In praise of wasting time

DSCF4010If you’re like me, and spend lots of time checking out blogs, podcasts and books about how to make positive changes to your life, you may find one word cropping up time and time again: productivity.

We’re told if we buckle down, we can fit our working week into less time. If we allot our leisure time properly, we can do all those hobbies we’ve never got around to. If we want more money, we can build up side-hustles while holding down a nine-to-five.

Beat distraction. Beat procrastination. Beat laziness. Do more, better, faster.

Now that’s all great. And if you master all the productivity tricks out there, then more power to you.

But does anyone else just get tired at even the thought of all this?

A few weeks ago, I had a really bad day at work. Really bad. So bad, I just wanted to forget all about it…but couldn’t. I ended up stuck in a cycle of pointless fretting.

Do you know what broke me out of it? Trashy TV. Hours of it. It’s not a habit I indulge very often, but that day, it worked for me. And I feel not a jot of guilt about that.

A couple of years back, I was drawn to ideas like minimalism and simplicity because I felt overwhelmed. I wanted to do and have less. To create space in my life for…well, sometimes, nothing at all.

Sure, lots of people use meditation or mindfulness to get a break from the stresses of modern life. I go to a guided meditation class every couple of weeks and always feel far better for it.

But in a weird way, it’s still work. It’s structured, it has rules. You can’t start throwing cushions at the person next to you. (Although you’d probably get told off really gently)

There is something to be said for completely unstructured time. No goals. No expectations. It’s refreshingly freeing.

So I don’t feel guilty if I lie in bed instead of taking a wholesome hike on a weekend morning. I don’t worry if hours of my day slip by and I’m not exactly sure how I filled them. I don’t agonise if I sit down with a beer when there’s still a pile of ironing to get through.

My advice is to be lazy every now and again. Allow yourself the luxury of accomplishing absolutely nothing. There should be no guilt in the pleasure of wasting time.

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5 thoughts on “In praise of wasting time

  1. Claire, finding that balance between having more “quality time” (whatever that means), making time for things that matter, “getting things done”, and being mindful all at the same time is stressful 🙂 Thanks for the reminder to give ourselves permission to say f-it all.

  2. diane says:

    I love this article! I am turning 40 this month. In one way I am really happy with my life because i have accomplished what i wanted. But in another way, i feel stressed out because i dont feel i have the right to sit back and enjoy my accomplishments. I feel as if i am so used to struggling, doing things i hate for the sake of the future ( university was HELL), paying debt etc. . I am so used to struggling, now that i have ARRIVED, i feel like i dont know HOW to enjoy it. It’s like an engine stuck on over-drive. I feel guilty if i just sit down and do nothing. Friends and colleagues make us feel like morons because we have a little money aside ( not much but a bit for a rainy day fund). Some actually get angry because apparently now the house is paid, we should sell it and buy a bigger one. We should add a garage. We should travel. Buy a trailer more expensive than our house to go camping 2 weeks during the year. Then buy a truck to pull the damn thing. Anything. Just empty that bank account and go get more debt for a new project (because apparently it’s FUN) , and then keep struggling forever. But we dont want to. My husband and i still have to go to work, but we talk a lot about letting go of the need to do more and more and more. We want to claim the right to just relax, enjoy our achievements and practice being LAZY. Our new goal for the rest of our life is to BE MORE LAZY!

    I totally agree with the guided meditation or yoga classes. Just another thing to schedule, rush to get there and worry your pants aren’t trendy enough. Even doing yoga at home irritates me. Now i just call it Stretching, and i do it whenever i feel like it. I am so tired of everything needing a label and a simple thing like breathing being turned into a goal ( i MUST do breathing exercices 3 times a week) Please…

    1. Hi there Diane, happy birthday! I totally get what you mean about not being able to enjoy your accomplishments, I know I often feel the same and I’m sure many other people do too. You might find my post about the ‘Reverse bucket list‘ useful, if you haven’t already read it. I love the tip about renaming yoga ‘stretching’. Immediately, any concerns about ‘doing it right’ would just melt away, because it’s your stretching, goddammit, so you can do it any way you please. Love it.

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