The Difference Between Good & Bad Wasting of Time

The other day, I was headed to a meeting.  As I headed down the hall, I passed two coworkers who were at the soda machine talking about their weekend activities.

55 minutes later I came back to my office from the meeting that had just ended.

I did a double take when the same two people were still at the soda machine and now were discussing the latest sports scores.

Was that a good use of their time?


Probably not.

But, it got me thinking…

Is there a difference between good and bad wasting of time?

A Bad Waste of Time?

In this case, these two employees appeared to be wasting time at the soda machine just chitchatting.  It seemed that they were just wasting time.  They had not done anything productive in their time at the soda machine or received much of value.

How do we define wasting time?  It certainly can depend on your perspective.

However, in the simplest sense, we can say…

Wasting time =  not working = spending time on activities that do not provide any value

Some examples of bad wasting of time:

  • Doing trivial activities when something of higher priority needs to be done
  • Actions that are not productive and bring no direct value
  • Procrastinating when one should be working
  • Activities where nothing is learned or no mental/physical benefit is received

But, is all wasting of time…bad?  Can you waste time and still do good?

Good Wasting of Time = Investing

Are they any examples of wasting time that are a good use of time?

This sounds like an oxymoron.  But, sometimes it is a matter of perspective.

Let’s go back to our two soda machine employees.  Maybe this was a manager trying to take care of one of his employees that had just suffered a personal loss.  Perhaps, the colleague was trying to take the employee’s mind away from other topics or cheer them up.

That changes the perceived value of the time spent.

Additionally, what about recharging?  Resting?  Learning?

We can frame this as…

Good waste of time = time spent as an investment

There may be no immediate return, but there may be benefits in the future.

What I am referring to is activities that take up time, but have some potential positive value.

For example, the other night, I spent 2 hours researching video techniques for my blog.  While surfing the various video blogging sites, I was wasting time that I should have been using to write.  (Or maybe do the laundry.)

But, I was investing time so that I may be able to produce better video blog posts in the future.  When you contrast this with spending 2 hours mindlessly watching TV, the difference becomes apparent.

Examples of Good Wasting of Time

  • Learning a new skill – Activities that teach you new skills are almost always a good investment of your time.
  • Hobbies – Some people look at hobbies as diversions.  But, I believe that “you need a hobby to be more productive.”  Your personal passion can drive productivity in all areas of your life.
  • Building Relationships – It is important to spend time building relationships.  And sometimes the best way to do that is to just spend time with someone.  Brian Tracy said that when it comes to people, there is no such thing as “quality time.”  Rather it is “quantity time,” how much time you spend with them.
  • Recharging – We all need to recharge at some point.  Sometimes a little downtime can produce better results when we return to our work.

Is It a Waste of Time?

Next time you find yourself “wasting time,” ask what future benefit you may receive?

Are you aimlessly watching TV or are you learning new skills and information that you will benefit from.

Are you procrastinating and not doing the tasks that you should be?  Or are you recharging so that you can be more productive in your work?

As a final thought, consider that many of the best business ideas started as hobbies or passions that were at some point considered a waste of time.

What are your best examples of good and bad wasting of time?

Related Posts:

The 5 Best Ways to Defend Your Time

Lost Time is Never Found

Ten Minutes to Go

3 thoughts on “The Difference Between Good & Bad Wasting of Time

  1. A good example of “Good wasting of time” is to follow your tweets and read your blog. May not have immediate returns but certainly will be useful and productive in the future! 🙂

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