Shutterstock Few professionals can honestly say they work every minute of the workday.
But what if we abandoned this obsession with what we can achieve with our time, and instead gave ourselves over, at least for a while, to daydreaming and idleness? Would we find that we were freer to be creative and to rearrange our lives into healthier patterns?
Some recent books suggest Wasting our time we should change our idea of what constitutes using time wisely. Patricia Hampl first came to prominence with A Romantic Educationbased on a trip behind the Iron Curtain to explore her Czech heritage.
Hampl remembers lazy s summer days when she would lie on the grass under Wasting our time beechnut tree to escape family drama and the background angst of world war. Sit there and describe. And because the detail is divine, if you caress it into life, the world lost or ignored, the world ruined or devalued, comes to life.
Hampl also affirms the value of living a life of orderly solitude, of the freedom arising from discipline. In this she is backed up not only by Gregor Mendel, the Austrian genetics pioneer who lived as a monk, but also by two obscure figures from 18th-century history, Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, who fled Ireland to live together as friends and lovers in remote Wales.
Indeed, the sudden death of her husband, whom she often wistfully addresses in the second person in this book, brought mortality home like never before. But two recent British memoirists suggest that the helplessness of a terminal diagnosis can be accompanied by a surprising opening up of time.
In her book of autobiographical essays, On Smaller Dogs and Larger Life QuestionsKate Figes sees behind her progressive limitations an almost miraculous enlargement of time: I have limited energy and patience sooner than I would have liked.
But in the widening spaces, opening up between all these anti-cancer activities, when there is no need to rush just to be able to get through everything I had to achieve each day, there is a glorious sense of freedom, of empty space. The mind can wander back over the past and then think about nothing more taxing than what I might like for lunch.
Likewise, Rebecca Loncraine, who died of recurrent breast cancer in Septemberfound that time lived in the shadow of death decelerated in agonizing but revelatory ways. In her posthumous memoir about taking flying lessons after her treatment, Skybound: But in his new book, In Praise of Wasting Timethe novelist, physicist, and MIT humanities professor Alan Lightman agrees that it is only with such unstructured time that we can rediscover our true identity and recover our carefree childhood creativity.
This work-as-play model goes completely against the modern idea that time is money and every minute of life must be devoted to a project. Like Hampl, Lightman looks back to a bucolic s upbringing spent building things and experimenting, and laments that he, too, has become obsessed with maximizing his use of time: In short, he blames the internet, but specifically smartphones.
An addiction to social media, Lightman says, goes hand in hand with neurosis about missing out on friendship and affirmation. Yet he himself is no Luddite: Planning to do nothing? Lightman makes a carefully constructed argument and amasses a sufficient weight of scientific and anecdotal evidence; Hampl drifts and dreams through seemingly irrelevant back alleys of memory and experience.
The latter is a case of form following function: Listen to these secular gurus:May 29, · How to Waste Time.
In this Article: Article Summary Using Electronics Wasting Time Indoors Getting Outside Community Q&A If you have everything done that you need to accomplish or need to take a break from your work, you'll need to find some ways to burn up those extra hours.
Feb 07, · We are stupid and deluded about time at work.
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