Meaningful time

A few months ago Steph Troeth wrote about “Making peace with time”. She starts by remembering a manager whom she caught seemingly “doing nothing” when he was trying to take 20 minutes to pause, as a productivity-oriented way to recharge batteries.

I’m a huge “doing nothing” kind of guy, as my entourage can testify. My dad sometimes reminisces about how, when I was a kid, I stopped chewing what we were eating, and looked into the void until he snapped his fingers or talked to me to wake me out of it.

These days, being at the end of one position at work and working out how the next is going to shape out, I’m in a situation where I work less. I take the time to close every pending issue, to finish up every document that I was working on; of course I’m reminded of this question of productivity, because things are slowing down.

I have a confession to make: I don’t remember the last time I thought I was productive. Somewhere along the line I’ve just given up thinking about it because it takes up unnecessary time and space that I could be doing something.

Good point. Very good point. But I still need to ask myself often, if only because some sense of guilt always nags me: am I robbing my boss because for a few weeks I work less? Conversely, I know that when I’m needed I’m always there, when it comes to anything that can be asked of me, even at the last minute (We need you to mentor a hackathon next week, can you manage to free up that evening? Yes, let me see if the kids can go to their mother’s, it was my week to have them, etc.).

Somehow it’s a sane thing to do for me still, to always be mindful about what I’m doing or not. I’ve noted that the moment I don’t ask the question is always the moment I’m too busy – as in unbalanced work-life balance busy. So it’s a good way to keep balance in check, one way or another.

We’ve somehow been led to think that being more productive equals being happier. Is that a proven hypothesis? I’m not sure. I’m more inclined to think it’s the sense of control we have over our time that we’re truly seeking.

Oh yes, this one has been a pet peeve of mine for a few years. I spend long expenses of time “not doing anything”. I’m almost never bored, except on 6 o’clock on Sundays, this strangely empty hour between the end of afternoon activities and the beginning of the evening (kids to the shower, dad to the kitchen) when I’m standing on the tip of my feet, I don’t know why. But the rest of the time, I’m never bored. I can wait for you if we have an appointment, without a book, without looking at my phone to catch up on my Wallabag app the pages I stored to read later. I just look around, observe people —I love to look at people, even though I’m always worried that I might spook them—, let my mind flow freely.

For a long time I thought that life’s too short to be lazy, so you should do things all the time, be busy with stuff before you die. I know that time is a luxury, but now I know it’s mine to handle it any way I want. Lazing is also a worthwhile way to spend your time if it’s the thing you enjoy (I do). Thing is, you have to be aware of your choice. Then you’re happier with the time you’re dealt. After all, we all have the same amount of hours per day.


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