What a Waste of Time

a man standing next to clocks in the water
May 23 , 2024  |  By Stacey Mason

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We do lots of things with time. We keep time, spend time, use time, and lose time. We sacrifice time, track time, make time, and even buy time. And sometimes, with indifference to our limited time, we do the unthinkable: we waste time.

Humans have been time keeping since the beginning of, well, time. It’s literally everywhere. And maybe it’s this ubiquity that has us treating it with a lack of reverence. It’s my understanding that none of us live forever, that our time here on earth is limited. And if that’s the case, wasting time makes little sense.

So in a spirited quest to stop the squandering I offer up a few things that are a complete waste of time.

  • Hitting the snooze button. Set the alarm for the time you need to get up and then get up at that time. The extra 9 minutes of snooze is not restorative sleep. Moreover your mood takes a hit. Groggy and in a bad mood is a horrible way to start any day.
  • Complaining. Complaining is verbal procrastination with the average adult wasting 8 minutes and 45 seconds on it each day. This complaining also has dysfunctional side effects beyond the time drain: it hampers mood, quells creativity, impacts trust, and riles up others.
  • Negativity. Criticism and pessimism. Downbeat and disagreeable. Well, that sounds like a great way to spend your precious time. Probably not.
  • Lying. Lying takes more time and energy. And who has more time and energy to spend on another negative emotion.
  • Wishing for others to change. People tend to change when they’ve learned enough, or they’re hurt enough. And even then, there’s no guarantee their change will be to your liking. They are on own their journey.
  • Standing in (the wrong) line. In the average adult lifetime, 6,554 hours is spent queuing. Standing in line is referred to as a “timeless form of torture.” Yes, we do have to stand in line, but no, we don’t have to stand in the wrong line. Know the difference.
  • Speculation and gossip. We don’t know until we know. And no amount of hearsay and conjecture will create that knowing.
  • Being petty. Take the high road when it comes to people. Grace costs nothing, and least of all your time.
  • Lack of direction. Author Lewis Carroll wrote “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” It’s generally best to have a destination in mind before embarking on an adventure.
  • Inefficiencies. Disorganization, inadequate tools, deficient skills, poor processes and procedures, rework. Any one of those is bad enough, stack a few together and that’s time wasted on steroids.
  • Being late. Late means you’ve wasted not only your time but the time of others. That’s a double whammy of waste.
  • Avoiding the truth. Sooner or later you have to face the truth. And the time spent on sooner is much better than the time squandered on later. And yes, the truth comes with all sorts of anxieties, disappointments and responsibilities. It hurts. It also heals. Ultimately, it sets you free. And free time is a gift.
  • Coveting. What is meant for another is merely meant for another. You are not lacking; you are on a different path. Stay the course and walk your own truth.
  • Comparing yourself to others. It’s of no value to compare yourself to others – they’re on a different journey than you.
  • Social media. Scrolling, coveting, comparing. Waste, waste, waste. If social media makes you feel happy, go for it. If it ever makes you feel “less than,” then it’s not worth your time.

William Penn is quoted as saying “time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” The older I get the more and more I think about my time here on earth. And I refuse to make the worst use of it.

Ancora Imparo… (Still, I am learning)

A version of this article originally appeared in Arkansas Talk Business & Politics

Stacey MasonFounder of The Improv Lab, Stacey Mason has immersed herself in the field of Applied Improvisation for the last decade after co-founding several comedy improv troupes and training with various actor-teams including Second City in Chicago. Her corporate background includes nearly 20 years at Walmart in Logistics, Global Supply Chain and Merchandising/Replenishment before shifting towards culture coaching, stewarding the Walton Institute, Walmart’s flagship culture program. She partners with Walton College Executive Education on innovation programs and other initiatives