How I know I’m wasting my time on the wrong activities

It occurred to me as I was completing this experiment, that I may have been sewing a random pair of underwear on a park bench *just to have something to do* – a way to waste my time, or *kill time*.

Sewing panties on a park bench

That’s when I came up with some rules for assessing the validity of a task – I check in and ask myself the following three questions:

Questions to ask to make sure I’m not wasting my time on the wrong activities:

1. Am I having fun?

2. Do I believe this is a good use of my time?

3. Do I wish I was doing something else?

Just in case you didn’t guess, only the Yes-Yes-No combination wins 😉 Otherwise I just do something else.


The reason I bring this up is because I was reading about “Women’s handiwork” in The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir [1949]:

… all through her life, the bourgeois woman often has to resolve the derisory problem: How to kill time? For once the children are raised and the husband has become successful, or at least settled, days drag on.

… “Women’s handiwork” was invented to mask this horrible idleness; hands embroider, knit, they are busy hands, and they move; it is not a question here of real work, because the object produced is not the goal; it has little importance… and it is hardly a diversion because the mind is vacant: it is an absurd distraction, as Pascal describes it; with needle or book, woman sadly weaves the very nothingness of her days.

… Water-colors, music, or reading have the very same role; the unoccupied woman does not try to extend her grasp on the world in giving herself over to such activities, but only to relieve boredom; an activity that does not open up the future slides into the vanity of immanence…

… Most women do not aim for a goal that can be reached, but for a way to keep busy, and no occupation is meaningful if it is only a pastime.”

I’m still figuring out what *meaningful* means to me, but from reading more and watching her clip below from 1975, I think she just wanted to make sure women were investing their time in something that would lead them to independence.

When asked (from 37.38 mins)

Is it vital to have the independence that comes from earning a living?”

She answers:

I think so, yes. It’s vital, no matter how hard it is, to be financially independent, even if it costs [women] a lot. And it will, since it will still be their job to keep house. But it’s a necessary condition for being independent on the inside, mentally, psychologically independent.

Otherwise, they’re offered no alternative way of thinking, they’re forced to think like their husbands, to cater to his whims, do his bidding etc. They have to stay with him even if they don’t like him, a situation which is not any more admirable than prostitution. Staying with their husbands for money because they can’t earn a living is denying their worth as human beings.

So I’d advise all women to work, to become as qualified as they can, to find a job that’s as interesting as possible, and, above all, that provides financial independence.”

Even though her thoughts are from almost 40 years ago, I think it’s important to remember them from time to time.

What you do define as wasting time? 

P.S: If you haven’t watched Woody Allen’s latest flick, Blue Jasmine, do – it depicts this scenario absolutely.


4 thoughts on “How I know I’m wasting my time on the wrong activities

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