In those few moments when we stand aside to wonder what happened, perhaps after things have gone wrong and we have failed to reach our desired goals, we usually revisit our wasted time quite negatively, building our schedules again trying not to waste a minute, but we By this we miss what might really be the cause of our problems, which is to contemplate what we are doing in the wasted time itself, because there will always be wasted time like it or not, and the problem is not to put it aside, but perhaps to work on understanding and organizing it, in this report Arthur C. Brooks, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School, in organizing your downtime.

Several days ago, in an attempt to get away from my afternoon work, I decided to pick up Henry David Thoreau's Walden (an autobiography of the author during the two years he spent in a small house he built near Walden Pond Lake in Massachusetts, USA). It soon became clear to me that it was the right choice, as Thoreau had plenty to tell us about wasting time, as he says in one quotation:

 “The price of anything I have is the amount of time I spend practicing it, now or in the long term.”

Walden by Henry David Thorough

Thoreau's view is not that everyone should focus on work without breathing space or play. On the contrary, Thoreau is one of the most prominent critics of this theory, but he says that we waste a lot of our lives on things we don't really appreciate, and without consideration To think about it, fiasco becomes our ally when we test how much we value the cost and benefit of things in relation to what we spend, and it is not money that is the measure of the test here, but time;

Which is the most important factor.

This argument is really hard to refute, and the reason is that it is based on the fact that many of the pastimes in which we spend so much of our lives give us only temporary satisfaction, but that we soon fall into the rubble of anxiety and bite our fingers in remorse after we have succeeded in pulling ourselves away. about these means.

The most important example here comes from a report by Nielsen (which measures television audiences).

In the first quarter of 2020, the average American was spending three hours and 43 minutes a day watching live TV, and while that's a waste of a lot of hours, it's still less than the three hours and 46 minutes they spend staring at their smartphones.

Activities outside of work are not necessarily a waste of time, but on the contrary, a lot of research evidence indicates that spending time in daydreaming and enjoying hobbies away from work is not only beneficial for achieving happiness, but also helps improve work performance, and reach levels Higher than creativity.

There are really two ways to waste time;

Either you immerse yourself completely in something that distracts you from your most productive activities, or you deliberately immerse yourself in something that doesn't really capture your love or interest in the first place.

We may fall into anxiety and regret in these two instances of wasting time, but if we avoid them, we can free ourselves, for we will be surprised at a new store of time that we can use in joyful and fruitful ways.

We have all done this, wasting our time on something, prioritizing it over something more valuable, and then lashing out at ourselves.

One time, I stayed up until 3am watching Howard the Duck, which has been ranked one of the worst films in history, and it happened the night before an important morning job interview (to make matters worse, the plot of the movie still lingers in my memory).

In this case, the time wasted depended on my miscalculating the price of the opportunity to watch the movie, not weighing carefully the value of everything else I could have done instead, such as sleeping.

If humans were perfectly rational creatures, then we could study the costs and benefits of each activity sufficiently to avoid such mistakes, or at least not to repeat them, but all our experiences in life have helped us realize that things do not work that way.

Even the experts themselves were not spared from making this mistake. In one experiment with economists, nearly 80% of the participants failed to correctly estimate the opportunity cost (an opportunity is a benefit that a person could have obtained, but he gave up That is to do something else.)

These mistakes occur as a result of a lack of previous planning, as we surrender to this impulsive adolescent inside us, who does not see tomorrow, but does not have a concept of it, and at the same time controls our executive mental functions. This leads us to overvalue short-term pleasures and underestimate things that bring about long-term well-being. The consequences of this can be somewhat trivial, like playing "Angry Birds" for another ten minutes, or more dangerous as deciding to smoke an extra day (every day).

I realized how much I hated Howard the Duck once it was over, but we humans - confusingly - waste a lot of time doing things we previously knew we didn't want to do! If we look at the smartphone, for example, we will discover that it is a tool that gives us benefit and convenience, yet nearly one in three smartphone owners in a 2015 survey declared that it provokes a feeling of 'constraint' in themselves rather than a source of 'freedom' for this limitation Dire consequences, psychologists have linked excessive smartphone use to "digital addiction", which in turn can fuel loneliness, anxiety and depression.

What is the reason for millions to be subjected to this restriction?

Like everything else addictive, excessive use of our phones controls us by stimulating the reward system inside our brains. This gives us an instant gratification, but it is a short-term feeling that fades quickly and leaves us prey to regret eating us, but we quickly crave another dose.

We must manage our time according to our priorities, distinguishing between the wastes we like and those we don't like, and ridding ourselves of the latter.

Plus, even if we (with smartphones) aren't addictive, any compulsive waste of time doesn't make us happier in the long run - whether we spend it watching solitaire videos or cat videos - but it does harm our safety. Psychological long-term as well.

In order to achieve the greatest possible happiness and productivity, our goal should not be to age the time we have to get rid of every second that includes distraction or rest.

But instead we should manage our time according to our priorities, distinguishing between the wastes of time we like and those we don't like, and ridding ourselves of the latter.

Here are two ways to get started: schedule your free time or leisure, and give your bad habits a cash value.

The best way to deal with the "opportunity cost" problem is not to postpone time-use decisions until the moment we begin an activity, because the pursuit of short-term rest can muddle those decisions momentarily, recommends Cal Newport (Associate Professor of Computer Science) in his book Work Deep Work with a more productive strategy called time blocking, by making decisions about how time was previously used, and then sticking to the schedule.

The concept of allocating time should not be limited to work only. According to people who were only able to work from home during the epidemic period, they felt that life had mixed with work in a way that left them frustrated, due to the lack of a time structure imposed by the official workplace.

In my view, allocating time includes everything, including hobbies, leisure, and even daydreaming. For example, you could leave a space in your chart from 1:30 to 2 p.m. designated for "wasted time".

In front of this organization, you will not be able to help but be surprised when “wasting time” becomes an invited guest in your schedule, and is no longer just an intruder against your will, and therefore no longer has the power to spoil the pace of your day as it used to do, in that case, you will be more likely to return to work at the second noon to a large extent.

In 2012, two management researchers at the University of Toronto conducted a series of experiments in which they asked participants to think about their hourly income and determine a monetary value for the time they spent on leisure activities. For example, participants were asked to think of the time they spent browsing the Internet as a deductible part of their wages (forgotten wages), and thinking in this way reduced people's happiness from their leisure activities.

The researchers interpreted this as a negative consequence of mentally converting their free time into monetary value, but this method has an effective opportunity to deter us from engaging in addictive activities we don't like. For example, suppose you overuse social media, which recent research has found that excessive use reduces happiness, especially for young people. If you use social media in America at an average rate (about 142 minutes a day), and you earn an average hourly wage At about $29.92, you spend about $71 of time per day in this activity.

The simple advice here is: At the beginning of each day, remember the hourly wage, and say it to yourself whenever you embark on something that might eat up your time, in which case you will likely make a cost-effective decision about using social media, to quickly see what is happening later. In the lives of your friends go unnoticed, and you pick up the news quickly, instead of stimulating your brain’s reward system, and wasting an hour for nothing at random browsing.

There is a charming passage in Walden's book, in which Thoreau likens time to a river, in which he says: "Time is nothing but the river to which I go fishing and drinking, but as I drink the sandy bottom appears to me and discovers how shallow it is. Its gentle current slips away, though That remains eternity."

Meditating on the river of time - even without catching anything - is not a waste of time, but a special kind of dreamy thinking.

The problem, then, is not how you fish, or how you like to do it, but when you have to.

I realized that this is the case with any hobby or activity, even reading Walden, for though it is a wonderful and insightful book, at some point one has to put the book aside and go back to work again.


This report is translated from: The Atlantic and does not necessarily represent the website of Meydan.