in defense of wasting time

I wish I’d written this article below. It’s exactly what I have to say. Every word sounds just like the way I’m thinking these days. For a year now, I’ve been transitioning into full retirement mode. I still often struggle with not being “productive” all the time. I still always feel the need to be efficient in my use of time. Yes, routine and structure are still my close friends. I still feel the need for goals and outcomes. I’ll need to be content for at least a little while longer to “schedule in my spontaneity.” But I’m learning, I’m learning, gradually. Articles like this really help, so thanks, Tory Syracuse and!

NOTE: The following is a re-post (with permission) of an article written by Tory Syracuse and posted at The only thing I’ve changed is the photo — wanted to put in one of my own instead.



“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” ~Socrates

Last night, I was telling my husband that I had spent several hours teaching myself the very basics of HTML code in order to edit my blog’s layout precisely according to my vision for it.

I had actually enjoyed the time I spent on this puzzle, but nevertheless commented to him that I couldn’t help but resent wasting some of my day off clicking away in front of the computer screen.

“Why?” he asked. “You enjoyed it, right?”

Yes, I replied, it was fun delve into something new, and fascinating to glimpse the buried inner workings of the virtual world, but still….

“Right, so you spent some time in the flow, working on something and losing track of time, and now you know a little bit more about how the world works than you did before. How can that possibly be wasted time?”

How true. I had wanted even my day off to be productively idle, to serve some function, even if that function was pure relaxation. But I actually felt more fulfilled by doing something new, something I never would have expected to become interested in.

Not only did I have the idle time to delve into this, but I allowed myself to use that idle time in that particular way—to float off into exploration until before I knew it, I had been reading forums and scrolling through code for three hours.

When I realized this, my first impulse was to think of it as something negative—wasted time! But was it really?

As I thought about our conversation, it occurred to me: Too often, I am far too acutely aware of time. Am I using it wisely? Am I being efficient? Getting adequate work done?

Structuring my day so that I can fit in work, exercise, writing, chores, and maybe even the not-so-occasional episode of Dexter.

There is certainly something to be said for routine. I love feeling that at the end of the day, I have done things for myself, as well as accomplished what was needed professionally, and hopefully worked in some time with friends and family.

And the only way to do that, usually, is by rigorously structuring and sticking to a routine.

But in this rigid adherence to routine, necessitated by busyness, do we risk cutting off access to the meandering flow of the mind—to unexpected discovery and the pleasure that comes from losing time completely in an unanticipated task?

There are several ways to start with the end in mind—temporally (I will be done working on this at five o’clock!), intellectually (I can’t spend time learning HTML—I already know I’m not capable of understanding that), or emotionally (I already know how I feel about that).

If we do this, our lives truly will be barren. There will be no room for spontaneity, learning, and surprise.

No room for defying expectations, for exploring with no preconceived purpose, and therefore, ending up somewhere completely unexpected.

I love to set and meet goals, and in this way I suspect I’m a fairly representative member of our culture.

We all desire to have full, meaningful lives, but how often does our definition of meaningful hinge on the recognition or perception of others?

I admire those people who seem able to do it all and still maintain balance, and I often think, “If only I were a little more focused, or used my time more wisely or efficiently, maybe I could be like that!”

But the truth is, while that might expand my resume or diversify my list of career accomplishments, it will do little to make me happy, and holds slim opportunity for the pleasure of discovery.

One of the great gifts of writing—and, though I don’t have much experience in other areas, I imagine this is true of most forms of art-making—is that it is not a linear process. Too much structure and focus on the end goal will, at least for me, derail the entire creative act.

Writing cultivates flowing, associative thought, the loss of time, and the spontaneous yet concentrated creation of something from nothing.

I have general writing goals, and I certainly have to impose discipline on myself to make room for writing in my day, but the generative process itself blessedly un-goal-oriented.

Goals and outcomes are all well and good for strategic planning, career paths, and athletic feats.

But to similarly structure every aspect of life is to lose the art of it. We lose those moments when we might be most open and most ourselves, capable of discovery through examined contemplation and the flexibility to allow life to unfold as it will.

It is the relaxation of control, the total lack of ambition for this moment, the permission for the mind to wander its path that fends off the barrenness of routine.

And so I will continue to make time for it, to schedule in my spontaneity, if I must, and think of such time not as wasted, but as the most precious I have.

Tory Syracuse works, writes and plays in Tucson, Arizona. 
You can read more of her work at


1000 Awesome Things

Happy New Year, everybody! I hope 2011 holds at least 1000 awesome things for you!/p>

Seems a fitting topic for my last post of 2010: a link to a favorite website, 1000 Awesome Things, which is so awesome that the content is now in a book called The Book of Awesome.

From the Vancouver Sun:

“Neil Pasricha’s The Book of Awesome belongs on the nice list for its sheer pleasure. Pasricha started a blog,, and later published the book. The book, as its title suggests, is full of wonderful things, such as bakery smells, finding money in your pocket, thinking it’s Thursday when it’s really Friday and other simple delights. Reading it is guaranteed to put you in a better mood.”

Here’s a direct link to the top 1000 list of awesome things.


some serious (fun) savings: Groupon

I’ve been subscribed to Vancouver Groupon for a couple of weeks and there are some really good local deals. I get an email each day with the day’s coupon offer. No, I haven’t purchased anything yet, but a few of the items they’ve offered have been right up my alley and I may buy some coupons for xmas gifts!


The way it works is like large-group purchases resulting in deep discounts (usually 50% off). Some vendor offers a deal via Groupon, and if enough people commit to buying it, the group discount is a go. Then the commitment you made to purchase it becomes an actual purchase.

In this way, the consumer pays for the deal up front (basically, you’re buying a coupon) and then uses the coupon for it anytime within the time limit (that varies, but there’s lots of time to use it, like months).

Example: Today’s Vancouver deal (that link will lead to the deal for the day you click it) is $5 for $10 Worth of Falafel and Middle Eastern Fare at Falafel Plus. The deal became a ‘go’ at 7 a.m. after 75 people committed to buying it. As I write, there have been 636 buyers so far, with about 12 hours left to buy a coupon, which can be used anytime until May 22, 2011.

No, I’m not affiliated with Groupon or anything…. I just think this is one of those good deal things out there so I’m using their referral link. (And sure, I’m hoping for the $10 credit to my account if you’re impressed with Groupon too and you sign up for some deal). Please check it out!

The Fun Theory

Check out Volkswagen’s The Fun, a “site is dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better.”

Here’s a sampler of one of their experiments:

Your child’s lifespan will be 10 years less than yours

Can your children correctly identify vegetables in a grocery store? Millions in the USA cannot! because their parents and schools don’t buy or cook them from fresh! I know, it’s hard to believe.

Jamie Oliver’s 6-program TV series will be winding up this week on Friday. An amazing and shocking documentary series that keeps you completely captured during every show. Find a way to watch this series, if you haven’t yet.


Jamie wants to show how many people around the world really care about tackling obesity. Sign his online Food Revolution petition and show your support. It will only take 30 seconds.

“After three successful series of The Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver could have easily retired from television and publishing, bought a little pub/restaurant in the Essex countryside and spent the rest of his life cooking and taking it easy. But there’s a part of Jamie that wants to make the world a better place, wants everyone to have the knowledge and the opportunity to enjoy good food, and wants to help people who perhaps haven’t had anyone there to help them before.”

Watch Jamie Oliver’s TED award speech. (I hope it appears below; if not, click that link.) In it, Jamie expresses his wish to teach every child about food and fight obesity.

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