The Gentle Art of Not Wasting Time

Time is one of the most valuable resources we have, as individuals, for making the most of our lives. Yet everyone seems content to just watch time pass by with no control, frivolously spending their resource on trivial unimportant activities; time-wasters. Time is not something to waste, in fact of all the “wasteable” resources we have at our disposal time is absolutely the worst one to be wasting. Yet people continue to do so, all the while crying “I just don’t have enough time!” I am here to tell you that you always have enough time in your life; you probably just waste most of it.

I refer to time as a generic term to describe the parts of your life that are (or should be) fully dedicated to activities that actively make you happy. This is what most people call “free time” but I don’t like that phrase as it implies that the rest of your time is not for having fun and thus it has been locked away and is forever inaccessible. This is simply not true.

Time as a Measurement is Imprecise

Before some smart person defined the concept of a second did the earth still rotate on its axis, and around the sun, at roughly the same speed? Of course. Our definition of time is just an approximate measurement, based on simple observations. It is close enough for general usage but you just need to consider the leap year concept to realise how imprecise time is.

Every four years we magically accrue an extra day filled with 86400 seconds. Where did these seconds come from? Imprecise science is where.

The argument for the leap year is that seasonal and astronomical events do not occur in a sequence of whole days and thus if we did not have the leap year our seasons would slowly shift. I agree, *if* we continue to use our current model of what time is.

Let’s go a step further; the non-leap-year-leap-years. That’s right, not only was our first definition of a second incorrect, the attempted fix (i.e. the leap year) was also not quite right. We take a leap year every 4th year to cater for the original error, except for every 100th year, unless that year is every 400th year.

Confused? Hell yes! The final nail in the coffin is that even this 2nd attempt to fix our wondrous time definition is still not correct and after about 8000 years the calendar will still be wrong by at least a day. So in 1967 some smart scientists got together and changed the definition of a second to ignore our rotation around the sun but instead use the periods of radiation of some specific atom. 9,192,631,770 periods of radiation to be precise. Well it sounds precise, but we still have leap years. Go figure.

Time is a strangely imprecise beast, created by humans with the hope that by measuring something it would become more meaningful. It didn’t, but that is not what general society will have you believe.

Time in General Society

Why do most jobs require an 8 hour day when clearly not all jobs are the same? Why does a lover-level employee work the same time as a high-level manager? The answer is because measuring things in time is easy and people like to take the easy option. But being easy does not make it right.

I once worked in a public service job where I could complete all my daily work with less than an hour of dedicated effort. However, when I proposed doing as much (and working from home) I was immediately shot down and my managers went looking for more work to give me. That’s right, they actively sought other work to give me, work that was not part of my job at all, just to keep me busy for the full day.

The reasons are obvious – I had threatened the status quo and provided evidence that their notion of time, effort, and work were wrong. Of course, I was the only one doing so and if the rest of society was working 8 hours a day then I should be too.

Ignorance is bred when people do not form their own ideas, but simply accept something to be correct because everyone else does. I never stood a chance. In the end I learned to waste time like the best of them by doing tasks just for the sake of it.

Doing Things for the Sake of it

This is a big fat time-waster. Most people only apply the time-waster tag to things like video games and TV watching, but this is not necessarily true. Time-wasting is any activity you spend your time on without a specific reason to do so. With that definition in mind start thinking about how you spend your time.

Doing things because you are bored is a no-no. Life is such a wonderful thing and we have so many options available to us that I believe there is no way we can truly be bored any more. People who claim to be bored are either procrastinating from another (generally bigger and more annoying) task, or are uncomfortable and unsure of who they are and what their goal in life is. Perhaps they are even afraid of discovering the latter.

That is not to say your time has to be solely about you. If your partner is an avid theater buff and is acting in their first production you may decide to attend the opening night. You might not understand or like the play but your time is being used positively to build your relationship and support your partner. That is definitely not a time-waster.

Do Not Waste Others’ Time

Wasting the time of another person is just as bad as wasting your own. When you abuse other peoples’ time you destroy your chances of forming positive and healthy relationships, not to mention being brandished with the reputation as a time-burglar.

Respecting and valuing the time of others is a great way to establish long-lasting and positive relationships. When you demonstrate yourself as the person who knows the importance of others’ time you immediately gain their respect.

As an added benefit these people will begin to protect your time in the same manner. They will schedule their interruptions to suit you and will also defend your time-centric attitude to others, resulting in stronger relationships and more productive time. Win-win.


Not wasting your time does not mean you have to be working on projects, fixing the house, or reading a fabulous personal development site for every moment of your time. Relaxing in purely entertainment methods is valid use of your time, as long as you are really are enjoying it and being in the moment.

Contrary to popular belief, relaxing is not about “switching off” or forgetting about everything. In fact during this leisure time I suggest that you should be even more focused and alert than you are at work. If you cannot focus yourself and devote your time 100% to enjoying the entertainment then the time is wasted.

During any such entertainment time if you find your mind drifting to past problems or future worries then stop right there. If the problem is an actual emergency (chances are that it isn’t) then you need to deal with that problem right away. Otherwise you need to remind yourself that this is your time and it is simply too important to waste. Your only concern should be your enjoyment and happiness at that given moment.

Learning to delineate your time is a difficult but critical skill needed to master the art of not wasting your time. Spending work time on work activities is fine. Spending personal time on work is not. Think about it from the reverse perspective. If you spent all day at work thinking about personal stuff, shopping, chatting to friends, and watching TV do you think your boss would allow it? Of course not, so don’t allow the opposite – your personal time is for you, not work. Don’t waste it.

What Can I Do Right Now to Increase My Happiness

So what are you doing here? Did you come here because you were bored or because you were seeking some form of personal growth? No matter your reasons I hope you can take something away about how to value your own time more. Start questioning your actions and whether they really make you happy. Focus yourself on every moment of the day and ask "What can I do right now that will increase my happiness?"