The Benefits Of Wasting Time

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Time management is a perennially popular topic, there are articles and books on it everywhere (mostly saying the same things over and again).

You often get the feeling that the aim is to try to extract the very last drop of ‘value’ from your allotted span and that there may be some hidden trick that you’re not aware of that will allow you to do this.

Over the years I’ve bought quite a few books of the subject and read lots of articles and posted a few myself as well.

concentration

In this general context I was interested to read a couple of articles recently on some of the more intangible aspects of time management. One was by the journalist Rosie Millard, which emphasised that time wasting may not be a bad thing at all and was motivated by a recent book:

Getting to the airport frightfully early, we now learn, is a bad strategy. In his book How Not to be Wrong: The Hidden Maths of Everyday Life, he summarises it thus: “If you’ve never missed a flight, you’re not doing it right.”

The article ends with:

Indeed, when I apply the Prof’s wisdom to my own crammed, time-poor, frantic lifestyle, I realise that the only moments I feel wholly relaxed are when my time-saving devices are nowhere near me, and I am actually “wasting time”. Running miles and miles along the Regent’s Canal tow path, for example. Or sitting leafing through ancient bird books at my parents’ house. I once spent 12 hours waiting for a plane at Sao Paulo airport. It’s the sort of thing that would have driven Prof Ellenberg crazy. I don’t even remember having a book to hand. I just drifted around and looked at people, who were also drifting around.

It was good.

That certainly rang a bell with me.

The other was by the writer A N Wilson on the value of a university education (prompted by record complaints by students that much of university teaching is not worth the fees):

That is why so much of university life should be a waste of time. The eight-week term flies past. If, in that time, you have fallen unsuitably in love (or, even more time-wasting, suitably in love); and/or if you have been acting in a play, or improving your squash, or becoming obsessed by Swedish cinema, the likelihood is that you will not have been giving enough time to your friends. And friendship, for many people at university, is its chief glory. This is the first time in your life when you are away from home, and away from the very limited circle of school contemporaries. You could, potentially, meet anyone from any walk of life, and this, for many people, is where friendships for life are formed.

Is it any wonder, in such circumstances, that you might neglect your work? Just a little?

Although the above viewpoint may be a little dated and whimsical, the underlying premise remains.

In summary:

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” – Bertrand Russell

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