…is not wasted time.” – Bertrand Russell
This week’s quote has been attributed to British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, social critic and political activist Bertrand Russell. It serves as a timely reminder to me that not all things are productive… and that’s okay.
…I just spent the last three days taking my first real vacation in as many years. I went out of state with a group of old friends, catching up on what has changed with us and celebrating that which is yet to come. I didn’t read any white papers, work through any 10-ks, make progress on any MOOCs, or spend any time whatsoever developing my targeted competencies, skills, and capabilities.
Instead, I spent a lot of fun socializing, reminiscing, and – for a few short hours on Sunday – sleeping.
…There is a time not too long ago that I would have counted this all wasted time… time that I could have spent getting ahead and building comparative advantage against peers. Lately, however, I am beginningto understand that I can only make so much progress in a day – or grow so much in a year. Life is – to borrow an overused phrase – a marathon, and so to enjoy it I cannot segregate it into all of the fun (but not productive) things that I will do once (if?) I reach my professional goals against that which I will sacrifice in the interim to get there.
With that said, please don’t misunderstand – I am not saying to dispense with work in order to play. Rather, I am saying that a life well-lived is a mixture of both. Sometimes it isn’t a bad thing to pass on opportunities for growth in the pursuit of the seemingly frivolous. Because success is measured in many ways that have nothing to do with moving forward and getting ahead. Sometimes success is simply being happy in a moment in time – even if it costs us something we might otherwise consider very precious.
I know this is all relatively sophomoric to some. Table stakes, even. And so I will also add something that is perhaps less intuitive: The white space we get from unplugging is good for our development as professionals. This is because a break from the day-to-day can give us perspective. And that perspective often allows us to see new dimensions of our jobs and understand what is truly important to doing them well in a way that was perhaps not so obvious before.
With this in mind, as we get started this week I would encourage you to remember to set aside a few moments to do something that makes you really, really happy. You do not have to be productive when doing this activity (although you can be). But whatever you do should, it should both lift weight from your shoulders buoy your spirits. To do this isn’t a waste of your time…
…It may very well be the best use of it.