How to Waste Time Well

I’m not always good at wasting time.

image by Jose Diaz Ortiz

When I don’t try, I can be found some Saturdays lying on a couch somewhere watching a delightfully nonsensical reality television program as the hours tick by into night. Although this works on occasion to provide true relaxation (as I’ve talked about when defending my love for reality television), it’s not a real way to provide consistent rejuvenating relaxation. And it’s not something I would ever recommend to others.

There’s a whole other kind of relaxation that I would recommend to others, though, and I like to call it rejuvenating time-wasting.

Or, Wasting Time Well.

When I’m on my game, and remembering my larger goals for my year and my life, this is how I try to waste my time, and how you should too.

It was while reading Laura Vanderkam’s new ebook over New Years, What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend, that I really came to an understanding of why some ways of wasting time work, and why others don’t.

In short, if you want to waste time well, you need to plan it.

No, not plan every moment of the time you plan to waste — but (yes) create an overall arch for the activities you aim to get done. Vanderkam calls them “anchor events” and her ebook suggests that an average weekend should have a few (3-5) that your couple days off can be built around. Go bike-riding in the park on Sunday. Have an extended family potluck on Saturday night. Go to a great brunch spot Saturday morning. Rent a movie on Friday night. 

Such activities will help you to not only feel you’ve had a productively relaxing (no, not a misnomer) weekend, but will also make sure that you actually have a good time. After all, if you pick a few activities you know you will like, you’re bound to enjoy them. (There’s a reason you’re not picking activities like “work on book proposal” and slotting them into Saturday morning as a way to relax.)

The key to wasting time well — whether on a weekend, a day off, or an afternoon — is to not over-schedule or be overly ambitious in selection of your “anchor activities”. It’s also important to remember that we all need varying degrees of activity. For some people, the act of going out (to a park, to a dinner, to brunch) so many times in one weekend might not be relaxing at all. In which case their anchor events should be things like “bake a cake” or “read in the garden” or, yes, “watch the Real Housewives”. (I had to sneak that in.)


How do you try to waste time well? Do you choose specific activities or let things happen as they may? What have you found works for you to make you feel rejuvenated, relaxed, and not overly planned?


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