In the short book In Praise of Wasting Time, Alan Lightman asks us to reflect on how we view and use time. Too often, we rush to fill every spare second, striving to be more productive. Idleness borders on immorality and boredom is something to be feared. And now with smartphones, we’re always reachable and an endless amount of information is just a few swipes away.
While productivity has risen dramatically with this busyness, so has depression and anxiety, even in our children. Drawing from psychological studies and brain scans, Lightman claims our well-being depends on having time to ponder, reflect, and rest, and that losing free time is harmful to creativity and divergent thinking. There have been many articles published recently about these problems. Lightman synthesizes them into an easy-to-read format, and shares his personal experiences with technology and time.
To regain our sense of balance, he suggests looking at free time in a positive way, instead of as time wasted. He also provides ideas for incorporating more breaks into daily life. Some are not practical for most of us because they require changes in workplaces and schools (hopefully bosses, teachers, and administrators are among the readers); others can easily be incorporated into our days, such as purposefully spending a chunk of time technology free.
His points have stuck with me. While in line at the post office this morning, I almost checked my email. Then I decided to take a moment to reflect on my day. A waste of time? Lightman would say not. And the only email I missed was a promotion from Shutterfly.
In Praise of Wasting Time will be published on May 15. I recommend it for those who need a reminder to slow down and daydream once in awhile. The book developed from a TED Talk and is published by TED Books. I love that the most popular speakers are given another platform to expand upon their ideas. A benefit of books is that notes on the sources are included. There have been a few times that a speaker mentions a study or book that I’d like to check out, but it’s difficult to catch names and titles during a speech. And all TED Books are short enough to be read in a day. Just be sure to take Lightman’s advice and set aside time to reflect on what you learn.
Thank you to NetGalley and TED Books for the opportunity to review In Praise of Wasting Time.