What does it mean to “waste time”?
This is a question I’ve been sitting on for the past few weeks. I answered it a little while ago to myself after careful deconstruction, but it was something I needed to process a little more before writing about it on my blog for my readers to see.
It’s pretty common to hear someone say you should “stop wasting time” when you’re doing something, in particular when you’re doing something that is a hobby or pastime.
But let’s look at it from its root. What is time?
Time is the primary resource you have as a living organism. Every second that passes is a non-refundable token of time that was utilized in near infinite numbers of ways: whether it be in writing, reading, focusing on breathing, standing, yawning, blinking…you get the gist.
Time is the only resource we can look at metaphysically and say it’s non-refundable and unstoppable. You can’t “stop” time, because that would make no sense. The universe is always in motion in some way and regardless of you “stopping”, whether it be with physical movement or “thought”, your organs still function, oxygen still moves, and existence carries on.
It’s an unstoppable train, and every second is used up. You’re in the present reading this, but for every word written the second that existed at the time of reading it no longer exists now. Every word I write and every word read is done so with time and you can never “stop”, examine that resource that you just accumulated, and unpause. You can’t grasp a second similar to the feeling of grasping air – you reach for it and as it’s in your hand it passes through it instantly.
So time is non refundable, and that makes it your most valuable resource – because it’s the one that cannot be “replicated” or bought in any way. It’s what we use to act in any conceivable way, and money is somewhat of a representation of time spent, in material form.
But I digress – this all means that you really ought to spend your time the best way you see fit, and that comes round to the idea of wasting time. What does it mean to “waste” time?
As mentioned, it’s spoken about a lot, particularly in the self-improvement world where people tell you to “stop wasting time”. But what does that mean? How is time wasted?
When we get down to the basics, we’re all running on the same flow of time but act within that flow in accordance to our values. When I write this, I’m not at all wasting time in the sense that people say it’s a “waste of time” – and the reason is because it’s important to me. I don’t look at my writing over the past few decades and say it was a “waste”, because that time was spent on something very important to me. It was used in the way I wanted it used, and therefore is not a waste.
But you will continue to hear some people lament that the writing, singing, gaming, or whatever have you is a “waste of time” because it provides no material reward, ie. it doesn’t give you money.
This is a false equivocation, because it tends to beg the question that anything that does not provide some return of investment within the sphere of material wealth is a waste of time. In that case, any hobby you have or anything you do that has no intent to gain wealth is a waste.
Total nonsense, because we have to get down to the basic questions of: for who is it a waste of time, and for what purpose?
Once you ask that question, it becomes highly individual, and something is only a waste if it means nothing to you, specifically. If I take you out to a place where you never had an intent to go to and it was worthless, that’d be a waste of time to you – but maybe not to me. Perhaps the place had some new shoes I wanted to buy or something – but if you decided to sacrifice your time when you didn’t want to, that’s most certainly wasting your time.
It’s in these relationships you can start to see where time wasting exists. I recently went to a dentist to get some fillings done in my back teeth, and while it was pretty well done and overall a good thing for me to do, I won’t be going back there because it took nearly three hours to get everything done.
I was pretty annoyed, not because of the dentist taking it slow – that was the good part – but it was the waits in between, the delays, the computer having some technical difficulties, etc. There were inconsistencies here and there and while the quality of service in dentistry was good, everything else compounded in about two hours of time wasted for me.
That is wasting time. It was something I didn’t want to happen, and I lost precious time due to the fault of others. Me getting my teeth worked on was not, but the process in between, absolutely.
So, what does it mean to waste time? It means to be doing things you have no care for. Things of zero value.
In regards to people telling you to “stop wasting time”, you need to ask the question of to whom and for what reason. A lot of the tradcon super hardcore productive sphere tends to keep telling younger men to stop wasting time and get to working hard, finding a high paying job, nice wife, etc. Maybe even hustling and becoming an entrepreneur.
These are all nice things to some people, but not to all people. It depends on what you value. I work as a language teacher and while for some it is most certainly a waste, it’s not to me because it’s a deeply valued profession. I thoroughly enjoy my work and while that may change in the future, what I’m doing now is most certainly not a waste of time to me.
I also tend to play a bunch of games – sometimes I spend a few hours sitting there and playing them. Not a waste of time – because everything that is of higher value to me had been dealt with prior to it.
This leads into the next point – understanding your values in a hierarchy, and understanding that you can actually be wasting your own time if you’re not prioritizing things effectively, or using pastimes as a form of evading other factors in your life.
Both these things are problematic, but it has nothing to do with alphawolf69 on YouTube yelling at you to become a quadrillionaire, otherwise you’re not alpha. It has to do with you and your choices.
Let’s say you’re spending a lot of time watching Netflix, but fail to place importance on things like your sleep, budget, work schedule, etc. There’s nothing wrong with Netflix, but you have to ask yourself what the most important things are in your life, and whether you’re prioritizing them effectively. If you’re screwing your sleep or work schedule up for Netflix, there may be a problem and you’re wasting your time by watching Netflix instead of sorting those things out first.
Likewise, this leads into the fact that a lot of people tend to evade responsibilities that they have through consumption of entertainment. Keep in mind, consumption of entertainment is totally fine – but if you’re doing it with the reasoning to avoid things, you’re wasting your time for sure.
Wasting time isn’t about making money or some kind of inherent requirement to be productive to a certain degree – that’s Platonist thinking. It’s a matter of if you’re using your time in accordance to your values, and understanding your own hierarchy of values clearly. I can sit at this café and write my blog posts after I’ve done my morning workout and had my lunch – inverting that would be wasting the best times for me to do the other stuff. In that context, I understand where my time needs to go, and I’m all the more happier for it. After writing, I can sit and play games, have some dessert, etc.
None of it is a waste, because it’s things I value and they’re prioritized in accordance to what is most to least valuable – and I’m not evading any other responsibilities.
Play your games, watch your netflix, do your whatever hobby, I don’t care. But ask yourself if you’re using it not just as entertainment but as a means to evade other important things. If you find that it is, then you’re wasting time on things that aren’t as important.
Spend the time to deal with those things, and you’ll be all the happier for it. And yeah, don’t worry about the “WORK HARD PLAY HARD” crazies online – your life, your time, your choices. Don’t be a grindset gorilla if you don’t value it.
Make choices in accordance with what is important to you, just prioritize rationally. That’s time well spent.
Donations go here. I’ll use it for good.