One of the things I like to ponder is the way that I feel my time to be wasted. There are some activities that take a fair amount of time but do not feel as if the time is being wasted. A good book, a pleasant and enjoyable game, or a lovely conversation, as well as large amounts of music or a movie are ways that the hours can pass by pleasantly without my time feeling wasted. Yet the same activities, when they are not enjoyable, do feel as if time is being wasted. Having people talk to me who do not appear to understand or pay attention to what I am saying and only want me to pay attention to what they are saying is time wasted. Time spent on hold on the phone with some customer service problem is time wasted. Time spent in traffic that is not moving is time wasted, and so on.
What is it that makes something waste and something not waste? In general, there are tasks that may not necessarily be exciting, but one may see them as important and worth doing and there may be enough benefits to doing them that the tasks themselves are simply part of the ordinary burden of responsible adult life that one must do. Time that pays for itself in some fashion is not time that is wasted, even if one is not always having fun. In such circumstances I try to find ways of making the tasks themselves more enjoyable, less dull, more engaging, and therefore easier to accomplish.
There is, however, the question of those tasks that do not pay. How is one to deal with them? How is one to see the reward in something that seems to be without such a reward. To be sure, one may do things to benefit others, but if those people are only thinking about themselves and not about you, then to do such tasks is a thankless chore where one’s own forebearance and graciousness in dealing with it is likely to be unrecognized because people are often not aware of how much they are a challenge to deal with. I would not hesitate to imagine that some people find me to be a challenging person to deal with, and they would not be unfair in thinking me so. Those who are challenged by others are simultaneously often a challenge to others, and we would do well to dwell on both sides of that question to ponder what it is about us that makes it hard for others to cope with us very well just as much as we wonder why other people are so difficult to deal with.
How may we reframe interactions to make them more worthwhile to us. What is it that we seek to gain from dealing with others? Sometimes we may wish to encourage, may wish to help others, and may often be frustrated that this wish is not easily fulfilled–and well may we remember in such situations that we are not often pleased when others barge into our lives and wish to help us by giving us well-meaning but often worthless advice. Sometimes what we gain by dealing with others, even when it is a situation we do not always like, is better insight into what it is to deal with us from others. Often those who bother us the most are those who have the most to teach us about ourselves. What offends us about others can be a recognition as to how we might in turn offend others, and learning how to deal with personality traits that drive us up the wall can in turn help us to be more gracious in our dealing with others who may struggle just as much to be gracious with us. At least we can hope that such tasks may have a profit that we do not understand.