What are time wasters?
We know that a lot of time is wasted in today’s world. The question is what is a waste of time and what is a good use of time? Just who gets to say what a “time waster” is, anyway? One man’s waste is another man’s treasure. We’ll look at this in this post.
Take any given activity or pursuit, and some people are going to think it’s a time waster, while others will find it a valuable, perhaps even indispensable use of time in their lives:
- Having children and spending time teaching them things
- Spending time with friends and family
- Taking college courses
- Watching football
- Riding horses
- Hunting for edible wild foods
- Starting a business
- Washing and reusing items other people just throw away
- Tutoring at-risk children, or tutoring prisoners
- Going to hockey games
- Creating art
- Playing an instrument
- Watching movies/episodes
- Taking walks
This list could go on forever, and if I was aiming for a huge word count, I’d keep going, but I’m not.
Some people even think that having a job is a waste of time, so that could go in the list. Now, I’m all for having a job or business that uses your skills and doesn’t feel like a waste of time, and I encourage people to find something that fits them well, but I’m not “anti-job.” When I think about this anti-work-utopia thing, where leisure is our whole purpose for existing… it makes me shudder, and I can only think about it for about one second.
No, I believe people are teleological: we need goals, we need to be productive. Maybe not to the extent that Western society pushes for, but we still need it. Not everyone believes that, though. It’s appalling, the nearly hundreds of thousands of searches each month where people are looking online for ways to waste their time while on the job. That’s theft, and it just makes me shake my head. The people who want to accomplish something with their lives are looking for time wasters so they can eliminate or reduce them, and there are people who are looking for MORE time wasters? That’s a shame.
What constitutes a time waster is subjective. Only you can decide if getting a manicure is a waste of time (and money) or if it contributes to your success. Only you can decide if it’s relaxing and therefore helpful for you to watch a CSI NY episode or if it’s going to get you twisted up in knots. Maybe on Saturday it is relaxing and good, yet you have work that’s due on Wednesday, so on Tuesday night it would not be good to take the time to hop on Netflix and see what Mac and crew are up to.
We all need time to rest, relax, and recreate, and even the military—that bastion of efficiency—acknowledges that: thus the term R&R (rest and relaxation/recuperation/recreation). So please don’t think I’m pushing you to work more, harder, longer, faster. Just ask yourself this: are you wasting too
much time, beyond what you need to stay healthy?
For some people, especially Creatives, time spent taking a walk or having a cup of coffee is a good use of time: it might lead to some good ideas, or it might provide the recuperation we need to go and be productive afterward. For others, it’s just a way to avoid work. For some of us, whether it’s a good use of time or a way to procrastinate might vary from day to day!
Waste of time
I am not your mama. I can’t tell you what goes in your “time wasters” list. Even your mama can’t determine what is a waste of time for you. A few questions that might help you figure it out.
- Do you have work that needs to be done?
- Does this thing help you do that?
- Will it help you be more productive later if you do it now?
- Could you be more productive if you used it as a reward for AFTER you get the work done?
- Would you be ashamed to tell all of the people who are important to you that you spent this time doing this item?
- Is this activity interfering with the things that are more important, such as doing my job and taking care of my family?
- Are you the only person who can do this item, or could it be handed off to someone else?
- Is there a better time to do it?
- How will your life be better for doing this? (If the answer is “it won’t be better,” then it’s probably a waste of time).
Things you have to do
In the book Do More Great Work, there’s a chart where readers can plot their tasks along two axes; one could be phrased “it matters to me/it doesn’t matter to me” and the other “it matters to my bosses/it doesn’t matter to them.” This makes four areas for plotting the items. I’m going to mention the quadrant where it doesn’t matter to you but it does matter to your bosses. Those are the things that have to get done, whether you like it or not, even when those things are stupid. Because I work almost exclusively with Creatives who are solopreneurs, I’ll adapt that chart to the field.
Our “bosses” are the editors, publishers, readers, buyers, gallery owners, clients, customers, IRS… If we want to stay in business, we have to do the things that we don’t want to do, but our “bosses” want done, even if they seem like a waste of time to us (and some are). The key here is to get through it as quickly (yet accurately) as possible, and then spend time on things that are important to you. There are many time management and productivity techniques you can use. Rewarding yourself in some way can provide good motivation.
One final thought: if something is important to you, and it’s not illegal/immoral, and it’s not interfering with the most important things like job and family, then don’t let any0ne tell you it’s a waste of time, because to you, it’s not. Now, I’m going to go enjoy a meal with my family—a meal I cooked ahead of time so I’d have more time to write today.