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Work-Life Balance: Wasting Time Is Not A Waste
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Work-Life Balance: Wasting Time Is Not A Waste - Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: Wasting Time Is Not A Waste

Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: Wasting Time Is Not A Waste

No matter how organized you are or how tidy your workspace, you almost surely have to take some time once in a while to go through your desk and discard stuff, or to go through your files and rearrange, or to find permanent places for those email that haven’t been assigned boxes and computer files that you temporarily store on your computer desktop. Organized people spend time doing this; disorganized people don’t. And time spent delving into those folders and drawers is seldom considered “wasted time.” Not only does it contribute to better workflow and easier access to important material, but you look so darned busy while you’re doing it.

Yet your office is only one space that needs decluttering and rearranging. According to a popular Quartz article published last weekend titled “The Psychological Importance of Wasting Time,” psychologist Michael Guttridge says “wasting time is about recharching and decluttering.” This is clearly not meant to be permission to blow off your whole day, but a reasonable defense of better ways to use your time. Slogging for hours in order to produce a so-so report looks busy and gets the job done, but taking a few breaks from the task--not to mention the office chair or even office building--often results in quicker, clearer, better work.

You probably have a clear idea of what your best work looks like, and what circumstances are conducive to producing it. If you’re in a position of leadership, you’ve probably made it clear as well to whomever you report with. Are you also modeling it for those who report to you? An old management model expects seats at desks and a look of productivity, but we know (and you know) that different people have different working styles, and it doesn’t make sense to fit star-shaped pegs into square holes.

In Remote, their book about rethinking the workplace, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson explain how their company, Basecamp, encourages working away from the office. The firm provides the technological infrastructure necessary for keeping people connected (when they must be) while also maintaining their mental space. Originally, their Campfire feature was a separate messaging system provided so that employees working around the world could still have their water-cooler time, sharing interesting articles or cat videos. Company leadership understood the importance of wasting time, not only allowing it, but providing the space for it.

A few years ago, Forbes posted a list of “10 Things to Do on a Slow Day at Work,” and atlhough this isn’t exactly the same thing, some of the suggestions highlight the importance of wasted time. Get past the “organize,” “plan,” and “dream” ideas, and you get to “get some exercise” and “volunteer,” two tasks not directly (or even indirectly) related to your work. Yet the mental health they foster can be invaluable. Nobody is suggesting that you let everyone goof off all day, but there is strong anecdotal evidence for an approach allowing for different people to use their time different ways. As you lead your team, it’s important for you to take advantage of the benefits of wasting time; it should be as important to those who work for you.

Reference links:
Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/01/09/10-things-to-do-on-a-slow-day-at-work
Quartz: https://qz.com/970924/the-psychological-importance-of-wasting-time


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Work-Life Balance: Wasting Time Is Not A Waste - Executive Leadership Articles

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