Charlie Ambler

There’s No Such Thing as Wasted Time

Time is a construct that consistently worries us. Wasting it is a mortal sin that binds us all. However, it doesn’t have to be as serious as all that.


As a young and ambitious person confronting spirituality, I sometimes get caught in a logic trap. I recognize that a healthy degree of attachment to goals is necessary if I want to experience a fulfilling life, but I also recognize the fundamental delusion that will arise if I obsess too much over these goals. As a result, I’ve had to reconcile spirituality with productivity.

The two are often diametrically opposed, but I have found an adequate compromise.

The wish to be productive, for most people, relates to work we often have no emotional attachment to. I run a business I’m passionate about and I still have to do busywork that I could care less about. This is what “productivity” equates to for most of us — sucking it up and doing what’s in front of us. We participate in this cycle for rewards in the second and third degrees; i.e., stuff we do care about that results from doing the stuff we don’t care about.

This leads me to the first conclusion after escaping my logic trap: we should do what’s in front of us in the style of Zen monks. We should get busywork done without passion or obsession, but with practicality and hard work. We shouldn’t seek adoration or applause. And when it’s done, so we should leave it behind and move onto the next thing.

The thing about productivity is that it’s like meditation; it’s nothing special and yet we insist on making it into something it’s not. We just do it and it’s done. When we have to sit, we sit. When we have to write, we write. When we have to go to the store, we go to the store. And then we do something else. When we see life as a series of activities weighed somewhat equally, every action is a lesson in presence and diligence. We don’t obsess or weigh preferences, and as a result, we can give our full attention to everything.

This leads me to the second conclusion: there’s no such thing as wasted time. We spend most of our time on this earth dead, doing nothing, so to say that doing something like watching television or playing video games is a waste of time is just silly. Do a thing, and then do another thing. If you’re going for leisure, embrace it and enjoy it. If you’re going for busywork, get it done. Devote your full attention to whatever you’re doing, whether it’s meditation, laundry, or calculus.

The only wasted time is time we spend half-assing things we’re going to do anyway.


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