The Psychological Importance of Wasting Time

Allison Hudson
Dec 3, 2018 · 4 min read

In Italian, there is a phrase that means enjoying the pleasure of doing nothing: “il dolce far niente.”

For those who think that time is money, the simple idea of letting minutes go by without doing anything can seem incredible madness. However, time is not money, time is life, and perhaps we should rethink how we are using it. Is it so terrible to waste time?

Frantic Search for Productivity Leads to Guilt

We will always have in front of us an endless list of work to be done, the tasks to be completed, and the relentless culture of productivity that pushes us and tells us that we have to do everything immediately and that we must feel terribly guilty about the “lost” time.

We should not feel guilty for “wasting time,” but the culture of productivity obliges us to do so.

Productivity, Efficiency, and Procrastination

Words such as productivity, efficiency, and procrastination have not only been successfully inserted into our lexicon, but have also made a hole in our way of thinking, determining how we organize our day and, even worse, how we feel about it.

We frantically pursue productivity, to the point where we can’t really rest. While we take a walk, take a day off, or even while reading or watching a movie, our minds stay busy with the things we should be doing. So we end up overwhelmed by guilt.

Feeling Guilty About Wasting Time

To exorcize that sense of guilt, we resort to the worst possible strategy: surfing the Internet aimlessly or immersing ourselves in television marathons. That keeps our minds relatively busy, but it doesn’t contribute to our productivity, let alone happiness.

Many geniuses knew that wasting time is just as important as working on it.

In fact, a survey conducted by Netflix revealed that 76% of its users recognize submitting to series marathons as a remedy to escape from their busy lives. However, a University of Texas study found that TV marathons are related to loneliness and depression: they don’t make us happier or help us genuinely disconnect.

Wasting Time Is Just as Important as Taking Advantage of It

Great characters like Gabriel García Márquez, Charles Dickens, and Charles Darwin followed fairly relaxed schedules, working five hours a day or less. It is said that Albert Einstein needed about 10 hours of sleep and even took small naps.

Many geniuses knew that wasting time is just as important as working it. They were aware of the importance of rest, relaxation and sleep since in those moments the default neural network is activated in the brain, which is precisely the one that is set in motion to produce the most original and creative ideas.

Being More Productive Doesn’t Mean Working Harder

Therefore, we must get rid of the belief that productivity is synonymous with working harder. OECD studies show that the most prosperous and productive countries work fewer hours. In 2016, Germany led the list of productivity in the European Union, but its workers spent an average of 1,363 hours, while in Spain they work an average of 1,695 hours per year but productivity is lower.

Rest, disconnect, do something that makes you stop thinking about work. This is the only way to improve your productivity.

Truly relaxing, completely detaching ourselves from work and devoting ourselves to regenerative activities, such as forest therapy, or simply enjoying good music without doing anything, allows us to get rid of mental fatigue, develop a more positive emotional state and regain our psychological balance.

Rest Allows Us to Think Better and Be More Creative

Rest also will enable us to adopt new perspectives to find better solutions to problems. A study at the University of Southern California found that we make better decisions when we are relaxed because we can more objectively weigh the pros and cons of the situation we are in. So now you know: when you don’t do anything, you’re actually doing yourself a huge favor.

Embrace those moments and embrace them for what they are: time very well spent!

Sources:

Netflix, Inc (2013). Netflix Declares Binge Watching is the New Normal. Retrieved from: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/netflix-declares-binge-watching-is-the-new-normal-235713431.html

International Communication Association (2015). Feelings of loneliness and depression linked to binge-watching television. Retrieved from: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-01/ica-fol012615.php

Organization For Economic Co-Operation and Development (2016). Average annual hours actually worked per worker. Retrieved from: https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=ANHRS

Mara Mather (2012), Nichole R. Lighthall (2012). Risk and Reward are Processed Differently in Decisions Made Under Stress. Retrieved from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0963721411429452

Allison Hudson

Written by

I write to tell my truth. I read to understand other people’s truth.

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