take less time by doing it now. Instead of fighting with your kid about reading a bedtime story because you're too tired, just do it. Reading it will be less time-consuming than arguing about it.

What are you wasting time dreading?

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