The Usefulness of Wasted Time

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It was a gorgeous day – the kind where flowers bloom, birds chirp, and the sun shines like a spotlight on the empty deck chair. It was the kind of day that beckoned me outside to bask in it. It was also the kind of day that had me inside, at my desk, tapping away at the keyboard. Neighbors worked carefully in their garden, and I tried not to be jealous. A bird perched on the deck as though waiting for me. I turned my back to the window and kept typing. When I’d finally finished, the sun had sunk below the treeline, and the bird had long gone. I’d missed it.

Sometimes the day ends, and can feel like the whole thing was a waste of time.  Sure, I was busy all day doing things, but what did I actually accomplish?

My clients were served well, emails and phone calls were exchanged all day, but no Real Estate deals were signed, no one found that perfect-for-them house. Did I really help them?

I chatted with family and friends, parting with smiles, but did I really encourage them at all? Did either of us leave more alive and refreshed for having been together?

These are what I live for. Did I accomplish them today?

I’m sure you don’t know what I’m talking about, and never experience this yourself.

But I’ve learned ‘waste’ is just a mindset. I know it might sound a little weird at first, but really – I challenge you to think of something that’s a “waste”, and you will discover even that had something useful come out of it. I’m not saying it’s always a beautiful or desirable process, I’m just saying it’s not altogether a waste.

I’ve taken this view with my work, and it’s been a huge motivator. Especially on days when I am tempted to feel like I’ve wasted my time, I consider what useful thing has come out of it.
Investing in a client, regardless of the result, is never a waste. It is my business card. I sow into my reputation with how I treat others.

Time with friends and family – even if it’s brief, superficial or frustrating – is never a waste. At the very least, I might learn how not to interact in the future. Or maybe they were uplifted by our time together and I just didn’t know it.

I don’t mean to say it doesn’t matter what we do, because all will be useful. The lessons we can learn from a tyrant like Stalin do not warrant becoming like Stalin to teach the nations. I’m talking about even when we’re trying hard to do our best, there are going to be times it feels like it’s all for nothing. In those moments we can be glad that nothing is wasted. All things really are useful.

I really cannot think of anything we would call “waste”, from which something useful does not come. Can you? Even years spend on video games instead of with people. Even war. Even garbage.

It’s pretty amazing, and I find it hugely encouraging on those days that just don’t measure up to my ideas of productivity and results.



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