“Time you enjoy wasting was not wasted.”1
Oh no …, I do not want to go to work/school/university, etc.. This, or similar things may has everybody at least thought once in his lifetime. But, let’s be honest, who could not understand that? We will come back to this later, but first let us have a look at the quote above, which is often referred to John Lennon, which’s earliest denomination goes back to 1912 and therefore 28 years before John Lennon was even born.
But what has all this to do with the Headline? At least this statement sounds like a recommendation on the use of free-time. Because when is there time you enjoy wasting? Exactly, within your free-time. The message is that you do not need to worry about time you just spend “chilling”, doing nothing or watch, completely “unproductively” a movie. The decisive thing is that this time is enjoyed. Thus no thought needs to be wasted that this time was squandered. This time is not wasted, because it was filled out with an action you enjoyed and which brings you pleasure. This here should not get a excurse on the meaning of life or hedonism, but the aspect to use the available time in a way that the greatest possible pleasure is reached, is lived freedom. The use of positive freedom rights, as I defined them in my article “Basic approaches on Freedom”, find its way by obtaining sovereignty of time.
However, does not the above mentioned quote also include a hidden request? “Enjoy the time you are wasting!” And we are all consider, where we are “wasting” time. Do you remember anything? Maybe we should first define what we understand by “wasted time”. I would define wasted time in the following way and think that most people would agree with that: Time which is not used to reach a specific immediate personal goal. This definition causes some problems, as we will see, because what is a specific immediate personal goal is highly subjective and cannot be generalized. I would therefore expurgate my generalized statements as in so far I am negotiating them within this article, according to reasons of simplicity. I know further, that my point of view is influenced biographically and that not everybody has the freedom and the possibilities, as I do, as a partly well-educated (western-) European, and cannot decide on different on the job they do.
We stopped at the consideration about time you are wasting (this of course does not happen to me anymore). After you can think about that for a few lines, you should come to a conclusion, aren’t you? Otherwise, let’s think about that together: When do you spend time with things which do not belong to your intermediate personal goals? Can you remember anything? Your working time for example? That was a direct hit, wasn’t it? With this we come back to my comment at the beginning of this article. I may do not lean far wide out of the window, if I claim, that everybody once had a job to do that he or she grasps as a wasting of time. This may be because you just had a bad day, the colleague was exhausting or the things which need to be done did not cause storms of enthusiasm.
What follows are demotivation, frustration and a decrease of productivity, which lead to a longer interaction with the situation. A simple advice would be: Be more motivated, just do it! While I worked here in the Austrian Economics Centre as an intern, one of my colleagues said something that implicates exactly this and meets the point: “With the claim to do something good, nearly every job can be filled in.” It all has to do with the personal claim and the personal motivation and nobody can dictate them to you. It was Lars Tvede, who recognized correctly, that most people do not very much, if they have no incentive towards performance.2
This should not be a plea for piecework and efficiency controls, conversely. Such methods can have negative effects on the motivation of workers and thus entail a decrease of productivity. Therefore every of both parties, the worker, who’s job depends on that, and also the enterprise, who’s profit depends on that, should have an incentive towards lower productivity. In contrast, there should be incentives towards performance, which motivates and thereby lead to increasing performance. Such reward systems work best, if they are based on confidence instead of control, because both sides have an incentive to be successful.
Though for which reason confidence is so important? To make it short: Because in this way the workers as well as their bosses have less work with that and therefore there is a benefit for both sides. It is a fact that if I employ someone and need to control him, I need to invest a lot of resources, first of all time, in which I myself cannot be productive. Furthermore, the implicit “I do not trust you” has negative consequences on the commitment of the employee.
There is a big difference, if this confidence is granted. This has an indescribable impact on motivation, even if it needs sometimes to be communicated. Further, the inherent psychological effect which comes along with that must not be underestimated. “I have confidence to you” is motivation, but also responsibility. One could say that here are freedom rights granted, which intend incentives. The concerned employee feels a sense of duty to handle its tasks with care. This usually leads to a not to be scoffed increase of productivity. Of course there may be days when the employee went home half an hour earlier, but usually he has then completed his tasks. At another day he will therefore stay longer, because he (or she) has not completed its tasks yet. Therefore there should be a balance in the long run (of course I know, that flexible working times are not possible within all branches).
“Trust is exhausted by making demands on it.”3 This quote was obtained by Bertolt Brecht in his “Life of Galileo” from 1939 and he is totally right with that. If it is obtained, that the granted freedom and the granted confidence is misused, the employer needs to react in an appropriate way. What this means exactly depends on the particular case. It is a fact indeed, that a trust-based system of working-time allows a more pleasure working-climate.
At this place I would like to go deeper into one, as far as I think, example, which illustrates how self-responsibility and motivation towards performance can lead to success. Let’s first have a look on the job of a “YouTuber”. YouTubers earn their money by producing videos on different topics and uploading them to the video-online-platform “YouTube”. Through ads and product placements they may earn very high incomes. YouTubers thereby keep to some simple motivational rules. Among other things these are “Do what you like!” and “Do it with passion!”. I admit, to get a very successful YouTuber there are a lot more things to do. Marketing is as important as accounting, the ability to plan and exercise big projects and much more. Further, this way of living requires an enormous amount of commitment and motivation.
With which we are back to topic. Everything you need to reach a high amount of performance is motivation. “Do what you like.” This is an ideal possibility to not waste your time. Of course nobody who wants to be successful, gets along with 40 hours of work a week. Of course cannot everybody become a “YouTube-Star”. Of Course not everybody can only do the things which make fun, but that’s not the point. Everybody can fill out his time meaningful if there is the right claim. Who likes what he does, comes up with the adequate diligence. This one is perfectionist enough to do his tasks very well and accept the responsibility coming up with that. You than do not “work” any longer, but achieve something, because the pleasant is linked to the useful and the rendered service is no longer counted in invested time.
This concept, which is already lived by many people and inter alia in the “purpose for existence” (PFE) in the (worth of reading) books of John Strelecky is mentioned, elucidates exactly this. If further the fact, that in industrialised western civilizations every fifth person does not reach the age of retirement (~65 years) will be recognized, an even better utilization of lifetime is granted, even if you cannot experience all the nice aspects of life you thought you could catch up.
Let’s come back to the YouTubers (and other social-media stars as well), which are examples on how to spend your time useful by doing something you like and thereby earning money. Of course that’s not puppies and kittens the whole day long. Even YouTubers need to spend some of their time most people do not like to do, e.g. accounting, taxes, etc.. Furthermore, the social media market is highly competitive.
Nevertheless, YouTubers collaborate, because it is worth it. They inspire each other and have a profit on that in the long run. In my opinion, this is the right way to cause a win-win transaction. Further, it is a completely voluntary action and thus occurs under a very high level of motivation. The concept of voluntary based exchange between strangers is not for nothing called one of humankind’s greatest advantages.4
Summing up that means: Every annoying activity can “With the claim to do something good […]“ be filled in that way, that it is no burden. Therefore freedom, motivation and responsibility are needed, which need to be granted, induced and taken over. This way, an environment is established where no more time is wasted. The thus increased productivity has advantages for both sides, the employers as well as the employees, because both of them should have an incentive to reach this condition (“win-win condition”). To perform is therefore no burden, but a possibility to advance yourself and others. Everything you need is the right motivation, not to waste your time, however this solution will look like.
(c) photo by the author
Brecht, Bertolt (1939): Leben des Galilei, abgerufen am 18.09.2018, http://ciml.250x.com/archive/literature/german/brecht_leben_des_galilei.pdf
Troly-Curtin ,Marthe (1912): Phrynette Married, The Macmillan Company of Canada, Toronto, Canada, requested at 20.09.2018, https://archive.org/stream/cihm_84511#page/n265/mode/2up
Tvede, Lars (2015): The Creative Society. How the future can be won, LID Publishing Ltd, London.