The case for making time for wasted time

Being productive

If you've got a thriving career and a full personal life, you probably have much of your day scheduled down to the minute. You work on long-term projects from 8 to 10 a.m. You spend the rest of the morning in meetings and then the afternoon putting out fires via email. At home you're focused on getting the kids to do their homework, practice the piano and so on.

But are you making time for wasted time?

I use the phrase "wasted time" a bit loosely. What I mean is doing things less efficiently than you otherwise might in the interest of introducing some serendipity into your life.

Last Wednesday, for instance, was an incredibly inefficient day for me. I met a professional acquaintance for lunch in downtown Philadelphia, which meant driving down the interstate, finding parking and so forth. In the evening I decided to go work in a coffee shop, which meant packing up my computer and papers and driving there.

The point was to work uninterrupted, but I could have done that by hiding out in a different corner of my house as well. All told, I "wasted" a fair amount of time.

But sometimes changing the scenery really gets your brain churning. Beyond the obvious upsides of networking, my lunch brought me to a new section of town, the Italian market area, which I'd never seen before, and whose narrow alleys and fascinating smells gave me some fun phrases to work into a different project. Sitting in the coffee shop, without the distractions of my home office, inspired me to hammer out another 2000 words on something that had eluded me before.

In other words, that wasted time was an investment. Sometimes fields need time to lay fallow before they sprout.

How do you make time for wasted time?