How to waste time (productively!)

by Jun 27, 2024Mindfulness, Uncategorized0 comments

Some weeks, when I’m planning a blog post, I just can’t think of anything to write about. 

This morning was one of those mornings … I haven’t got anything exciting to report, and despite the saying ‘No news is good news’, it doesn’t make for rivetting reading! 

Goldfish focus

And then I realised something …. my impatience and frustration are common symptoms in our fast-paced world, where we’ve been trained to want instant entertainment and distraction.

As a result, our attention spans have shrunk accordingly, and our ability to sit with ‘nothingness’ is out of many people’s comfort zones.

It’s not just that we equate slow or quiet with boring. It’s that we’re losing our capacity to just be quiet or still or silent, whether that’s by ourselves or with others. 

I’m a people watcher, and I love to sit on a bench or in a cafe and observe how people interact with each other or how they spend their time alone. What I see is that people turn to their phones the instant there’s a gap in the conversation or when the person they’re with briefly leaves the table.

The reason this concerns me is obvious, In fact, I’m sure you’re way ahead of my rambling point … 

We’re less able to sit with awkward feelings or interactions, we’re not comfortable with space and silence. And so it seems to me that we’re becoming less aware and also less self-aware because these 2 qualities require us to be reflective and contemplate our reactions and feelings and experiences.

So what?

The risk is disconnection – from ourselves and from each other. And it can also lead to burnout because the sense of missing out and feeling the need to be ‘on’ all the time is draining.

I’m not preaching that patience is a virtue. But nor is it a waste of time! 

Slowing down and being present, rather than distracted, is essential to building a healthy sense of self and a healthy relationship with others.

Just like the slow food movement that was popular a few years back, we could try cultivating feeling comfortable with slowing down and lingering, savouring the moment and taking time to just be aware.

tulips in garden on green bokeh background

Those quiet ’empty’ gaps are like the season of Winter where the flowers and leaves are gone and it might seem that nothing is happening.

But that fallow time is where the energy is gathering under the surface and in the roots of plants, getting ready to bud and blossom in the warmth of the sun as Spring and Summer approach. 

Humans need the same – we’re a microcosm of the incredible macrocosm of the Universe.

We need quiet time here and there in order to develop awareness and self-awareness, which is turn helps us connect better with each other and makes for a healthier society and kinder world.

I dare you!

So here’s a Winter Challenge – your mission if you choose to accept it!

  • Try and just be present for a moment or two, here and there during your day. 
  • Notice the urge to check your phone, and take a breath instead, look up and look around and observe the world around you. 
  • Maybe even catch someone’s eye and give them a smile – I know, radical, right?!

And then check in with yourself to see if you feel like you’ve ‘wasted your time’ by daydreaming or looking out and connecting, rather than looking down and scrolling – or if you feel a little more present and settled. Because if you do, then it wasn’t a waste after all!

Liz O'Brien

Liz O'Brien


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