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Mariah's avatar

How good are you at slowing down or wasting time?

Asked by Mariah (25876points) January 28th, 2016

I was an exceedingly patient person until a specific moment at age 17 when I suddenly was not anymore. That moment was my near death experience.

Even years later I haven’t re-learned how to waste time or be content with moving slowly. Time feels so precious. But this is tiring and difficult to sustain.

How are you with this? Do you have tips for someone who struggles with it?

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37 Answers

ibstubro's avatar

If you’re looking to slow down and waste time, your renewed interest in Fluther is a great start!

Cruiser's avatar

I find it interesting that you ask this and tie it into a near death experience because I had 2 near death experiences and had the opposite reaction as you. I always procrastinate, love to just sit and do next to nothing which may appear to be wasting time to a casual observer, but those moments I am actually savoring the life I have. I stop doing things just to enjoy the moment and enjoy being alive. I could not enjoy life in all it’s infinite details if I was always busy.

I used to play a little game with my boys where at night we would float together on an inflatable bed in the pool at night and I would ask them what do you hear. First answer was cars, second answer was air conditioners, third answer was pool pump….then the fun began…they heard a neighbors laughter, a dog bark 2 blocks away, the crickets in the grass…the hoot of an owl, the lap of a wave against the pool. I was amazed at all the sounds they were now revealing and so were they.

Played a similar game with my cub scouts. On a field trip to a forest preserve we all stood on a hill overlooking a prairie. I asked them what did they see. FIrst answer was the prairie, second answer was the forest, the third answer was the sky and the answers stopped coming. I nudged them and said what else to you see and encouraged them to look closer at everything around you. And the answers came pouring in….a maple tree, a dandelion, a purple wild flower, a bird, a squirrel…one scout was now on his hands and knees, shouting out blade of green grass, a pebble and ant and many more things they had not seen with just a casual glance.

I am not wasting my time, I am noticing and enjoying the details of the world around me.

thorninmud's avatar

Slowing down is no problem for me (just watch how long it takes me to write this answer). However, I’m probably every bit as concerned about wasting time as you are. Perhaps the difference is that I feel I’ve wasted time if I don’t savor the moment at hand. If I’m mentally rushing off toward something down the road, then I’ve wasted this right here. If I’m bent on accomplishing this or that, I miss the perfection of this as it is. I feel that some irretrievable measure of life has been wasted on me.

The “how to” is both simple and terribly hard: make it your business to get fully lost in life as it is right now. Drink it up completely.

canidmajor's avatar

After a lifetime of having a family that roundly criticized how I spent my time, (and subsequently walking away from them) I have come to the conclusion that time enjoyed is not time wasted. I have also had some brushes with mortality, medical ones, and I appreciate time more, but I take ownership of it now. I do the things that need to be done, but my time beyond that is mine, not subject to judgement by others.
I’m pretty sure there are people who think I am wasting time, I don’t.

rojo's avatar

Let me get back to you on this; I’m gonna go take a nap.

janbb's avatar

I was just today remembering a short story I read when I was a teenager. It really made an impression on me. “The Man with a Flower in His Mouth” by Pirandello, I think. The man is dying of cancer and the story spoke of how much of the details of life he savored; I particularly remember it talking of him just watching a shop girl meticulously wrapping a package. When I was remembering the story today, I was in a pizza shop, just noticing what was going on around me.

I have a great deal of free time now and I savor it – and sometimes waste it. But I am so content. Who is there to judge me now?

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Cruiser “Time enjoyed is not time wasted.” Exactly!
I like that “What do you hear/see?” game. Genius. We have all these senses. Use them!

Sometimes after a trip to the bathroom at 4 AM I will take out my kindle and do an easy Sudoku or two. I figure it is improving my brain and helping be fall back to sleep.

And I also come here. I learn something every time. It is not time wasted – unless I have a deliverable due in 4 days. Then it might be considered wasteful.

Mariah's avatar

The trouble is I’ve managed to train myself to not enjoy time that feels frivolous! I don’t even enjoy watching TV anymore because my head is too filled with thoughts of “this is a waste.” I keep trying and failing to learn to meditate because after about 2 seconds of quiet time my brain is like “You should be doing something else.”

SQUEEKY2's avatar

I am at a postion in my life I can be as slow or fast as I want on my own time, not so much at work.

marinelife's avatar

What is life worth if you do not stay in the moment? It was very hard for me to learn also. But with conscious reminders and chamomile tea, I got there. Now I am present wherever I am. The moments are too precious to be wasted worrying about the past or the future. the moments are what counts.

msh's avatar

I am really hard on myself, so I am told. But you win. How awful that voice prodding and pushing sounds, does yours? Is it your voice nagging or is it someone from the past doing so? What is so important that you need to do? Wasting time instead of….?
You aren’t relaxing and it catches up- with both feet! It’s a match that you cannot win.
What are you worried about missing out on? What is so disappointing? Are you afraid of not getting every possible experience jammed into what little is left while you still can? ( everyone does that at one point or another: I realized that I will not be able to get into a one-person kayak with the enclosed top and take on the rapids. Not going to happen. Raft, canoe= fun= ok. Kayak story I read about another’s foibles and near-death swim with the fishes- uh-uhn. Done.)
When you watch television, instead of watching and belittling your mind and body for not being busy- pull out a deck of cards. Sketch. Sort a kitchen drawer while you watch. Cull through mail, or magazines. Crochet, do needlework. Divide the conscience by doing two tasks at the same time.
For you- what are you racing towards, or running away from?
What is the deadline? Push back! Answer the voice!
It’s not helping, it’s hurting you.
What do you need for – well, you?
A friend to help puzzle it out? A councilor? Family?
Would writing everything you can think of that you feel you need to do or complete help any?
I believe that if you talk about it- or write about it, you will figure the nag out.
Oh, word of advice- remember where you are if the nagging begins. If you yell ‘shut up!’ Or ’ get out, damn you, get out’? A lot of funny or embarrassing things happen when in public.
Just saying. :)
Ease up on you- ok?

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I’m not good at it. I think that’s because I often work at home and I don’t have set work hours. I can find it hard to switch off and if I have a project I need to finish, taking time out and enjoying just doing nothing can be difficult. However, I do force myself to relax. I’m away at the moment. I brought a heap of stuff I could work on. I haven’t touched it though. I feel I need to relax.

tinyfaery's avatar

It might be the only thing I’m good at.

longgone's avatar

@Mariah “I keep trying and failing to learn to meditate because after about 2 seconds of quiet time my brain is like ‘You should be doing something else.’ ”

I know that feeling. Want to join my speed-meditating-club?

ibstubro's avatar

@Mariah watching TV is a waste.
Perhaps you don’t need quiet to meditate. When I was in my 20’s I taught myself to meditate using a fairly loud white noise. I needed something to block out the tiny voices so I could concentrate on the voice that was centering me.

& @longgone.

Mariah's avatar


Thanks for the probing questions. I’ve been trying to take a long look at myself to understand better what the need is.

It’s my own voice. Nobody has ever pressured me into being productive all the time. It’s all me.

The things that I consider not a waste of time…I don’t really even understand, myself, how my brain qualifies or disqualifies things. I feel my best when I’m being creative. If I’m writing or drawing or woodcarving or making jewelry or needlefelting or (you can see I’ve picked up quite a large number of these sorts of hobbies via my frantic need to keep busy) embroidering or programming or reading I feel fine about myself. I guess the idea is that I’m bettering myself in some way when I’m practicing creative things?

I have absolutely picked up the habit of multi-tasking while doing pointless things. I don’t watch TV without drawing or programming or embroidering or what-have-you at the same time. But it drives my boyfriend nuts. He wants to cuddle me in front of the TV and that’s hard to do when I have a needle in hand. And let’s be real, those cuddles are more enjoyable and a bigger investment toward my future than whatever dumb thing I happen to be embroidering that day is. Building that relationship should be more important. Anyway, I don’t think picking up more multitasking was the solution. If anything, multitasking just makes my brain more frantic. My attention span has gone to shit in the last few years. Soon I won’t be happy with myself anytime that I’m doing less than 2 things at any given time, because how inefficient is that!

What am I racing? Hell if I know! I guess I don’t want to be on my deathbed and think, “gee, I would have a lot more great memories right now if I had spent those hours in front of the TV doing other things.” But I know the mind and body need to relax and vegetate at times. I know that. Even in my current state it’s not as though I’m making unforgettable memories every night, so it’s not as though I’m solving a problem.

Honestly, probably some of it is also just left over from having just graduated college. I had so much work all the time and every minute counted. If I wanted to have any time to relax at all, I had to use my work time really efficiently. And now I’m trying to adjust to having only 40 hours in my work week.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@Mariah, you could be describing me. I’m exactly the same. My job has created this situation, but I also think the internet, Smartphones and technology generally feeds this ‘need’ to constantly be switched ‘on’. Perhaps we should both set aside a couple of hours a day to do one thing. And preferably that one things should be watch TV, talk to our partners. No multitasking. I think developing the ability to ‘focus’ is a habit. It’s a habit that’s easy to lose.

Mariah's avatar

Technology has been a player too, hate to say it. There used to be little spaces of waiting built into our days. Now after about 2 second of silence I whip out my phone and am on the internet. It’s everything that I never want to be :[

longgone's avatar

On a serious note:

Three things have helped me.

1. Turning off all electronic devices at least two hours before bed.

2. Forcing myself to buy books even when I don’t have much money. Books soothe me.

3. Calm songs playing on a loop, whenever I am stressed or overly excited. (Right now, “For You” by BNL)

filmfann's avatar

Q: How good are you at slowing down or wasting time?
A: Are you kidding? Do you see how often I post on here?

Here2_4's avatar

I get what you are saying. You want to slow down, enjoy things, but your sense of urgency will just never shut down.
Do you crochet? That is something you can do while sitting at a park or watching a movie, or most other sit and observe activities. It lets you sit still because you can have the feeling of multitasking while relaxing.
Poppie bubbles work in a pinch.

msh's avatar

You are going to be fine. Aside from jabbing your boyfriend with the needles, It’s ok. :)
I was thinking ( and it hurt…) what if you picked up something that is physical? Not like jogging 20 miles a day, but taking time for walking? Build up and go some distance. Who cares how fast? It doesn’t jar the body, and it might ease some of the rush. Scenery is good. A treadmill is overrated and boring. (thus the name) Go outside. Depending on where you live. The snow-dump people are getting a week’s worth of exercise getting across the street, and if in NYC, then yelling about it. :) What outdoor stuff appeals?
Rock Wall climbing? Which really aren’t rocks- nor much of a wall either…. Hhhhmmm….
I, myself, would absolutely love to go swimming right now. It always burns a lot of whatever is on the mind. And there is something about gliding rhrough water…
Hearing just your own breathing and heart thrumming.
I wanted to say how sorry I am for you to have gone through so much to the point of near-death. That seems as though it would be painful up until, and when you had to come back into it all again. Bless your heart. What a scary, yet life-altering thing to experience. Now you are wondering about another ‘go’ at medical hooha?
Could that be the point that is coming up in your mind and scaring you into wondering if you should be scaling the Swiss Alps or frantically writing a prize-winning novel? Your other question lead me to think that you are carrying around an awful lot of stress on your shoulders. That is so hard and exhausting to do, isn’t it? I wish you didn’t have to. I’m sorry.
So let’s see. If you were to challenge the boyfriend, would he be interested in accompanying you to a game of pool? Bowling? Basketball game of Horse? Hiking? Running with an egg on a spoon? – wait, that’s under birthday party games.
Your mind is getting all the action and constant workout. Burn some energy off and then things may settle into a better pace and balance. Let me guess- work is sitting still? Or high production rates? I hope that it is neither. The facial tic will give you away, every time.
You sleeping well? Enough? Dreams normal? Read what others have said above. Loads of good ideas.
What about forming a countdown in your head, where you count down from ten, slowing you body down? Closing your eyes and slowly breathing from deep within. Shut down the frantic to absolute calm. By the time you hit one- you are peaceful and back in the driver’s seat. (Or a cube of Jell-O on the floor.)
Think about it and please let me, or us, know how you are faring- will you?
You are alright. Everything is going to calm and you are going to be just fine.
You are strong. Let your mind relax. Ok? :)
Take care.
(seriously- stay in touch!)

johnpowell's avatar

When I was your age I was always busy. If I had energy I was skateboarding or getting drunk and eating random painkillers. At least you aren’t killing your liver.

At least you are doing cool stuff instead of working for Facebook writing algorithms to better target ads.

But now.. 15 years later I am totally cool with Netflix, cat, and a pizza on a Friday night.

thorninmud's avatar

Nobody finds meditation easy in the beginning (if they think it’s easy, then they’re doing something else). But abandoning it because it’s difficult is a little like dropping exercise because you’re too weak; it’s because we find it difficult to keep our attention still that meditation is helpful.

Usually it comes down to this: we develop a taste for stimulation. Ordinary moments, when nothing particularly special is going on, lose their appeal, and we restlessly look for a shot of stimulation. This has all of the hallmarks of an addiction process. Boredom is the withdrawal symptom.

The composer John Cage once wrote that, “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.” His point, of course, is that nothing is inherently boring; it is our resistance to keeping our attention still that creates boredom. And just the act of keeping the attention still is what breaks that resistance down over time.

I know very well that voice that @Mariah mentions, the one that says, “You should be doing something else”. But we all need to develop a healthy skepticism of our “head voices”. And that particular voice is especially unhelpful, because it’s the voice of an addiction. It constantly draws us away from appreciation of life as it actually is, in all of its splendid ordinariness. What if, instead, you snuggle down into that ordinariness? Most of your life is that, after all.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

Now that I’m at the upper limits of middle age, I’m a sprinter, not a marathoner. I have loads of energy and can achieve things at a fast pace, but I get tired. When I “hit the wall,” it’s very easy to slow down and rest before the next effort. My brain and body just seem to demand that.

longgone's avatar

@thorninmud Of course, you are completely right.

I have a question I’ve been meaning to ask: Could it be useful to start meditating in a setting it is easy to get lost in? I’m thinking of a night sky. When I look at the stars, I’m transfixed. I feel peaceful and, at the same time, fascinated. Could I use that to ease into “real” meditation, with the kind with little to no external input?

thorninmud's avatar

@longgone Yes. Most of us have some kinds of experience that we find utterly absorbing: music, athletics, walking in the woods, sky-watching…experiences that engage your attention to the point that mental noise drops away and the experience completely fills you so that you’re not something separate from the experience.

That gives you some sense of what meditative absorption is like. It’s a wonderful thing, which is why people seek out the kinds of activities that give them entry to it. But if it takes a particular set of circumstances to be able to access that absorption, then it’s not something that you can actually live from. In more mundane circumstances, you still find yourself restless, wishing that your preferred activities would come back around.

Eventually, you need to work (and it really is work) at bringing the attention to that same absorbed focus in situations that aren’t in the least bit special. When you can do that, your whole life feels like that night sky.

longgone's avatar

@thorninmud Thanks! You’ve got me motivated again!

Mariah's avatar

@msh I’m not nearly as active as I should be, this is true. I’ve got a few things working against me. Most majorly is that many physical activities are necessarily exclusionary for my boyfriend, as he has a prosthetic leg. He is capable of doing pretty much anything I can do, except perhaps things like ice-skating. He can hike admirably, which is the physical activity that I enjoy the most. But he does get tired fast, so I don’t think he enjoys it all as much as I do.

The other issue is that the physical activities I enjoy are all outside, and the weather here is total crap right now. It’s also pitch dark by the time I get out of work. And it’s an urban area, so I have to travel a bit to find a natural spot for hiking.

All excuses, of course! I should get myself outside more. I do slow down and enjoy my surroundings a lot more when I’m in nature.

msh's avatar

Well heck. I’m sorry that you are stuck where you can’t get out more. Good for both of you on going hiking, however! Not letting anything stop you both from breathing in the positive sweet smells and essence of freedom. I think that is why I love Spring so much.
I don’t go outside of city to quiet places often enough either. I lived out awhile ago, so the feel of it was nice. The city seems to have a constant rumble of noise, all the time. Like it’s alive and just waiting for something like a siren or car horns or something.
I did the dark to dark work days also. I was stupid, you get out at one second past the hour! That is Your time. :)
I don’t understand why anyone would worry, walking around in a city at night! Not one bit…
Ok. I gotta think on this one.
And stop jabbing the poor boy with sewing needles. It tends to make them either grouchy or have a high-piched whine as the air escapes. Wait! That’s a bicycle tire and needles!
Never mind.
I’m thinkin’......hhmmmm…

msh's avatar

I’m back!
A thought- with begins with a question after an observation.
Whoo- confusing!
Ok. I was on the phone talking to a friend the other day. All of my friends are in different cities and also across the country. I have found that I don’t just sit and talk. I start doing tasks while talking. My mind, my concentration is on what the conversation is about. Mindless tasks that I don’t necessarily look forward to doing, I can do while having a conversation.
Example, I cut up strawberries, straightened the thingy- drawer which holds the thingies I use to fix, repair or to MacGyver things…it got straightened. Oiled some of the thingies too.
I get a lot completed while talking on the phone.
Soooo. I thought of why I am double-tasking when on the phone? So it’s not a waste of time just sitting and playing with your gum. ( 70’s-80’s reference, sorry) So if the call is long- I have gotten things accomplished at the same time. Appeasing the little voice in my head about wasting time…...
Then I thought of you and your question, and jabbing your poor boyfriend with stitchery needles.
What if- when you get home from work, before ‘letting down’ and relaxing, you tackle one item that you hate doing, but it still needs done? Then stopping and relaxing to chill for the pm?
Say, if you get out the ‘Barkeeper’s Helper’ and scour the sink, and wipe down the top of the fridge and clean the stovetop, would you then have done some personal home- penance so that you could then relax?
An old work acquaintance used to make cakes for people for parties and such for extra money. She was good at it. She worked all day, went home and immediately pulled out the mixing bowls and got to work. When the cakes were in the oven, she changed, washed up, etc. Then she started dinner for her husband and she. By the time the cake was made, she was relaxed. Then she went to work on the designer icing jobs. She was relaxed and had the necessary steady hand to detail and write in icing. Dinner finished. She was done, and the rest of the evening was hers. (He did all the dishes from both ventures.)
What about an early ‘have to’ so you can tell the inner nag to go jump in the lake??? Then you can sit with the BF and make him rub your feet?

Another idea- volunteering on a night or Saturday am, thus earning sit- time?
Lemme know. :D

Coloma's avatar

Quite good and as @Cruiser mentions, I don’t see it as wasting time, I see it as just basking in my being. I like the saying that we are human beings not human doings. Lord knows I am quite busy in my myriad endeavors as of this past year and a half or so but living on beautiful rural properties for decades now has helped slow me down, my body anyway, my mind is always firing. haha

I just came up from the horse barn after spending about 20 minutes just being with one of the new horses. He was sniffing me all over, mouthing my clothes, and I was blowing sweet nothings into his nostrils, then back up to the porch here to sit in the sun in my sundress and pet one of my cats that is lying on the fire pit on the deck. I’ll be outta here for one of my little afternoon early evening gigs soon but I take space whenever it is available to me.
I am always wary of compulsively busy types, what are they running from anyway?

msh's avatar

I think that while taking on the duties here, it will help in your restless feelings that are harrying you. You have taken on a lot of work here. (Thank you, again) Shift down gears and just be. Time is still on your side so relax and enjoy it. We can’t own time, we exist with it. Make peace. :)

ibstubro's avatar

What duties have you taken on here, @msh?

Love_my_doggie's avatar

^^^ I believe that @msh is addressing and thanking someone else, but neglected to begin her post with @_____. The pronouns are third-person.

janbb's avatar

^ It’s certainly very unclear.

Mariah's avatar

I believe @msh is talking to me (not using @ since I’m OP), and referring to my having volunteered to help out on Fluther in a technical sense.

Thanks, @msh. :)

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