Stop Wasting Time by Matching Your Past High Levels of Effort

Note: This is a guest post from Armen Shirvanian of Timeless Information

If you want to see if and how you waste time, compare your current productivity to that which you have had at a winning time in your days. There is much benefit to gain from looking at a time when you felt like you were doing all the right things for a short time. You can see and reflect upon why that period of time came out feeling so good, and get new sense of how the time period you are now in is going.

You Can Stay At Your High Production State

The first thing to accept here is that you can maintain the high level of production that you have put out at some point. There is no reason you are weaker or less able now. You might have some distractions or pressures that you didn’t have when you were at your peak, but those can be pushed aside by your bigger vision. Let’s say you are a student who had a period where you were really focused on your schoolwork, and had a time where you were doing all the assigned reading given to you for a couple of months, and then slowed down since then. After a sizable amount of time passes from this period of success, you might start to feel like you can’t reach that state again. This isn’t the case, as you can reach that state, and even add to it, with new abilities you have strengthened since then.

Look At Your High Production State As The Goal

You want to view it like the high production state is where you need to be staying at, and any period where you are not at that state is a period where you are wasting some of your time and potential. This is an uplifting way to look at your effort usage. If you were once trying to sell a product to about 3 different customers every day for a few weeks, you have to now look at any time where you are not marketing at that rate as a time when you aren’t doing what you know you can do. This will keep you on an upward slope. No one wants to be told that they are wasting their time. It makes them feel like their actions are starting to look irrelevant to the masses. Using this knowledge, remind yourself when you do see yourself wasting time, according to the description I pointed out above. You won’t like the feeling, and will quickly build up some self-discipline to avoid that label, and self-discipline is the big deal.

Piano Practice Example

Let’s say you used to play a new piano song every week, and now haven’t played piano for a few years. You might think your past learning ability is out of reach, or that you have missed your opportunity. These thoughts don’t help much. Taking the experience gained from the past piano-playing, along with the confidence received from knowing this habit has already been tackled before, you can return to the routine again. There’s nothing stopping you from getting back your momentum by learning Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” within the next seven days, followed by Brahms “Brahms’ Lullaby” the next week, and Mozart’s theme from “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” the week after. You already have the skills to do so from your experience, and have more goal-setting resources at your disposal today, so you can be back in action in no time. Everyone always says “time flies”, and that means that the period of struggle to get the habit back in place will also fly by.

Work At The Level You’ve Already Shown You Can

Once your mind reaches a certain understanding, your mind will never go back to not having that understanding. In the same way, you can always return to a production ability, or winning streak, that you once had. Toss aside any blame on others, or views of yourself as no longer having the capacity, and you can again be rolling the ball up the mountain, soon enough.

Armen Shirvanian writes words of wisdom about mindset, communication, relationships, and related topics at Timeless Information. You can follow him on Twitter at @Armen.

Photo by madmolecule


  1. A good idea is to try to remember the process that you went through to get to your high productive state to begin with. Once you can identify it, you can start on that path all over again and eventually reach your previous levels of production. If that is what you really want.

  2. Armen: Great guest post. I really think this is a good insight. I think we have all had those moments when we felt we were very dedicated to what we were doing and able to see the rewards of that hard work in the results. Of course, there are then those times when perhaps we notice our intensity has faded somewhat and question where it went. Knowing that we really do have the endurance to sustain a high level of productivity allows us to continue striving because we realize it is a realistic goal. Thanks for the great insight and sharing your thoughts.

  3. Travis – That is a good point I didn’t bring up. We can not only see where we did well, but see how we did well at that time. We might need more than just motivation and memory, and your point fulfills this role.

    Sibyl – Thanks about the post. Yeah, I would say that also. It is good to feel that what we envision is also realistic. When something we imagine doesn’t seem realistic, our mind doesn’t get into gear. It thinks we are in play-land, instead of planning our attack.

  4. I really needed to read this post – I’ve been feeling like I just can’t get my productively back to the level that I used to be. There are a lot of factors, I’ve moved and shifted jobs, and so yes, things are different. But this was timely encouragement, I was up late lastnight preparing for a meeting and I all I could think about was how tired I was going to be at the end of the evening – but this has given me the mental boost I need to press on – to look at my Bigger goals and strive not to let anything get in the way.

  5. This post is both inspiring and dangerous.

    I used to run 5K every day.

    By your logic, I could start running 5K everyday tomorrow. And I could even though I have had several knee problems, health issues and so forth and have not run more than 1K in over 5 years.

    I propose you use where you have been as a guidepost, but start where you are and progress at a healthy rate.

    Just my own personal…


  6. Nice tips. I’ve never quite looked at it that way before. I suppose I always tend to work at a level I’ve already shown anyway but it’s always useful to be mindful and watch from now on.

  7. brand new approach, congrats for finding it and thanks for telling us about it

  8. Kiesha – That’s pretty cool that it had that effect. I like when something I put out there has some sort of impact. You are right about not letting things get in your way, and when they do, it’s good to remember that you got past them at some point in the past.

    Jim – If only every post of mine could be inspiring and dangerous~ I’m kidding there. I hear your point. Physical constraints are still an issue. Aside from that, we are still able to match our past intensity in aspects where we are not currently physically limited. Thanks for adding in that point about maintaining a healthy rate.

    Craig – Thanks there. That’s true. It might already be a part of how you work, which is a plus.

    Farouk – Some would call me a resourceful pioneer, finding new approaches where they were hidden. Good to hear from you.

  9. I agree with the first post. Try remembering the state you were in when it happened and go from there.

  10. If you feel you have slipped into an unproductive phase in your life, using a time management log can help you get back on track. With a time log you record exactly what you are doing, even just the act of recording truthfully what you are spending your time on can help you to get back on track.

  11. I think another point to add is that you should attempt to be doing what you leave, or at least find meaning in what you do. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, it will be hard to continue to want to do that at a high level every day. But, if you do enjoy what you are doing and it has a high meaning to you, then you are well on your way to keeping motivated! I think this skill gets lost in our modern age, where the focus can be more on our material possessions rather than personal enjoyment.

  12. Not convinced this is good advice. It invites a dangerous perfectionism.

    I used to spend too much time waiting around for the right mood of high peak productivity to hit me before I’d do stuff. Flow is an enjoyable state. How wonderful to do things when we have achieved it.

    However, demanding it arrive is an invitation to the worst procrastination. I’m not the only person that has fallen into this trap either. It’s much better for me to trust that I can practice piano, read, or work when I’m not at my best.

  13. Good post. Are you familiar with NLP. It basically sums up what you mentioned here as far as being in the state of “being prodcutive” by using anchors and bringing back prodcutive times in your life, and visualizing it to the point where it enters your present reality, thus taking the past productive energy into the present moment, at will.
    I enjoyed this article.

  14. […] Stop Wasting Time by Matching Your Past High Levels of Effort – Armen Shirvanian ‘ Once your mind reaches a certain understanding, your mind will never go back to not having that understanding. In the same way, you can always return to a production ability, or winning streak, that you once had ‘ […]

  15. ‘Wasting Time’ can sometimes get you new ‘Leads’, you would have missed when you where focussing to much on results’

    I work in Sales and usually get pretty amazing results, I
    have been ‘Marketeer of the Months’ several times, – and this might surprise you – while every body seems to be focused on getting results, I DON’T focus on Results!!!

    (‘Because if I focus on results to much, soon I will be focussing on frustration…..,and I will be preocupied with my mind and won’t be able to be in ‘the Now’ anymore (or ‘In the Zone’) – the place – where I create the actual results’)


    Instead I focus on having a good conversation, I like to communicate with the customer, focus on making the whole process enjoyable for the customer. (and also for me!) and
    even if I don’t have actual results…,

    I do think that I don’t alway’s have to view not making the sale as ‘Wasting time’

    Because it’s a great way to learn about how my customers think, and I do think that also – as a side effect – I automatically build ‘rapport’ sometimes even discover new leads, and because of that, I usually happen to have pretty amazing Sales Results.

    (I sometimes even ‘convert’ a customer that’s in a somewhat ‘hostile’-state, into a more ‘receptive’-state, or even into a ‘Buy-Happy’-state, simply because they want to reward my genuine effort to help them.)

    If I understand it correctly you take full responsibility for if you are not performing at a certain rate..?

    Although I do think that there might be situations that that’s a logical approach, on the other hand, If that’s what you are saying I also wonder if you might not just possibly be slightly unrealistic about it.

    Because although I do agree that on the other end of the spectrum, always having all kinds of excuses for everything can be highly questionable, I do think that sometimes there simply can be good reasons for less performance.

    For example if you sell a bad product and people find out about it, it can be a good reason that your conversion rate drops, or if you operate in a market that – for example because of recession – is decreasing.

    So I don’t think that it’s ‘Healthy’ to be to much focused on
    results in a to ‘Greedy’ way. I don’t really trust sales people that only seem to be trying to get on their target, I don’t think that they are to much inclined to serve my interests.

    All the Best,
    To your Happy Inspiration,

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