The Lost Art Of Wasting Time

Girl with booksIn such a productivity driven culture, we often find that psychologically we’ve equated a sense of self and accomplishment with our work achievements. Smartphones, social media, constant access to email and text, and side hustles outside of our regular jobs reinforce the cultural expectation that we need to be constantly available. If you are unfamiliar with the idea of a side hustle, it is not an illegal activity, but actually an entire culture among millennials of making money in your spare time to help pay for things like crushing student loan debt.

The fact that a culture of making money in your spare time from a full-time job exists proves the point I’m trying to make. The constant demand to make something of marketable value both at work and in our spare time negatively impacts our health. If you’d like to familiarize yourself with how chronic stress physically impacts the body, check out this short overview from the American Psychological Association.

The need to be available for work emails, texts, and social media 24 hours a day creates an underlying state of chronic stress that can impact your cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive systems, as well as your hormonal balance. It also sneaks a little deeper into our psyche. We fill our thoughts with ‘I should be doing…’, or ‘I can’t believe I just wasted so much time walking to the coffee shop, I have work to do.’ When we start mentally chastising ourselves for taking time for ourselves, we start an internal monologue of emotional abuse that further depletes our happiness, health, and ironically, our productivity.

In popular and business culture, you can find a wide range of articles discussing that working less actually makes you less productive. If productivity is still your motivating factor, check out the articles at the end of this post. However, I’m a little more concerned with our happiness, health, and quality of life.

To combat the constant battle for productivity, we need to reclaim the ability to waste time without mentally chastising ourselves. Think back to lazy summers in high school. What are some of your favorite memories? I bet it wasn’t cramming for the SATs. Some of my favorite memories are laying on a dock by Lake Crescent with a couple friends,  walking two miles to the downtown coffee shop early on a Saturday to watch the town wake up with my best guy friend, or doing the Time Warp backstage in the green room during a play. I had a spring and summer time ritual of pouring a cup of tea and sitting on the railing of our porch to watch the entire sunset most nights of the week. These moments are my fond memories.

I realize that it is not always realistic to work less due to our personal circumstance. But it is worth considering, whether or not your work hours are actually increasing your income, or simply your stress. Work often fills the time and space you give it.

How do we re-learn to waste time?

I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few ideas:

  • Consider how our smartphones make us feel ‘on’. If you feel the constant urge to check social media, Tweet, Post, or find something important to photograph, consider having some cell phone free time. Or simply put your phone on silent, use it to listen to music and go for a 20 minute walk around the block on your break or before heading home.
  • Try to create cell phone free time in your day and at home after work hours. Train yourself, your coworkers, and your clients that you will respond to emails during business hours. The hardest sell, may be teaching yourself to avoid checking your emails at home.
  • Look for opportunities to take a leisurely walk and smell the flowers. Or take a picnic dinner to the park. If you feel the need to lay in a hammock, give it a try. Think about what adds to your quality of life and try to sneak it back into your life.
  • In trying to recapture time wasting, we need to first create space in our lives to waste time. Then, we need to be prepared to be a little spontaneous with our time wasting. Many of our fond memories from childhood are brought by suddenly deciding to go do something leisurely outside with a friend.


Other articles:

From CNN: Working More Than 50 Hours Makes You Less Productive

From The Guardian: Why Working Fewer Hours Would Make Us More Productive

From The Business Insider: Working Less Makes You More Productive

One comment

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