The Importance of Time & Purpose in Rooting Out Laziness & Idleness

The Value of Time & Purposelazy

One of the factors determining whether idleness and laziness define a person’s life involves having an awareness of the value of time. Zen Buddhist Yoshida Kenko said,

 “A man who fails even for a short time to keep in mind the preciousness of time is no different from a corpse.” (Essays in Idleness, 1330-32)

Idle times happen in everyone’s life. Some surprise us (waiting for the tow truck), and some make sense in the natural progression of the day (5 minutes between meetings). But an idle mindset infects all areas of life.

When idle times arise, valuing time moves a person toward opportunity for rest or for productivity in another area. True rest rejuvenates and restores and prepares for productive activity. Productive activity can be going back to school when you lose your job or incorporating more rest for recovery from illness. Both show the value of time even though one area of life remains idle.

Time becomes devalued when a person chooses lazy habits instead of productivity. Someone with a lazy and idle mindset generally operates without purpose except to satisfy the flesh and to avoid responsibility and growth. Ecclesiastes 4:5-6 sums this state of mind up well.

“Foolish people refuse to work and almost starve. They feel it is better to be lazy and barely survive than to work hard, especially when in the long run everything is so futile.”

 In other words, without a purpose that gives value to time, being idle and lazy makes perfect sense.

idleQuality Time and Purpose

Someone once said that laziness is not doing what you should be doing. No longer can we relegate laziness to the couch potato whose house is falling apart because of neglect. At the heart, a lazy and idle mindset fails to give time proper value. Let’s explore that idea further by looking at how devaluing time easily creeps into our thinking.

First, productivity isn’t the answer. Sometimes I pop from one activity to another without any real focus. I think the more tasks I accomplish, the more productive I am. And, of course, the more productive I am, the more significance I have. Right? Wrong!

Quality over quantity dominates with regard to productivity and creating significance. In fact, lack of significance in productivity is simply well-disguised idleness. I can accomplish tasks and cross items off my “to do” list and not actually be doing anything of significant purpose. When this happens, I am being idle because I fail to make meaningful progress.

Second, losing track of time can be productive. Think of taking a long walk or going for a family bike ride on a Sunday afternoon versus spending the day in the same room with each individual focused on a different electronic device. Quality connection creates significance that makes all the difference.

Finally, many activities can show the illusion of activity with no real purpose or progress. Meetings, planning, and organizing come immediately to mind. Much of these take place under the guise of organizing that only wastes time and energy. No significant progress go forth without a distinct awareness of time along with a driven focus on purpose.

What’s the key?

The key to being productive, whether in rest or activity, involves quality of time combined with significant purpose. Stay aware of time and in touch with purpose, and laziness and idleness cease to exist.

John Maxwell sums up this idea well in his book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. In the chapter on The Law of Design while talking about systems, Maxwell says this about time:

“Time has a way of getting away from most people, yet time is what life is made of. Everything we do requires time, yet many people take it for granted. How you spend your time is more important than how you spend your money. Money mistakes can be corrected. But once time has passed, it’s gone forever.”

So far in this series, we spent time Defining Laziness and Idleness and discussed The Dangers of Laziness and Idleness. We’ve also looked at what’s involved in Overcoming Laziness and Idleness. This series concludes Tuesday with A Look at Rest & Productivity.

 DISCUSSION: How can you give more value to time? How could you let purpose drive you?

The post How to Use Those Usually Wasted Minutes During your Day on Dan Black on Leadership provides some terrific suggestions for giving purpose and value to idle times.

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33 Replies to “The Importance of Time & Purpose in Rooting Out Laziness & Idleness”

  1. Many people say to use drive time as a way to use drive time better (Dan is one). I have mentioned to Dan and now here that I am unable to do that. I have tried to listen to sermons, etc while driving but my driving concentration takes away being able to truly listen. (I don't multi-task very well). So I do listen to music, which in itself can be a good thing. It relaxes me and can be productive by taking my mind off some things or even giving me a fresh perspective. There have been times clarity has come because I have allowed myself to just listen.

    1. I like silence during my drive time. Gives me time to think and to listen. I don't even really listen to music much. But I know lots of people who listen to books or podcasts or music while driving and don't like the silence. Everybody is difference, and the key is giving value to that idle time. With that, though, I do think people in general need to learn to exist in silence once in a while. I think many listen to or watch whatever as a way of not being along with thoughts and to God's "voice." I believe everyone needs to practice silence regularly.

  2. Kari,
    Since we will always have more things to do than time to do them we are left with picking. We do need to be proactive with what we do and not just jump from thing to thing. We do need to ask what is most important to us and then ask what should I be doing today in regard to what I value the most. How we spend our time should be laid next to what we value and what we want to accomplish.

    1. Well said, Mark. I tell my boys often that they may often have 10 or 20 or whatever things they'll want to do, and they can't do them all. They have to know their priorities and choose accordingly and get used to saying "no" to some good things. That's life. Knowing your top priorities helps tremendously. Hard life lesson but an important one.

  3. I will listen to music on trips to Minneapolis (3 1/2 hour drive), but from here to Sioux Falls (35 minutes)? More often, not. Time for silence around here is almost non-existent until Dad has gone to bed, and it brings a chuckle to me when people ask "…but you're a musician! You mean you aren't listening to music all the time?" My response only satisfies some – I need the silence to hear my own music being born. Quiet (the discipline of silence) is rarely taught anymore.

    Good post, Kari!

    1. "Quiet (the discipline of silence) is rarely taught anymore." So true! People seem to always need music or television or some kind of noise. I think silence forces us to be alone with our thoughts and to hear God's voice, and people don't want to do that because it's difficult. They don't want to hear what might be said in the silence. But I find that the silence is where my best ideas are born and where true rest and wisdom come from.

          1. Maybe a series based off of Richard Foster's work – that's now added to the top of the hopper 🙂

            Good post, by the way 🙂

          2. Just left a comment on your most-recent post. I've got some ideas on "The Discipline of Silence" that I am going to work on too. Maybe we can connect our posts somehow?

          3. Yep – we can surely do that. Do you have any idea on when you might be writing yours? Just curious – I don't want to be way ahead or way behind 🙂

          4. I've got tentative posts scheduled through most of July already, so if I just stick it in the next open spot that would be July 30th. However, since the post schedule is tentative and often changes for a variety of reasons, I'm open to sooner if that fits better for you. Never really coordinated posts like this before, but I'm looking forward to trying something a little different.

          5. Kari, with Nate gone and me alone silence has been abundant. I am not used to being alone any more now that I travel with him all the time. It seems strange. I keep finding ways to fill it. Looking forward to your blogs!

          6. I'm on the other end of the spectrum. I get lots of silence and struggle with anything interrupting it. Sounds like you need to come a little my way and me a little yours. Silence can be a valuable discipline, but I know I can value it over connection too much. Thanks for looking forward to what I write. That encourages me.

  4. So insightful, Kari. I think I know in my spirit when I'm doing the right things–even if that's napping. It's when I go maverick that I get into trouble. 🙂 I really appreciate the food for thought on a topic near and dear to my heart.

    1. You make a good point in saying we know in our spirits when we are doing the right thing, and I would add that this is a spirit regularly connected to God. I also love the "going maverick" phrase. Have been chatting with others a lot lately about our tendency – one that seems all too natural – to go it alone first instead of getting with God from the get-go. Also, do you remember that you actually suggested a series on this topic? I forget where the comment is, but you suggested a deeper study on idleness, I believe, and that comment led to this series. I love to go deeper on meaningful topics like this. I learn so much from what God says about them!

      1. It was on my blog. I remember. And you've done an amazing job with it! I've been preoccupied with VBS this week, so not idle! But I'm ready to hear more from you on this topic.

  5. Interesting take on this, Kari – I like it! This line sums it up for me: quality of time combined with significant purpose. The interesting thing is that during the last 10 of my lazy years – I did at least have quality of time and significant purpose when it came to my walk with God – time with Him in fellowship, in the Word, and in the renewing of the mind. He is using that time and purpose to transform me from a lazy person to a productive person.

    1. You have focused in the right place, Barb. That quality time and purpose spent with Him will spill over into all other areas of your life as you give them over to Him. Love the transformation process!

  6. I really like the quote," once time is passed it is gone forever". That really hits home. How often do we put off today what we should be enjoying, or sharing, or giving, planning on a tomorrow that may never come? And how often do we miss the opportunity to Listen to another, to share their live in this moment, but we don't and then it is gone and we can't get it back? I told a friend today that there is a time for every thing and we need to live this moment.
    It has been busy and I have not been on the computer, but tonight I am taking time to sit and read emails and respond and meditate. Time for me. This as hubby heads to Canada fishing. mini vacation. Enjoying this moment in time, trying not to let the to do list get in the way. As always thanks Kari!

    1. Well said, Mary. Good job connecting your life to the topic & what we all need to do. Trying to learn to do those same things myself. I write about what I personally struggle with, and valuing every moment is definitely one of them.

  7. I'm a person who loves "To-Do Lists". Not only does it give me a sense of achievement but it also helps me organize my hectic schedule so I can focus in on the most important things and push less important ones onto another list 🙂

    One thing that's hard for me to do is to take time to relax and/or have fun. But thankfully my son is teaching me these valuable lessons. I'm so thankful he's in my life. Really changes my perspective on so many things!

    1. I am a big "to do" list person too. They help keep me focused. The problem I have is focusing on them too much at the expense of relationships. I need to be willing to give up doing my "to do" list when my kids want to chat or hang out or whatever, especially when they are home during the summer months. Having a child absolutely changes everything. It can make you a better person if you let it, and that doesn't stop as far as I know. My boys are just entering their teen years, and I keep learning more and more from them. Helps me understand how God feels about me too.

  8. Love the Zen and Maxwell quotes! I think being intentional with our time and knowing it's valuable is so important. When we see the value of time we will begin to better use it doing the things that matter most to us. Great thoughts as always Kari:)

    1. Thanks, Dan. I just know that for me, if I focus on making every moment valuable, I accomplish so much more that I know is God's will for me to accomplish.

  9. This post is such an excellent way to point out the value of prioritization, because that's essentially what you're talking about here – make the most of your time by maximizing the value of every moment, maximize the value of every moment by aligning it with proper priorities and purpose. I think rarely do we mean to waste time – it just happens when we let the urgent rule our days.

    1. We need to amplify our deliberateness with time; otherwise, we will look back one day with too many regrets. That’s why I went white river rafting with my family today… Seize every moment, especially when it builds relationship with God & family.

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