Wasting Time is Good For You

Memorial Day is behind us and the lazy days of summer are almost here. It’s time to kick back and relax. While the finer points of purposelessness have fallen out of favor in the Zeitgeist of efficiency and workaholism, wasting time can be one of the sweeter aspects of the season.

Your grandmother may have instilled in you the concept that idle hands are the devil’s workshop, but science now tells us that those idle hands are predisposed to even bigger work: creativity. Great ideas, good ideas, new ideas need time and space to germinate.

The popularization of meditation points to our national need for such space. The philosopher Krishnamurti wrote, “Meditation is the emptying of the mind of all the things that the mind has put together. If you do that – perhaps you won’t, but it doesn’t matter, just listen to this – you will find that there is an extraordinary space in the mind, and that space is freedom. So you must demand freedom at the very beginning, and not just wait, hoping to have it at the end. You must seek out the significance of freedom in your work, in your relationships, in everything that you do. Then you will find that meditation is creation.”(jkrishnamurti.org/krishnamurti-teachings/print.php?tid=756&chid=5073)

We need space. As we move with ever increasing efficiently and productively through our To Do lists, new ideas dwindle and die. Some of this space (and resulting creativity) can be found wasting time.

This is not to imply that mindlessly scrolling through cat pictures on Facebook is the psychological equivalent of meditation, but that moments of unstructured activity during the work day can make room for the possibility of deeper thinking.

In her article, The Psychological Importance of Wasting Time, Olivia Godhill writes: “All of us have the urge to while away time flicking through a magazine, walking around the block, or simply doing nothing. We should embrace these moments, and see them as what they are: time well spent.” (qz.com/970924/the-psychological-importance-of-wasting-time)

So step away from your desk! Take a lazy stroll, look a the clouds, listen to nothing, daydream. The little space you create between tasks might spark something wonderful. Your To Do list will await your return.