When is Wasting Time Not a Waste of Time?

surprise kitty cat

Meme me, baby!

We all know how it starts. One innocent little Google search leads to another and then another. Pretty soon we’re on  I Can Has Cheezburger, staring at page after page of cute/silly/stupid/funny animals doing whatever until our butts are numb. Or that one game of solitaire or Bejeweled turns into fifty (give or take a few dozen). Or, that search through the pantry for the candy bar we hid results in a complete reorganization of our food storage system which naturally leads us to finally alphabetize those DVDs and sort the clothes in our closet by color and season.

When we come to our senses, the guilt sets in. We’ve just wasted time.

*gasp* Oh the horror!

We all know how evil it is to waste time. After all, time is precious, time is money and wasting time means we’re throwing away valuable minutes and hours we can never recover. Whatever project we were supposed to be working on will take that much longer. There can be nothing redeeming about wasting time.

Or can there?

According to author and entrepreneur Seth Godin, wasting time well is key to a happy, creative and productive life. It gives us a chance to relax and experiment, to work on a project just for the joy of it. Time well wastes replenishes our creativity and is a boon to our productivity.

But what exactly is time well wasted?

That would be time that we spend freely playing, letting ourselves decompress and explore. When we are done wasting time well, we should feel refreshed, ready to tackle new projects and see challenges in a new light.

Clearly not all wasted time is well wasted, as many last-minute college papers and haphazardly thrown together projects can testify, but neither is all wasted time another form of procrastination.

The trick is to know the difference and to only waste as much time as we need to replenish ourselves.

Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to waste time (well, I hope):

  • StumbleUpon: Flipping through web pages based on a particular interest is incredibly relaxing and inspires my biweekly Friday Stumbles.
  • Games on the iPhone or iPad: Currently, I’m playing The Tribez but I’ve also enjoyed many well-wasted hours with Plants vs Zombies. I do have to watch myself with games like these as it’s very easy to go from time well wasted to just plain old wasted time.
  • Rearranging stuff: Yeah, I know. Probably a weird way to waste time. But I sometimes get the urge to overhaul the bookshelves or rearrange the living room furniture.
  • Browsing bookstores and libraries with no real intention of buying/checking out anything.
What do you think about wasted time? Is there a way to waste it well? What are your favorite ways to waste time?
If you haven’t had the chance to check out last week’s posts, you’re really missing out. On Wednesday, Sherry Isaac talked about setting goals that make us strive and, on Friday, Marcia Richards talked about her ten commandments for living well.
Stay tuned, Gary Gauthier will be here Friday.
Photo Credit
Surprise! Another Cat Photo! by Michael Scialdone, on Flickr | CC By 2.0

38 responses to “When is Wasting Time Not a Waste of Time?

  1. This definitely wasn’t a waste of time to read 🙂

  2. Our best aha! moments can come during downtime. Having a list of things you want to do and sticking to it makes it easier to keep track of whether or not you’re “wasting” time. Hey, wait a minute, if you have a Life List doesn’t that help to solve the problem?

    Thanks for helping us keep things in perspective, Sonia. And I’m glad I’m a member.

    • Good point, Gary.I was getting a little intense about meeting goals and then started to realize that I need more balance. The Life List does help keep it in perspective. In fact, I need to add a goal of giving myself permission to waste time well.

  3. Agree with Gary, that the aha! moments often come during downtime. Even when I’m vegging out at night watching TV, I get ideas, think of something to add to the calendar, I think of the just-perfect beginning for that story I’ve been hammering on… At times, a sit-down at the local coffee shop can give me a new idea for a character or quirky character trait. Agree that rearranging anything can give you fresh ideas. The junk drawer is a good place to start.

  4. Love this, Sonia! I am really, really good at wasting time, but I also get a lot done. If I’m stuck on my story, I go to Pinterest and connect with beautiful images and great people or I go fold laundry and get lost in my thoughts or rearrange the pantry cupboard (being organized makes me happy). I try not to just lie around and do nothing…at the least, I’ll read. It’s healthy, I think, to let your brain regroup. Love your Friday Stumbles–awesome way to ‘waste time’!

  5. I suppose some would say that an unknown author who sits at a keyboard for hours on end, day after day, may be wasting his time. But I have learned that those precious moments when we do what we love are anything but wasted.

  6. For me “time” is synonymous with “life.” Thus, your question may be rephrased: When is wasting life not a waste of life. There’s a greater impact when phrased that way, isn’t there? Truth is, I can only see one way of wasting a life and that is by repeating the same mistake.

    I don’t have a problem with making mistakes. To me, mistakes are opportunities to learn. Think about it. You do something correctly, it works. What have you learned? Nothing. On the other hand, you do something incorrectly, there are one of two possibilities. You achieve a desirable result and you’ve learned a new way of doing something. Alternately, you do something incorrectly and achieve an undesirable life, you’ve learned not to repeat that mistake. Try another method until you achieve the desired result and you’ve learned. And, all learning is good.

    But, repeating the same mistake without any good outcome is a true waste of life. Trust me, I know. Let me tell you about my first wife… some other time.

  7. Ok, I can get into this. Yesterday I wasted time reading, walking around outside, and surfing the web in what started out as author research and morphed into you tube videos of multiple author interviews, which DID inspire a blog post. So, I think it was time well wasted.

  8. I feel bad when I spend too much time on social media rather than writing. It’s just so easy to get addicted to Twitter, and now blogging 🙂

  9. Coleen Patrick

    Recently I searched for images that go with my current WIP–and then added them to a board on Pinterest. It was so much fun–and yet productive too 🙂

  10. Yes, all of it! LOL I don’t get a very large window of time with the kids, so any distraction is a time suck/waste (social media, pinterest, YouTube, etc.) But it all does us some good somewhere, right? Right? I must believe that. I must! 😀

  11. Adriana Ryan

    Yes, indeedy! I love to waste time, too. Erm, well, I mean. 🙂 I like to get out of the house and just go some random place. Even the grocery store works, just to jar my brain out of the writing spot. Great post!

  12. As president and founder of Procrastinators International, I resemble these remarks.

  13. I love to waste time. Some of my best ideas come while I’m mindlessly shuffling electronic cards around on my computer or phone, when I’m working on a sudoku puzzle, or when I’m watching a baseball game.

  14. Reetta Raitanen

    I agree with Gary, unproductive time is necessary to be creative. I also love organizing things. Clearing the clutter around me helps me to think and breathe more freely. I get blog ideas all the time while browsing random web sites and reading non-fiction – and magazines, my guilty pleasure. And reading books is essential for a writer, even when it is not our genre or has nothing to do with the topics we write about. Pinterest & Goodreads are great ways to combine fun and to connect with potential readers.

  15. Some of my sweetest moments in life are when I’m ‘doing nothing,’ or wasting time. That’s when life is allowed in, and everything out there (smells,emotions, sights, sounds) filter in. Yes, to be creative, we must learn to waste time!

  16. I love I can haz cheezeburger (or however it’s spelled). Those pictures so crack me up, and sometimes I just need a good laugh! I don’t know how productive they are, other than providing a mental health moment, though! Lovely post!

  17. I blog and write a monthly newsletter for work which is great fun but sometimes it’s nice to take a little break. And that’s when I “waste” time by working on my fun-non-work-related blog. Some people would call that wasting time but it’s like remembering to blink after staring at the computer for too long.

    Oh and I don’t rearrange furniture but my plants certainly get moved around.

  18. I also do the book browsing one. There a bookstore downtown called “Aunties” that is a particular haunt of mine. The clerks probably despise me because I purchase things so sporadically. I’m not sure if reading is necessarily a waste of time, but sometimes I’ll only have a certain amount of time I can read before I need to be productive elsewhere but I’ll overshoot the mark because the book is so engrossing.

  19. Pingback: How Do You Waste Time? « Sonia G Medeiros

  20. I’m wasting time in the same way: Stumble upon and Pinterest when I’m searching for my muse and inspiration. And of course iPhone games like The Foundry with 100 Balls or Sheep Happens helps me wasting my time 🙂

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