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Why Wasting Time Will Make You Better at Your Job

In Defense of "Wasting Time" — and Why It Actually Makes You a Better Employee

Call it whatever you'd like — zoning out, lollygagging, daydreaming — the fact remains that spending time focusing on anything but work is typically seen as an embarrassing lack of productivity. There's a grueling prevailing belief in the American workplace that the more hours you log working, the better you are at your job, when the reality is that all work and no play really does make you a dull (or anxious/exhausted/resentful/depressed/sick) person.

What will make you a better worker? Zoning out and giving your brain some much-needed downtime. As Olivia Goldhill writes in a piece for Quartz, we live in "a culture of relentless productivity" to the point where we actually feel guilty for taking necessary work breaks or working fewer hours per day. If we do allow ourselves a break, we furtively spend it doing something joyless and unfulfilling: "Sitting at our desk, in front of our computer, browsing websites and contributing to neither our happiness nor our productivity."

Instead, we should truly "waste time" by going for a walk, lounging in a park, or just staring out the window and thinking about nothing in particular. Even binge-watching TV shows (as long as you really enjoy it and don't berate yourself for being "lazy") can have a psychologically relieving effect. Goldhill quotes psychologist Michael Guttridge, who says, "Wasting time is about recharging your battery and de-cluttering," which frees up precious space in your brain, allowing you to perform more efficiently at work.


The bottom line is that worshiping productivity and downplaying relaxation is not only unhealthy, it's totally unnecessary. As Goldhill points out, "work expands to fill the time it's given and for most of us, we could spend considerably fewer hours at the office and still get the same amount done." So it's worth experimenting with this idea — adjusting the balance of time spent working and time spent "lounging around." Most likely your productivity level won't change, but your sense of calm and fulfillment just might.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Emily Faulstich
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