Crazy busy, covered up, snowed under, swamped… you get the drift. At face value, all of these sound dreadful so why would we want to be in that boat? The simple answer is that crazy busy and its ilk have become badges of honor that convey self-importance, relevance and worth as a human being. We like to believe that crazy confers bragging rights. And of course, that’s crazy. The real problem is that it’s become fashionable to be very, very busy or at least claim to be.
Maybe it’s time to develop a more thoughtful relationship with time and in so doing, cultivate a more thoughtful relationship with ourselves and with others. Can we quit the one-upmanship of comparing how busy we are? Can we stop running late which sends the message that “My time is more valuable than your time. “? Can we appreciate that having time to breathe, and think and sometimes do not much, isn’t a sign of worthlessness but rather a sign of worthiness.
It sounds almost heretical, but the English philosopher, Bertrand Russell touted the notion “that time we enjoy wasting is not wasted time”. Wasted carries some bad baggage. It’s in the batch of undesirables, like squandered or misused. It wouldn’t be the word I’d have chosen, but what I think Russell really meant by “wasted” was time that was unstructured, relaxed, or not demonstrably productive or profitable. It is pleasurable time spent on oneself and on others who matter. In Praise of Idleness, Russell’s 1932 treatise might be a bridge too far. So instead, try In Defense of Leisure. We’ve become desensitized to the benefits of leisure because of the 24/7 work cycle, the immediacy of communication and the expectation that we’re supposed to be busy, or better yet, crazy busy. Idleness is a miscreant- akin to slacker, sluggard, or no goodnick. But substitute some kinder words like unstructured, relaxed and pleasurable and some idleness sounds pretty good.
It’s not just rodents who are in the rat race. We humans are hell bent on emulating the rat. Might we leave the wheel and the maze to the rodents and try some leisure without a trace of guilt? Start in small doses and you’ll see that the stars won’t fall from the heavens. Most of us aren’t as important as we imagine ourselves to be and that should come as a relief. Some of what we busy ourselves with, doesn’t need doing. And the things that do need doing, are better tackled when we’re not crazed.
Time is very consistent. Sixty seconds per minute. Sixty minutes per hour. 24 hours per day. So time is not what we manage. We manage ourselves by setting priorities and giving work and leisure both their due. It’s become fashionable to blame time when we under-deliver because we’re over- scheduled. Time’s an easy target- it can’t talk back or deny the accusations. But we should blame ourselves when we don’t get things done that need to be done. Figure out what you must do, and do it. Things that don’t need to be done can be left undone- without handwringing and guilt.
Enjoying a bit of leisure can be the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down. And titrating leisure with duty requires thoughtful balance. One man’s leisure is another man’s burden. What’s your idea of relaxing? Bonbons and Netflix? Yoga? The morning paper with canine and coffee?
The White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland was right. “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” Slow down and remember that the bit of time you’ve enjoyed wasting was not wasted time.
Find your pleasure!