Back in June, we had a "question box" worship service, with me answering questions that people wrote down on index cards. We had some questions I didn’t have time to answer. Here’s one:

What would happen if you never wasted another minute of your life? What would that look like?

I’m not sure I know how to definitively say what is a wasted minute. Surely, it’s not a time of boredom. This is one of my concerns about overscheduling and the fact that we have access to social media entertainment 24-7: we need time to be bored. Children need it, adults do, too. When we’re bored, that’s when our minds can wander without boundaries, that’s when we get the brilliant idea or the needed solution.

And what about time spent doing something that doesn’t pay off? When I was in graduate school and doing research, one of the frustrating realizations for me was that part of my research time, by necessity, would be spent in rejection. You read an article, then realize: nope. There is nothing in here that helps me. Preparing sermons, the same thing happens … you read, you search … and you reject. But that’s not wasted time, that’s a winnowing down of information. Eliminating the wrong answers helps the right answers show up.

I used to think of time spent watching or reading escapist fiction as wasted time. Older now, I realize that’s an important part of my self-care. I relax, I smile, and I enjoy. My imagination is let loose.

I guess that what would qualify as wasted minutes usually are a result of lack-of-preparedness. If I invite others to a meeting without a clear goal, that wastes all of our time. If I ask to meet with someone, but am not clear on why we need to meet in person, (as opposed to exchanging emails) that can be a waste of time. And who hasn’t had the experience of going into another room and asking, "Why did I come here?" Sigh. Yep, I guess that counts as a wasted minute.

And yet … sometimes we simply need to have a face to face meeting so that we can gauge the other person’s body language and facial expressions. Sometimes, we actually need to brainstorm about what our goal is, to get to where we need to be. And sometimes, going into that other room means that I get the opportunity to pet my dog.

Maybe "wasted time" is something we can only determine in hindsight. But until then, I’ll keep looking at my meeting agenda to make sure I don’t waste yours.