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 (e.g., waiting for the tow truck), and some make sense in the natural progression of the day (e.g., five 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.
“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.” (Ecclesiastes 4:5-6)
In other words, without a purpose that gives value to time, being idle and lazy makes perfect sense.
Quality 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.
The Key to Productivity
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.”
Spend time each day reflecting on how you value time. Making this a habit, and you’ll not only see increased productivity but an increased awareness and focus on your purpose as well.