Frivolous pursuits

 Precious time wasted in pursuit of the frivolous

‘Twenty minutes was devoted to gossip … a junk-food conversation.’ Illustation: Sturt Krygsman

“Let’s watch a movie,” said my partner. “Sure,” I replied, and we plonked down in front of the screen. The movie was so awful it was like eating junk food.

Afterwards I felt guilty. As a mother, daughter, friend, sibling and woman balancing three jobs, study and domestics, I have so much to do, including sleep, that it’s of great misery to me I didn’t just get up and walk away. I think we all go through that.

I had big reader response to a line in a recent column: that we are not time-poor — rather the problem lies in how we use time. During downtime, instead of doing nourishing things many of us fritter the hours away, often in idle procrastination. But it isn’t just avoidance that chews into our lives.

I kept a diary of all the wasted time to shock myself. I broke it down for an average day of, say, 14 hours. Time on telephone helping a friend through issues: 30 minutes. Time really spent helping through issues was 10 minutes; 20 minutes was devoted to gossiping about things we’ve said to each other 100 times — a junk-food conversation.

There was a petty argument with my partner that wasted energy; 30 minutes of the same repetitive tape, no resolution, getting nowhere. Junk-food arguing.

Plenty of junk-food surfing while working. As in highly forgettable. A video about where cats really go at night (sweet, but really, Ruth?); photos of houses with zillion-dollar bathrooms; story on the stuff people leave on planes; the danger of flea bites; how badly some celebrities have aged (and cosmetic surgery disasters); a video on scariest mountain walks; a TV rerun of Judge Judy about a bitch-fight in a carpark; Facebook and pointless emails. Electronic rubbish-food took up over an hour.

With a few more gossipy calls and unnecessary texts, emails and posts, let’s say I wasted about two hours on junk-food life, equivalent to a full day a week.

I’m not saying we need to be serious. Heavens no. As a hedonist, I recommend giggling time, getting tipsy, partying, schlock films, friendship and silliness. If it’s joyous and helps you unwind and regenerate, go for it. But many of us just flop about not really getting nourishing fun or rest, or bonding time with a friend, being creative or feel-good hormones.

Rather we’re procrastinating, blobbing, feeling guilty, vegging out in front of bad TV; complaining about kids and partners. My Indian totem name should be “Lolling Bear”.

As I got up from the couch my partner quipped: “Well, there’s two hours I’ll never get back again!”

Too aptly spoken.




Malcolm needs to read this. So does Bill and the Crossbenchers as well. Any fool can waste money but, as the man said, when you waste time it is gone forever.

Mr. Micawber

Mr. Micawber

Interesting article. We gave up watching TV 9 years ago. I don’t think we have missed much. I’m not sure about the hedonist idea, but each to their own and we reap what we sow.



Great article. I might start appropriating the concept of ‘junk food time’.



There is a much bigger problem really than time wasted. There is time not used for better things.

A different perspective. Wasted time is time spent on trash like television and movies (refer rubbish bin picture above). Time spent on better things is spent raising the bar. Shakespeare? The Bible! The greats of classical music? J. S. Bach! Recommended better activity for the immediate future – visit Whistler’s mother at the NGV.

I think that what people fail to realise is that their own standards are pretty much worthless because of their ignorance. They know they are getting it wrong. But they have no direction for actually doing better. The answer is to learn enough to be able to identify what history has endorsed as being the best way to go. The best in life is usually rejected with considerable hostility by people in their folly -which is the message of Easter of course. But it can be found if diligently sought.

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