The privilege of wasting time

Time is precious and birthdays, especially milestone ones, tend to bring this thought sharply into focus. So much to do, so little time. The weeks and years that flew past were action-packed. Planes, trains, meetings, pitches, PTA meetings, morning walks, and tennis matches all merged into one eventful week after another. Even holidays were filled with things to do and trips home packed so full, to ensure that every last moment was used before the work world rushed back in to fill up the days and nights again.

The pandemic put a pause to some of this. The number of planes I have encountered has drastically reduced, not a single train have I encountered. Physical ‘face-to-face’ meetings are rationed using the ‘need’ vs ‘want’ yardstick and for a while, things did slow down. We adapted to this new equation, embracing technology and vaccinations and the engine of growth got going again. Winning in this new world became equally full of action, different kinds of action no doubt, but the busyness is back. Not much time left to think, just go, go, go and do, do, do.

I did not realise how full my day was till I took a break last week. In that time off, one of the joys I experienced was getting lost in the pages of a good book. Here is a passage that jumped out at me… “you need to experiment with unproductive paths, to explore dead ends, to make sense for doubts and boredom, and to allow little seeds of insight to slowly grow and blossom. If you cannot afford to waste time – you will never find the truth. Page 221, 21 lessons for the 21st century, Yuval Noah Harari. He is talking about going deep into a subject requiring time to be devoted to it.

In an always-on, instant coffee world that wants it all and wants it now, depth is often lacking. Experience is sacrificed at the altar of cost. Quality is often compromised because of the need for speed. The magic is to find a way to deliver it fast and with quality and this comes from ‘know how’ and knowing all the ‘potholes in the road’ that can be avoided. It means knowing which road not to take, knowing when to trust google maps and when not to. It means having spent a lot of time on that particular road, taking a few wrong turns, and changing flat tires, which in itself were time-wasters but in the long run, provide the knowledge needed to navigate that stretch with ease and confidence.

Taking a break is a privilege no doubt, but it is also an investment in one’s progress. In this week I have spent time thinking looking inwards and sometimes not liking what I find. This is a good thing. It allows me to understand myself better. It tells me what I must focus on to get better at and not allow the busyness to disguise those spaces that need to be improved upon. The excuse of, I just don’t have the time was taken away.

The stillness has shown me spots that I had forgotten existed. Messages from childhood friends brought back memories long forgotten. Wishes from colleagues took me on a road trip down memory lane, resurfacing lessons learnt, that have been forgotten. A reminder that downtime is not time wasted. It is the exact opposite. It allows for progress and growth. And like most things that bring progress and growth they are hard-earned. There are growing pains and part of it is not fun, while they are happening.

Little seeds of insights have been planted in the week gone by. Will they grow and blossom? I honestly don’t know. All I do know is that I got a glimpse of what is important, what matters, some of the things I had lost sight of are back on the radar. I am grateful for the privilege of this downtime. This is me saying thank you to all those, whose days were extra busy because I was off the grid for a week. This is me saying thank you to my wife for planning this week and making it special for me. This is me saying thank you to the universe for good health and the opportunity to spend a week with my son. This is me saying thank you world for bringing me to this point in the road with blessings and good wishes from family and friends. I deeply appreciate the opportunity and the time that I have got. I have a taste of what I need to focus on to keep me focused on busy days ahead. Knowing and doing are both important. I now know a little more of what I will be doing in the days to come.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nikhil Dey
Nikhil Dey is Executive Director, Adfactors PR.

A trusted coaching and communications professional, Nikhil Dey is a certified life and leadership coach (International Coach Federation - ICF). Nurturing talent and helping clients achieve their goals is what makes him happy. He loves learning from students of communication, teaching courses and guest lecturing at various educational institutions. When he is not working you will find him on the tennis court or out for long walks with his family and four legged friends.

Previously he has held senior leadership positions at Weber Shandwick and Genesis BCW.

He can be reached on twitter @deydreaming

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