Time I enjoyed wasting

Last week we had our monthly team social hour scheduled and I had zero plan to attend it. First off, despite the title, it is technically two hours long. Second, it was scheduled in the middle of the day for me (when I would otherwise be working), and we didn’t get time off for it, meaning that if I attended I would need to otherwise “make up” the time by working later that day or the next. Other than that, I knew little about what happened during this time. Since joining a new team a few months back, I had yet to join one and kind of figured it wasn’t that important.

I didn’t want to waste time, I thought.

I had forgotten an important rule: wasting time is necessary to getting work done.

I work for a fully distributed company so it is important to mention that this is a VIRTUAL social event. Even worse, this social time was not scheduled to be on the Xbox playing Halo (the nerve!).

A two-hour Zoom-based “social time”? Hard to think of anything I’d like to do less. I want to be with the fam, outside doing some physical activity, drinking a beer, not looking at a screen, and/or some combination of all of those things, when I’m not working.

But I was persuaded (actually guilt-tripped) into joining last week. It required some inner soul-searching before I finally accepted and admitted that working for a remote company requires a concerted effort to create connections that might have happened organically in the olden days of the office.

Maybe some sacrifices are in order.

The fact that I actually had to be coerced into joining this is surely a sign that my work priorities have gotten a bit skewed. Recovery, downtime, taking time off are all core practices that I value as part of a healthy relationship with work. Of course, spending non-work time with co-workers makes us all more effective when we do actually work, not to mention I might actually, you know, make a new friend or two.

One of my favorite essays of all time is Lazy, A Manifesto (from the book We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider). Check out the free audio version of the essay. The essay is a love letter to not being so attached to your schedule that you can’t take an afternoon to be with friends or otherwise just do nothing.

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence, or a vice: it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

Taking this advice, I played hooky and attended the social hour(s). As you might expect, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I had a little laugh. I felt a bit lighter for the rest of the day. I learned something about my team members that I didn’t know before.

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

Bertrand Russel

Turns out I need to waste time more often.

Comments welcome!

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