A few nights ago I went to a program downtown which had a central focus on the topic of Wasting Time. You might be surprised to learn that it was “In Praise of Wasting Time” which is the title of the book by Professor and Author, Alan Lightman. He was the key speaker in the discussion and shared the stage with a facilitator and a panel of four other people. It was a great program to attend and though I agree whole heartedly with most of what was said (which might even be considered obvious), I still struggle with it (the concept of wasting time) on a daily basis.
Since then, I have been wanting to write my thoughts down on the discussion and the topic itself, but sadly and quite ironically, I have either not had the time or been too distracted by my other goings-on. That’s what is at the heart of the matter.
Dr. Lightman explained that in society today, we basically schedule activities for almost 100 percent of our day. From the minute we wake up till the minute we go to bed we have blocked in something to do down to the 10 to 14 minute interval. I think about this in regards to my own life and I know that it’s true.
I don’t intend to bore anyone with that schedule, but it seems that even as my work hours decreased, the trade off was more chores and responsibilities that replaced those 8-10 work hours. I think the exception to this was right after I quit my job and was immediately hit with a huge block of time where I could truly do anything I wanted and didn’t feel bad about spending a few hours just sitting about or going for a walk or a bike ride.
Now that I have completely made the transition to my new life, I still have that big block of time to work with, but somehow the mentality has shifted. If I’m not cleaning or cooking or running errands for the fam, I fee unproductive. I feel as though I am not doing enough with my day. To make matters worse, when Jim comes home from a long day at the office, I immediately feel guilty because of all the work he has done and feel like my contribution isn’t enough.
How then do I shift that mentality back and give myself permission to “waste time”? Which for me, is more about how I feel about it when it does happen. Because, to be fair, I can be pretty good at wasting time. I just feel like shit afterwards.
In addition to that, I’ve been wondering what the definition of “wasting time” is. I think for me that is key. During the program Dr. Lightman defined it as anything that you do which is not attached to a goal. That is still too broad for me because it only opens other questions. What is considered a goal? Some things are obvious and some are not.
One example could be if you set aside 30 minutes to read a book for pleasure. Is that goal oriented? You are structuring time and accomplishing something. You are getting value out of it. So is that wasting time? Perhaps in the eyes of some yes and some no. So it’s subjective.
Once a week I allow myself to plop down on the couch and watch 50-120 minutes of a TV show (the Bachelor). It’s mindless and I really don’t get anything out of it except entertainment. Is THAT wasting time?
If the definition were more refined to include a statement like, “time where you mind is not actively engaged/distracted in a specific task and can wander to anywhere”, then that is completely different. Now you eliminate TV and Movies and Books and even meetups with friends, which I would contend are never a waste of time.
Anyway, yesterday (the date I started this blog post), it was beautiful outside—Sunny and 55 degrees—and I could not justify walking on the treadmill and writing. I had to get outside and walk. When I got to my destination and got out of my car, I did have a brief thought that I would type on my phone while I walked as I do often on the treadmill at home, but it just felt wrong.
People were walking their dogs and kids and conversing. The scenery was lovely and it would have been a shame to have my head down on the phone. So I just walked. Of course I also did that thing I do and stop like every 10 seconds to take a picture. Or think I’ve got some cool, creative shot of the sun descending on the horizon— light filtering through the trees, and walk a ways off the path into the mushy grass to get just the perfect angle. Needless to say, I did not end up walking very far and the whole time I was wondering, “Is THIS a waste of time?”
Perhaps. I did have some interesting thoughts and spots of inspiration throughout the day, most of which went nowhere. I suppose that is OK. I think that’s kind of the point?? I dunno. I should probably read that book.
That’s it for today folks. As I said, I started writing this yesterday and so now it’s Sunday which is also, in fact, another great day to waste some time.
Time to get out there and do nothing! 😜