What is a waste of time?

February 17, 2011 at 11:27 PM 6 comments

As I was spending time reading blogs while eating my breakfast (multitasking!) one of them linked to this post about an artist whose work documents her time wasting.

It made me think.

How do we define time well spent and time wasted?

The artist, Alyson, seems to have changed her view over the course of her project:

As the project goes on I have become more restrictive in my definition of what a waste of time is. I see it as any situation that I feel was useless or uncomfortable and offered little or no redemption. I realized early in this project that much of the time that I had casually thought of as wasted was actually pretty productive. For instance, daydreaming can be very useful, as can going to get a cup of coffee.

I’m not sure I’d define it the same way. Sometimes we have to endure situations which seem useless and learn from them. Uncomfortable things can be necessary, like medical appointments.

But I’d agree that daydreaming and fetching coffee can be productive, although they can also be procrastination.

The same activity can be either, depending on attitude. If you enjoy it, then it is not such a waste of time as if you are not enjoying it.

Is it a waste of an hour to watch something trashy but fun and relaxing on television? Not if it refreshes you and helps you face the rest of your tasks. But it is if you are not enjoying it!

I watched the first two episodes of a new sci-fi drama with Tim. But I gave up on it because it failed to engage me. If that was the only thing we did together, it might not have been a waste of time as it would give us some together time and something to chat about. But we watch other things together and share various hobbies and outings, so I decided my life was too short to follow that show any more.

Some things need doing, so they are not a waste of time, but we do them inefficiently. I can be quite indecisive and over-analytical, so I take too long choosing stuff. And then I don’t always make the right choice! But does that mean I should delegate all my decision making to someone else? I hardly think so! But I do need to be aware of my problem and sometimes just pick one.

Procrastination is a classic part of our definition of time wasting. But that again is more complex if you take a closer look. Sometimes we procrastinate by doing something that is useful, but less urgent than the task being put off, such as the washing up. It needed doing, it’s not a waste of time.

I have the unfortunate tendency to procrastinate by not doing useful tasks. I convince myself that if I can do anything, it ought to be the task I am hiding from and I mustn’t spend my meagre energy supply on some other task instead as then I might not be able to do the task.

So I whiffle about. I linger in bed, reading. I read blogs. I play online jigsaws. I watch something on television. And sometimes I fritter away whole days, thus achieving neither the unwanted task or anything else useful! Then the guilt kicks in… which is both unhelpful and very wrong. Now that is wasting time.

If I just decided not to do the thing that day, I can then get on and at the very least, have a fun and relaxing day, which might put me in a better frame of mind for the next day.

I did that today in fact. Although now this blog post is turning into a complete monster! I’ve already cut 500 words to turn into another post! And I have spent over two hours trying to get it written, which time includes some of those procrastination activities I mentioned earlier…

I’m going to stop here before it gets even longer!

What do you think is a waste of time? What do you think is not a waste of time that most people think is? Do you know any good cures for procrastination?

Entry filed under: disorganisation. Tags: , , , , , , .

Some jokes The Lost Sole

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. PC  |  February 17, 2011 at 11:31 PM

    thank you for the pingback my friend! Also thank you for stopping by and dropping a comment.

    Reply
  • 2. Caroline  |  February 18, 2011 at 6:35 AM

    This is an excellent post as was the link to wasting time. Its honestly something i have never thought about before. I have never really thought that i waste my time. I do the things that i have to every day ie go to work and i try to spend the rest of my day doing useful or enjoyable things. Some may see trawling shopping websites as a waste of time, but i enjoy it and therefore i justify that as not a waste of time. A waste of time i see as doing something you neither have to do or enjoy doing. And i try to eliminate this out of my life. I have no cure for procrastination, i have never really suffered from it, only very occassionally to the point where it doesnt really bother me. Please excuse any spelling mistakes i am on the ipad again.

    Reply
  • 3. Caroline  |  February 18, 2011 at 6:43 AM

    I have had another thought of what i consider a waste of time. Although to be fair it generally stems from things outside of your control. Spending time doing something that is important or you need to do and then that thing eother not then been needed or required, or the thing you were working on breakg. By this i specifically mean tyoing up a document on a word processor and forgetting to save every 3 seconds, the programme crashing and losing all the work you have just spent time on doing. Most frustrating! Now i really must go and get ready for work xxx

    Reply
    • 4. knotrune  |  February 18, 2011 at 10:21 AM

      Absolutely – doing a task and then finding somehow it has not worked and you have to do it again is the absolute pits. Forms getting lost in the post, fillings falling out. Aaaagh! One year I was so plagued by such happenings it quite put me off even trying to overcome my procrastination! What is the point of doing the horrible task if you might as well not have bothered? Recipe for a bad attitude…

      Reply
  • 5. sterlingsop  |  February 18, 2011 at 9:42 PM

    I agree with you – a waste of time is time that is spent but doesn’t produce anything usable. So daydreaming and procrastinating and just faffing about sometimes is the best way to let your brain get creative. Some of my best flashes of inspiration come at those times when I’m not doing anything particularly “constructive”.

    Great post!

    Reply
  • 6. Kathryn Tomasek  |  February 19, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    This post reminds me of something a professor said to me once about no educational experience being wasted. I think Western culture imposes too many “shoulds” about individual waste and not enough about collective waste. And the notion of wasted time is one of those “shoulds” we impose on ourselves in unhelpful ways.

    Your observation about unavoidable tasks hits home, too. I’m certainly going through an unpleasant life experience that I can’t avoid and from which I am learning. My trash television watching is therapeutic. And I am very lucky to be able to choose to spend my time in ways that make space for the emotional difficulty of watching from a distance as my father undergoes his final illness.

    I identify most with your point about avoiding useful tasks to save energy for important tasks and then accomplishing neither. This is familiar territory for me, and I appreciate the way you discuss it.

    So pleased to be part of the breakfast reading! Thanks for giving me a smile. 😀

    Reply

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