It was my spouse’s birthday on the weekend. For her birthday she received a small pack of bath salts from a friend. Written on that package was a small reminder to give herself permission to slow down.
“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” ~Bertrand Russell
Fast forward one day. The packet of salts, already forgotten on the bathroom counter, awaiting use. There I was, with my kids at bedtime. They were wired up and excited from a weekend of fun, with their exasperated and tired father trying to brush their teeth as they giggled and just generally spun in circles.
I said (in my best exasperated, tired, slightly grumpy father voice):
“Guys, if you don’t stop wasting time, we aren’t going to have time for stories.”
To which my daughter stopped what she was doing, turned to face me, gave me the most playful and wise smile I’ve ever seen her give, and said to me:
“Daddy, the time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”
What I thought was a series of trite words on a package were instantly converted to a meaningful phrase I’ll never forget. They became truth, landing squarely on my heart because my daughter found the opportune time to make a point. All the frustration of that moment dissipated into laughter. My daughter’s expression turned to pride, and she was all smiles realizing that she had said something important.
And this IS really important. This says a lot for how we move through life, at home and at work.
We forget the value of wasting time.
We need to start wasting time! Deliberately. Sometimes it takes a complete shift into play to be able to hear a message that is otherwise looking you right in the face. If we walk around in ‘flight or fight’ mode, stressed all of the time by what we need to accomplish, then we miss some of the most poignant moments. We forget to survey our surroundings. We focus on the teeth brushing, but we forget to see the kids enjoying themselves, maybe even learning something. Could it be that we are missing the same moments at work, simply because we haven’t given ourselves permission to waste time, or made the space to allow new insights to make themselves known? Who said work shouldn’t have some play and wasted time?
“Idea Time” AND “Playfulness” are two of the nine dimensions of the Situational Outlook Questionnaire that I am qualified to use to assess organizational climate. Idea time is how much intentional time there is in a day to generate and experiment with ideas. Playfulness is the amount of spontaneity and levity within the organizational climate. Research shows conclusively hat an organization that is stagnant on these dimensions is an organization that is much less likely to succeed on its goals, financially and otherwise. The wisdom captured by my daughter in that moment was indeed topical.
The lesson it take from this is to remember to spend more time playing and more time with ideas. It is truly a gift to yourself, and your organization.