The Benefits of "Wasting Time"

The Benefits of "Wasting Time"
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Written and verified by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 28 July, 2022

“Stop wasting your time… ” “Why are you just sitting there!” “Get up and take advantage of your time.” All of us can remember our mothers and fathers constantly repeating these things to us as if they were vital mantras.

As if there were something more important to do waiting around the corner, and when that’s gone, another transcendental event is right behind, right?

The years go by, and the need to constantly occupy our time by doing things that are important and, more specifically productive seems to make it’s mark on our daily routines. If we don’t, we get the feeling that time is slipping through our fingers, and on a more dramatic note, that life is passing us by.

For many of us, occupying our time with extracurricular activities like learning, training and personal reflection gives us a feeling of constant growth, to the point that when we’re not doing it, it feels uncomfortable.

During our childhood, we constantly hear the phrase: “Time is money.” And that if we don’t take full advantage of the time we’re given, we’re lazy or we’re a failure.

At the end of the day, that thought can translate into adulthood in behaviors similar to those of the White Rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland.” Always running, always late, and always needing to do something extremely important, and if he doesn’t, his punishment is threatening around the corner.

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

— Bertrand Russell

Feeding hyper-responsibility and intolerance to boredom

School, piano, Spanish, swimming, ballet, and the list goes on…We’ve seen these long lists of activities some children are immersed in, to the point that they finish their day just before their little heads hit the pillow.

In many cases, education imposes the need to be the best, be the most productive, and constantly remember the fact that you can always, always, always do better. There’s no time to lose. 

Two consequences can come from that: hyper-responsiblity and intolerance to boredom.

  • Hyper-responsiblity: being responsible is a virtue. Being hyper-responsible is a trap our brains set as the years go by, that can be seen reflected in adulthood in the form of anxiety, perfectionism, heightened self-expectations, low self-esteem, insecurity, guilt and even shame.
  • Intolerance to boredom: not having the opportunity to “waste time” in our childhoods puts the breaks on their creativity and on their personal development, but later on in life it manifests as anxiety.

Wasting time can be very beneficial to a children’s development. When they’ve grown, that intolerance for inactivity that they’ve be conditioned to feel turns into an inability to be at peace with themselves.

There are many people who hate the “down time” simply because their forced to be alone with their echoes.

Postit notes


The 24/7 philosophy…Ring a bell?

We live in an interconnected world. At any given time and place, we have the ability to complete tasks related to our leisure, our training or our personal growth.

Courses, teachers, gyms, seminars, jobs, DIY projects… If we don’t do them, other people who share their personal activities on social media will be more than happy to remind us of the time we’re wasting.

All of this structures our daily lives and feeds the idea that we “should be” a certain way. The 24/7 philosophy, i.e., being available to do “something” 24 hours a day/seven days a week may not be as beneficial as it seems.

Obviously our search for self-realization through our personal activities and our job is fundamental, but to what point?

In the end, it’s unimaginable and tragic for these kinds of people not to perform any activity at a given moment, and they see rest as something almost negligible. Actually, wasting time doesn’t make you useless.

Don’t confuse wasting your time with spending some of it on yourself.

Experiment with time…Don’t do anything

Structuring our week around social and work activities is an attractive and necessary routine. However, finding time to “lose” can turn out to be very beneficial for our physical and mental health.

woman meditating

Taking a few minutes a day to not do anything can give us the serenity we need to enjoy all the things we’re doing that have stopped being fun. But why? 

  • To distance ourselves from the things that weigh us down and inject drama in our lives
  • To avoid getting “burnt out” of things that begin as enjoyable but become a burden.
  • To share different experiences with those around us.
  • To relax the body; it reduces stress and anxiety.
  • To rearrange ideas and build momentum.
  • To distinguish what’s important from what’s urgent.

But… How can we “waste our time”? Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Remember that it doesn’t have to be a whole day, or even an hour.
  • Sit down to have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and enjoy it; don’t always get it to go.
  • Enjoy the process. As often as possible, don’t just focus on the result of the activity.
  • Listen to the lyrics of one of your favorite songs while sitting on the couch.
  • Sing in the shower and stay in under the water for another minute.
  • Dedicate a day on the weekend to having a long and unrushed breakfast.
  • Do any meditation exercise. Some are less than 20 minutes long.
  • If you have a moment of solitude in your home, enjoy it. Don’t jump on the opportunity to clean or pick up as soon as they’re gone.
  • If you have a pet, don’t limit yourself to just walking and feeding it. Take a few minutes out of your day to pet them or play with them.

If you’re the kind of person who loves the constant flow of activity and you need that to function, go ahead. But if somehow, your source of satisfaction depends on the time being used rather than on the task itself, give the clock a chance.

Eventually, all that “wasted time” can be converted into personal gain.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.