In praise of idleness | Sunday Observer

In praise of idleness

When we are caught up in a traffic snarl we call it “gridlock.” When we try to find more time to finish our numerous tasks we find ourselves in a state of “timelock.” Most of the office workers from clerks to executives rush to their workplaces in crowded buses and trains to beat the attendance deadline. On the way they have a snack or pick up a takeaway from a wayside food outlet without paying much attention to nutrition. Some students who have skipped breakfast do not do their studies well due to lack of energy and concentration. All these are time-related problems in the modern age.

Sometimes, we wonder what modern technology has provided us to do our work fast and expeditiously. Microwave ovens, electric kettles, washing machines and mobile phones were invented with the sole purpose of saving time. However, it has not happened the way we want. From mobile phones to monorails one technological innovation after another has met our demands for a faster tempo. In offices we find many labour-saving devices such as computers and other office appliances. Although we work in air-conditioned comfort we do not seem to have made life more comfortable than what it was. With all the modern gadgets we are unable to complete the day’s work. As a result we have to be in workplaces for longer hours.

The very purpose of inventing modern equipment was to give us some time for reading and other leisure time activities. Modern man is wondering why he cannot find enough time to relax and think for himself. Time management experts have been trying to solve this problem by adopting various methods. However, coming to terms with time has proved to be a difficult task. They have tried to squeeze maximum productivity out of each moment with better planning but they have come up against a brick wall. How can anybody reduce their volume of work and become less concerned about time?

Make time your friend

One way to get over the problem is to make time your friend, not an adversary. If you try to control time, you will end up with a situation where time will control you. If you stop trying to control time, it will relax its grip on you. Therefore, it is always advisable to work with time amicably without trying to conquer it.

People try many different methods to save time. They maintain diaries, use organizers or plan the day’s activities well in advance. However, predetermined plans do not work the way we want. There will always be unexpected events disrupting the plans. Therefore, when planning our activities we have to leave room for sudden changes. This will save a lot of heartburn.

Some married couples plan their time together before it gets invaded by other commitments. Such a plan is theoretically good, but the problem remains whether a couple can plan the events of the day successfully. Therefore, it is ideal for everyone to prepare an individual plan which might work better than a combined schedule.

Stress

Our parents and grandparents seem to have enjoyed a time of relative peace. With the population explosion and technological advances we cannot say that we are living in peace. The number of people suffering from stress and high blood pressure shows we are working against the clock. The pressure we undergo is bound to explode some time paralysing our body and mind.

In the past, workers were asked to do a proper job of work. With modernization they are compelled to achieve targets. That means they are guided by the clock.

By trying to achieve targets we overwork our mind and body. We need alternate periods of rest while at work. If we are going to work non-stop in order to achieve targets or to earn more money, we will end up as nervous wrecks.

Peak performers know how to control their time with alternate periods of hard work and leisure or idleness. Any good performer needs time to loaf around, recuperate and brainstorm before taking on a new task. However, this is something impossible to achieve in modern workplaces where the worker is considered a machine.

Afternoon nap

Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill insisted on his afternoon nap even at the peak of World War II. Once he confessed, “I regretted having to send myself to bed like a child every afternoon, but I was rewarded by being able to work through the night until two or even later.” Even Napoleon Bonaparte, Anwar Sadat and Thomas Alva Edison used to enjoy an afternoon nap as a form of relaxation. Although some of our elders advise against a siesta, regular naps improve alertness, energy and mood.

The popular writer and clergyman Norman Vincent Peale advises people to “Drop everything and simply walk for half an hour if they are stuck on a problem at work.” When he had to solve a difficult problem, Peale used to read mysteries to wake up his subconscious. Some of us think reading mysteries or detective stories are a sheer waste of time.

However, many of the creative people such as artists, poets, novelists and short story writers spend long periods of time idling about, allowing ideas to germinate.

When we go to a government office we are invariably confronted with nagging delays. Unfortunately, we have no control over them. However, we can control our responses to them. With a simple change of perspective, we can learn how to stand in a queue without losing our temper, or wait for a delayed train without cursing the station master.

Some people carry poems to memorize while waiting in queues. American singer-songwriter Larry Gatlin composed his best country song “All the Gold in California” during a traffic jam in Los Angeles.

Remember the old saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

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Comments

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