I cannot conceive of time if I do not consider my energy levels while doing so. In fact, I follow time mostly because it helps me be in sync with the world around me, which is something I enjoy and need. As Oliver Burkeman puts it in his book Four Thousand Weeks (bold are mine):
“our culture’s ideal is that you alone should control your schedule, doing whatever you prefer, whenever you want — because it’s scary to confront the truth that almost everything worth doing, from marriage and parenting to business or politics, depends on cooperating with others, and therefore on exposing yourself to the emotional uncertainties of relationships.”
Simply replace marriage or politics in the above paragraph with whatever it is that you depend on or enjoy doing with others, and you get the gist.
So in all honestly, if I could only measure my life by the level of energy I have left at a point in time, I would forgo time altogether as defined by the schedules we are used to culturally.
Since I cannot do that and as I intend to stay in sync with the world around me, I try to play with both concepts: my level of energy and the time to keep me in balance with myself and those around me. By that token, I define as a waste of time doing anything that breaks that balance.
Let’s assume, for example, that I am training for a race and I have been dedicating a lot of time to sprints, strength training sessions, etc. Yet, I have not spent a single day in the past 2 weeks stretching or doing recovery of any kind. My legs are in pain, and I dread the next training session. That is a waste of time because if I do not complete the full cycle of training-which includes recovery-I will increase the chances of suffering an injury. Apart from being physically hurt, I will be disappointed as I’ll be unlikely to participate in or complete the race.
If I bring this to a daily scenario, I would say I feel like I am typically wasting time in these situations:
- When I need others who are not available, e.g. to brainstorm with colleagues or to have fun with friends. Or when they need me and I am not available. That feels like a waste.
- When transitioning between states, e.g. being immersed in a write up when it becomes critical that I take the dog out for a walk to keep his health.
- When I force myself to continue in an activity that, if extended, it results in me being emotionally, physically or mentally drained, i.e. doing anything in excess feels like a waste of time because I later have to pay the consequences of that excess. e.g. fasting for 21 hours instead of 15 will leave me with a headache or leaving a party when others expect me to and not when I feel tired will leave me exhausted the following day.
All in all, I feel the right question to ask is not only about time but rather time in conjunction with energy and how we intend to utilize them in tandem while we are alive. When considered from that finite angle, I find that I mostly waste time when I disregard intention and attention. As long as there is intent in what I am doing and I have the energy and attention for it, there is no waste to be regretted.
P.S. Don’t play games with me. Unless we’re up for it 🙂