During my time as B&G Sports Rep, I used to get pissed off with people who “didn’t have the time” to come to training when they were actually just bad at time management. I was particularly upset with people who filled their days with “dead time” — staying in the kitchen, sitting on Facebook instead of studying, etc.). Basically, I was a strong proponent of making maximal use of every minute of every day and the complete elimination of all dead time.
While this attitude still informs my life, I have recently begun to question just what constitutes wasted time. Some things are obvious – Facebook, viral videos, talking to people with whom you’ve exhausted all interesting conversation, tabloid magazines, the list goes on.
But other things are not so clear. Many people ‘waste’ time socialising, but how important are these hours to building social skills? Similarly, partying is something that is often considered empty, but how important are loose nights for divesting someone of inhibitions, building memories, testing boundaries and getting the most out of youth?
Is sex a waste of time? It doesn’t really produce anything lasting, especially the one night stand variety, and if you start the day with it then good luck getting anything done. What about masturbation?
Another curious question is idleness and relaxation. Some things are pure laziness and other things legitimately constitute “recharging the batteries”, but what about those grey patches, like hours of pop culture absorption? Back-to-back seasons of The Office or Family Guy can be thoroughly enjoyable, but they aren’t very productive. Does their viewing constitute wasted time?
What most of these questions ask is whether pleasure is itself something worth pursuing, or whether activities need to produce some kind of lasting effect for them to be valuable.
This brings to mind Daniel Kahneman’s work on the remembering vs. the experiential self. The experiential self draws pleasure from the here and now, from the moment. Activities like partying, socialising and pop culture absorption appeal to this aspect of our psyche.
By contrast, the remembering self is reflective. It considers what has been and whether or not that has left any meaningful lasting benefits. Participation in events like marathons appeals to the remembering self — the activity itself is gruelling, but the final elation and the lasting achievement are magic.
A life well lived appeases both the experiential and remembering self. A life of perpetual party, as espoused by Ke$ha, is shallow and phoney, while a life constantly checking things off a list never allows you to enjoy the moment. Time is priceless; waste it at your own peril. But if you’re anything like me, just remember that sometimes you need to stop and smell the roses.