Last year I had one of the most adventurous holidays ever. I went to the in-land port of Nsanje, jumping on local buses and bicycles (Kabaza) from Lilongwe through to Blantyre then Fatima all the way to Bangula before hitting the promising Nsanje city. It was so much fun. But why should I bore you with my holiday sojourns? One incident really bothered me. At the lodge I slept, I met up with a group of people playing bawo. I left them at the lodge as I went sight-seeing. When I came back in the evening, I found them still playing bawo. When I asked the lodge manager who they were, I was told they were some teachers from the nearby school who would regularly come to play bawo at the lodge. What interested me more was their discussion around their meager pay. But how are these teachers using their time to improve on their income? Can’t they upgrade themselves? Can’t they find alternative sources of income so they use their time more efficiently?
You see, throughout my life, I have found that there are two kinds of people. One group seems to be constantly bored, idling away their days and waiting for life to come to them. The other group does the opposite – they are constantly busy, believing there aren’t enough hours in the day and are out there chasing life. I am in the latter group. I feel annoyed with myself when I see myself wasting time. I don’t avoid relaxing and enjoying life by any means, but if I am mentally and physically rested, I would rather be doing something than just counting grass. I would rather be writing or researching something or reading for enrichment or doing something with my wife or doing household chores or doing something engaging with my children. And when those avenues are full, I look for other ways to improve myself.
The time I spend improving myself almost always pays bigger dividends later. Self-improvement is an investment of time and energy instead of an investment of money, but both pay great returns. It can improve your health, your emotions, your career, and your financial state.
You can use your spare time to improve your knowledge. Ideas are incredibly valuable and grow more valuable every day as society moves in a direction where creativity is rewarded. Knowledge is the base upon which creativity is built. One powerful way to build knowledge is to read (which, I suppose, is what you are doing now). Take on a book that challenges you and pushes the way you think. I like to read books that advocate positions I don’t agree with— such books force me to understand other perspectives which help me re-evaluate and strengthen and perhaps change my own.
Another effective way to build knowledge is through conversation with a person willing to engage ideas. Share your thoughts, listen to what they share and debate their relative merits. Accept that criticism of an idea that you presented is not criticism of you, but of the idea itself.
Also use the time to improve your transferable skills –- the types of skills that fit well in almost any career path – are always worthwhile to build. Communication skills. Time management skills. Creativity. Leadership.
Use the time to reflect on who you are – your strengths, your weaknesses, your joys, your sadness. This makes it a lot easier to navigate the minefield of life. It is well worth your time to figure out who you are and what you truly value.
Here’s the real message: The difference between the successful and the non-successful appears in how they “waste” their time. People who succeed spend almost all of their time doing something that in some way improves themselves, their relationships, or their career situation. That’s not accomplished by idling.
Have a blessed weekend as you avoid idling!