Is There Such A Thing As Wasted Time?

By Tedi Rollins
Elm Staff Writer

In today’s world, people are constantly in a hurry. It feels as though there are not enough hours in the day and, any time that is not spent doing something productive is a waste. But is this really the case?

Between homework, classes, work, clubs, and attempting to maintain some sort of a social life, college can be overwhelming. It seems like everything we do must be valuable, which adds a lot of stress to an already chaotic world.

As Forbes writer Daniel Marlin said, “Nothing makes a productive person more guilty than the feeling that they’re wasting time. Whether you sit reflecting on precious hours you’re never going to get back, punish yourself for not working hard enough, or stop yourself enjoying life because you need to catch up on something—wasted time can be the cause of many woes.”

The many articles and ideas on how not to waste time that appear on social media seem to suggest that there is some sort of epidemic of procrastination sweeping the nation, and particularly millennials. But there is also evidence that people are working harder and longer than ever before because the hours in a workweek have been increasing over the past decade. These two ideas seem to contradict each other.

Lisa Belkin offers some explanation of this in an article in The New York Times. “So how to reconcile the seemingly conflicting trends — the fact that we are working harder and wasting more time? A crotchety boss might say that we’re working longer because we’re wasting time, but the opposite may also be true. We are wasting time because we are working harder,” she said.

The truth is that we are exhausted. When working long hours, whether on homework or in an actual office, it is necessary to take a few breaks.

Belkin talked to Bob Kustka, founder of a productivity consulting firm called Fusion Factor, who said, “The longer you work, the less efficient you are.”

This means that, contrary to the popularity of the techniques, cramming for a test or waiting until the last minute to complete an assignment are ineffective ways of getting things done.

“[Kustka] says workers are like athletes in that they are most efficient in concentrated bursts. Elite athletes ‘play a set of tennis, a down of football or an inning of baseball and have a pause in between,’ he says. Working energy, like physical energy, ‘is best used in spurts where we work hard on a few focused activities and then take a brief respite.’ And those respites look an awful lot like wasting time,” Belkin said.

In this light, no time is truly wasted. The occasional study break to check social media or get a snack will help you get more done in the end, and it allows the mundane work to be interspersed with some more enjoyable activities.

In addition to the increase in productivity, taking a break from work every now and then is necessary for mental health reasons. Although it is put on the back burner for most college students, maintaining good mental and physical health is fundamental to all aspects of life. After all, it is near impossible to get anything done when you feel depleted.

As such, it is essential that we “waste” a little time, both to take care of ourselves and to be effective in our work. If you need a break from homework, allow yourself to take a walk outside, play an instrument, watch Netflix, or do something else you enjoy. We must listen to what our minds and bodies tell us.

Like John Lennon once said, “Time you enjoy wasting was not wasted.” Even if something may not seem to benefit your future, it benefits you now. And that is just as, if not more, important.

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