Reader Response Post: What is a Waste of Time?

Question: How do you define wasting time?

What kinds of activities constitute a waste of time?


The Background to these Questions

One thing you may or may not know about me by now: I’m SLOW. (I hope someone else can relate).

It’s why all the bosses I’ve ever had have hated me, and why I’ll never make any money.

My brain processes things slowly. As a result, my hands move slowly. I’m a slow reader and a slow writer. Add to that a perfectionist streak, and I never get anything done.

I’m inefficient. I’m terrible at strategizing. Plus, I’m an incorrigible daydreamer, forever distracted and scatterbrained.

But I want to DO so many things. I want to write and paint and cook and garden and raise a family.


I’m always trying to figure out how to make the most of my time. (Until I get distracted). It’s a puzzle I’ve been trying to figure out my whole adult life so far. (But I hate puzzles).

I want to know: how can I pare down my schedule so that I’m only doing valuable stuff? How do I get rid of the waste?

The trouble is, whenever I go over all the things I do in a day — especially the things that might seem like time-wasters — I don’t feel I can let any of it go. It’s all important to me.

  • Cooking from scratch
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Internet stuff: reading blogs, even being on Pinterest and Facebook . . . it’s valuable to me because I come across amazing information and ideas on a regular basis that enrich my life. Plus it’s important, as a blogger, to connect with my “tribe” on a regular basis.
  • Playing with Lydia and being present with her, cuddling, and enjoying her: these are some of the things that make my life worth living. And they’re important to her too, I’m sure.
  • Daydreaming and reflecting: my brain needs to play
  • Reading fiction: it’s where I experience beauty

(I do more things than these in a day. Laundry, grocery shopping, etc. These are just the first things I consider cutting when I’m trying to maximize my time).

So, back to my questions:  what does count as a waste of time? How do you define it? What are some activities that constitute wasted time?

I’m mostly curious what you’d come up with. I don’t know if you could really help me.

The only thing I could think of as a pure waste of time? Watching ads. Nothing good can come of it. That is time eaten out of your day that you can never get back or redeem. This is time that could be better used doing basically anything else.

(But Ben and I don’t watch TV, so that doesn’t really help me).


Image courtesy of Bethan.
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  1. Whatever is not productive and healthy could be considered a waste of time – and I’m not talking tangible of either of them. Spending time playing with our kids could be more productive than shipping them around town for a million types of lessons and be the “healthier” option of the two. If adequate sleep is necessary for your mental and emotional health than you are being productive (producing a healthy outcome). I could be “productive” by skimming and therefore “Reading” 5 books this week or I could be “productive” by taking my time and thoroughly enjoying one.

    There’s a bunch of things I’d love to do to; at this point in my life I’ve come to grips with the fact that if it’s really important I’ll make time for it and if I don’t actively make time for it it’s not important enough (though it might be next week, next month or next year).

    I think we get too caught up in the idea that we need to be constantly producing “things” (awards, crafts, big fancy dinners, children with long achievement records) that we forget that producing moments and healthy, peaceful relationship can be just as important and sometimes more satisfying and rewarding.
    Molly recently posted..Quiet in the Early MorningMy Profile

  2. I have been think about productivity in my own life and feeling like I am not getting “enough” done. And this is probably silly but what helped change my thinking was a Bob Dylan quote I read: ““A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” Why do I feel productive if I get all the laundry done but not if I sped time journaling or playing with my daughter? Those are the things I really value, those are the things I want to do. It was a refreshing change in perspective.
    Rue recently posted..HomeMy Profile

  3. What an interesting question! I think the answer would be different for every person, although I feel most would agree that tv in general is a waste of time and a huge percentage of internet browsing is a waste of time, but then again, what if those things makes a person happy? Such a complicated question I’m sure I don’t have an answer for it!
    Bekah recently posted..Elimination Communitcation Update.My Profile

  4. That varies so greatly, I think. To me, watching tv is a waste of time, but reading fiction isn’t–yet they’re both activities that immerse me in a story. What’s the difference? Other than the ads, I guess.

    But. My husband would rather watch tv than do most other things. Cuddling with him and watching a show or two–is that a waste of time? He thinks of that time as quality time spent together, doing something he enjoys, while I think of all the other things I could be getting done and how can it *really* be quality time when we’re not talking to each other or *doing* anything. But if doing it makes him feel loved and strengthens our relationship in his eyes, is it really a waste of my time? Not so long, I suppose, as he also makes an effort to spend time with me in a way that *I* view as strengthening our relationship and showing me I’m loved. I guess.

    I still think he spends too much time watching tv and not enough time cleaning things. Hmph. ^_~

    Anyway, I’ve been struggling with this too lately. There’s SO MUCH I want to get done. I feel like going to work every day is the biggest waste of my time–and yet it’s necessary in order to earn the money that keeps everything else going. And when I have so many things I want to accomplish in my very limited time not at work or some other obligation (and I guess, which of those obligations are a waste of time? meetings and weddings and choir practices and game nights–I could use that time to accomplish something productive for me, but what about accomplishing something productive for someone else, for an organization that matters to me or for the church? and again, time spent nurturing friendships and celebrating relationships isn’t very accomplishful, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important), when there are so many things to do, it’s really hard to see anything other than checking them off my list as productive. But I’m eight months pregnant and working myself to exhaustion is definitely not productive for me or the baby!

    So. Argh! Stop making me think so much, Kathleen. ^_^*

    • ” I feel like going to work every day is the biggest waste of my time.” I am SO GLAD to hear I’m not the only one who has felt that way! :)

      • YES. As evidenced by the fact that I am at work *now*, on a Saturday morning with less than a month ’til my due date…and clearly wandering around the internet instead of doing actual work anyway, so obviously there’s no reason for me to be here except the whim of my boss. Blargh. ^_^*
        Katie recently posted..I am busy (busy, dreadfully busy).My Profile

    • I also feel like going to work is the biggest time-suck in my life (because, um, it is). The nature of my job means I have a fair amount of down time, so I try to increase the productivity by using that time to do most of my blog reading and internet pursuing so that I get more stuff done on my days off.

      I often feel like I’m not getting enough done. I have found (unintentionally at first) that taking and posting pictures to FB or Instagram or my blog helps me appreciate how much I am actually doing and how much progress we have made on many projects. I also started keeping track of all my food preservation efforts. That was originally just to keep track of what we have, but I coded a cell to tally all my canned goods and seeing that number go up is quite rewarding.

      I fully appreciate that I am nowhere near being totally efficient in time management or productivity, but I’m also not a cog, so I try not to let that rule my life. We need to value space in our days for quiet, for play, for nurturing relationships, and caring for ourselves.
      Lily recently posted..Minimalism, Simplicity, and St*ffMy Profile

  5. I look at my time so differently now. I’m actually writing a piece next week on “natural time.” For me, it is pretty simple: waste of the is when I am doing something and my heart is not in it. That’s a waste of my life. So it looks differently for each person and I am responsible for mine alone. I don’t watch tv except for two shows that I adore. I don’t find that a waste of my time because my heart is in it, I connect with the story. So it’s not a general tv watching that is a waste of me time. It’s all context, and choice and heart are the main factors.
    Vina recently posted..Mama Gone Wild Fridays: The Art of Brags, Wish-Crafting Practice and a Body-Licious Giveaway!My Profile

  6. And dear, I am slow too. And don’t believe too quickly that slow = unprofitable. ;) it’s about valuing what you have to offer in a new light. Xo,vina
    Vina recently posted..Mama Gone Wild Fridays: The Art of Brags, Wish-Crafting Practice and a Body-Licious Giveaway!My Profile

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