Why Doing Nothing And Wasting Time Are Actually Good For You

The occasional Netflix binge might not be as bad as you think.

wasting time
wasting time
Hot new weekend hotspot: your couch

In today’s fast-paced world, we’re obsessed with productivity hacks and tricks for beating procrastination. We’re workaholics, sleep deprived, and addicted to our devices. We’ve turned unplugging into the enemy. And it’s ruining our health.

Experts now say something we’ve longed to hear all our lives: wasting time is good for you.

As Alex Soojung-Kim Pan, author of REST: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, writes in Nautilus, “Figures as different as Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman, working in disparate fields in different times, all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost superhuman capacity to focus. Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work.”

The rest of their hours were spent on personal pursuits – hiking, napping, socialising – or doing nothing at all. Their creativity and productivity were not the result of 80-hour work weeks, but of far more modest “working” hours. Yet they are still remembered as some of history’s most significant and innovative figures. How could they be so accomplished in so little time? What can we learn from their success?

“If some of history’s greatest figures didn’t put in immensely long hours,” writes Pan, “maybe the key to unlocking the secret of their creativity lies in understanding not just how they labored but how they rested, and how the two relate.”

Workplace psychologist Michael Guttridge agrees that how we spend our downtime is just as important as how we work. “There’s an idea we must always be available, work all the time,” he told Quartz. “It’s hard to break out of that and go to the park.”

The downside is that we end up forcing ourselves to stay at our desks, mindlessly browsing on our comupters and our smartphones, doing nothing to contribute to our happiness, productivity, or well-being. Both our physical and our mental health suffers as a result.

“People eat at the desk and get food on the computer—it’s disgusting. They should go for a walk, to the coffee shop, just get away,” Guttridge added. “Even Victorian factories had some kind of rest breaks.”

We are 100% not here for Victorian factory life.

It’s time to take a stand for being proudly unproductive. Wasting time occasionally is time well spent. Not only is it a fulfilling pursuit in and of itself, it’s essential for recharging and ultimately getting more done. In other words, successful people aren’t accomplished despite their leisure – they are successful, in part, because of it. When we blend deliberate rest with deliberate work, we are smarter, more creative, and happier people.