Who’s Afraid of Being Idle?

I recently came across an article titled “Japanese aghast at prospect of extra-long holiday to celebrate coronation.” It came out almost 4 years ago, when, to celebrate the transition to the transition to a new emperor. Japan passed a bill that gave an unprecedented 10 days off to celebrate the momentous occasions. One person quoted in the article said “To be honest, I don’t know how to spend the time when we are suddenly given 10 days of holidays.”

You know that that got me wondering: are we afraid of time off? Of being idle? Of the opportunity to stop and smell the roses?

I’m not referring to the folks who are paid by the hour and may need that money to survive. I’m referring to the idea of being idle. Which is strange in societies where the first─or second─question most frequently asked when meeting someone is “what do you do?” Have you ever tried to respond with “what I want” or “nothing” and see Munch’s The Scream forming on the asker’s face?

Our society’s opinion about idleness is etched in our inner souls from statesmen to theologians, from authors to poets.

The devil finds work for idle hands to do.” ─ Marcus Tullius Cicero

Idle hands are the devil’s playthings.” ─ Benjamin Franklin

You should not have idle hands, you should always be working. All your life.” ─ Ivan Bunin

Even the word retired itself, indicating that one is no longer working to make a living, has only nasty connotation, as in Is Retired the End of the Road? And I will admit that even though I am joyous and jubilant in our Endless Weekend, I sometimes do feel sheepish in updating an acquaintance about our joyous status; even though it’s by choice, even though we worked hard to get to it, even though I’m still exuberant about it, it still feels… wrong?

And yet I heard a colleague lament once that the only time he can “think” is when he showers. At all other times, even when he sits “on his royal throne” he is busy handling email or … something. There are no devices that intrude on his shower as of yet, though give water proof screens a little time and they’ll come to roost on our shower walls, too.

Have you noticed that some of the best ideas seem to crop up when our brains are “idle”? During a walk outdoors, or while brushing teeth, or doing dishes? What about the great stories of Archimedes coming up with a how to detect “fake gold” while taking a bath? Or of Newton coming up with the law of universal gravitation while sitting idly under a tree?

Some of our greatest thinkers said believed in the joy of being idle:

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” ─ Bertrand Russell

“There is nothing more notable in Socrates than that he found time, when he was an old man, to learn music and dancing, and thought it time well spent.” ─ Michel de Montaigne

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” ─ Socrates

And so I ask you:
where do you stand on it?
Do you need to be busy every minute of every day?
Do you prefer to relish the smell of the roses and think deep thoughts?
Are you somewhere in between on that spectrum?
Do you think there is a “right” balance for us humans?


109 thoughts on “Who’s Afraid of Being Idle?

    1. That’s a terrific observation, and a wise one at that! I wonder what’s a “healthy” balance? I read in Sapiens that when we were gatherer/hunters, including all “household” chores we worked maybe 4-5 hours a day max and the rest of the time was “idle” time. Closer to a sloth or your household cat than to what we do today? 🙃

      Liked by 3 people

  1. I really dislike that “What do you do” question. It’s such a limiting question! If someone’s work is the basis for their existence, what a sad life they must live. Regardless of how profitable or incredible! I’ve heard it said we are “human beings” not “human doings”.

    Being still, contemplative, taking time to meditate, and practicing mindfulness are all hugely beneficial. Such practices are good for the mind, body, and spirit. But as a collective civilization, we pretty much suck at them. And it’s not the same thing at all as just “being idle”.

    Being idle does not incorporate presence or mindfulness. It’s just wasting time. Life IS too short for idleness. But there is very much a time and place for contemplation, rest, relaxation, and even vacation or “holiday”. These can all make us more productive, more integrated, and more caring. Love your neighbor AS YOURSELF, right?

    I wonder how many people thought to respond to your post, but “just don’t have time”…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a fantastic way of looking at life! Yes, it is very limiting to to define oneself by one’s occupation. Was Robert Frost a factory worker or a poet? Was Douglas Adams a bodyguard or an author? If they continued to think of themselves in those “earlier” terms, would we have ever known about the road less taken or the ultimate answer to the ultimate question (42)?

      For the sake of brevity I used “idle” but it’s more of a way to distinguish between paid-for work and something-else. Newton was at home, away from his formal studies at the university for 2 years during “their pandemic”, but he was hardly “idle” under the tree. Otherwise we’d only have Leibniz’s calculus 🙂

      So I really like the way you highlighted that. There’s a clear difference between paid-for-work, our passions or interests or how we enjoy spending time, and a state of idle stupor. I clearly need a better name for the “middle one.” Have any suggestions?

      And I love your final observation! 🌟

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    1. You and me, both! I feel baths are regenerative to mind, body, and the well of creativity!

      When are you getting your next 10 days off? I once read of a company that, as terms-of-employment REQUIRED employees to at least take 2 continuous weeks off. They felt that a day off here or there would be taken for errands and not to “regenerate”: what do you think of THEM 🍎 🍏 (apples)?

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      1. Actually everyday is a day off for me now. 😃 I’ve been reading, and reading. I’m on my 5th book of the month! It’s been so cold here of late that I’m not walking or getting out much. It was -6 this morning and has just hit 1 degree.

        Years and years ago He-Man worked for a company that gave a 4 week sabbatical every 4 years. It was wonderful. We were allowed to sell back 2 weeks of vacation for the money which helped finance some of our trips that we took during our sabbaticals. With vacation plus the 4 weeks off we ended up having 6 weeks! The first one cost me my job. They wouldn’t give me the time off so laid me off.
        We enjoyed several sabbaticals then the company was sold and that benefit was lost. He-Man left that company after 18 years as that company changed so much it was no longer was the company he’d started with. It was an amazing benefit and really did rejuvenate the creative juices.
        He’s retired now.
        I totally agree with them there apples! 😃🍎

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        1. I love, admire, and respect that you prioritized vacation over a job. I took time off without pay to supplement my vacation days, and it was greatly frowned upon by my management and colleagues 🤷‍♀️ How strange are our priorities? I looked it up and there are some places that seem to have vacation as a matter of course, not as an aberration:


          I have so much respect for companies that value their employees enough to create and maintain a social contract, like what your hubby’s company did! I read that Nintendo does not have layoffs because their founder believes employees cannot be productive when they’re always, even if it’s at the back of their heads, worried about being cut…

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          1. Not at all. I read the last book in Dan Antion’s trilogy series Dreamer’s Alliance, then at the request of #1 Grandson so we could talk about it I reread Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, then I continued on with a Sci-Fi series I’ve been reading for a couple of years. Omega Force series by Joshua Dalzelle completing books 7,8, and I’m a chapter or two away from finishing book 9. There are 14 books in this series. Next up will be a book by Martha Grimes in her Richard Jury series. I’ve read almost the whole series. I’m going to be reading the last 4 starting with The Knowledge after those 4 books, that will complete that series for me. I really like series books and hate to see them end.

            I read mostly fiction. What are your reading?

            Liked by 1 person

          2. I like fiction books as well, mostly fantasy and sci-fi. Any that you’d recommend? Right now I just picked up Thursday Murder Club which has a delightfully lighthearted and funny writing style, despite the title/topic (yes, there is a murder they’re investigating) and is filled with cute quotables like “Donna has always been headstrong, always acted quickly and decisively. Which is a fine quality when you are right, but a liability when you are wrong. It’s great to be the fastest runner, but not when you’re running in the wrong direction. ” 🙂 I like book series as well! Last one I read was Mistborn by Sanderson. Any series you’d recommend?

            I enjoy non-fiction as well, depends on my mood. I’ve been devouring them in the behavioral economics space, but also read some in other spaces, like history. The one I’d recommend there is Sapiens, which is written by a historian with a sense of humor, I kid you not, which makes the book a joy to read. He has a TED talk, if you’d like to sample his style, where he starts off by asking:

            If he was stuck on a deserted island and a gorilla was stuck on a deserted island, who’d have a better chance to survive?
            He looks like your average historian, skinny with round glasses, and you can see no one in the audience wants to insult him with the answer. So he answers: of course the gorilla!

            How about if 4 humans were stuck on a deserted island and 4 gorillas were stuck on a deserted island? Answer would still be the gorillas.

            How about if 4,000 humans were stuck on a deserted island and 4,000 gorillas were stuck on a deserted island? Then the answer is the humans.
            Why? Because of gossip! He then explains why gossip is so important to our species, sapiens. I can explain, too, if you’re interested and don’t feel like reading/watching.

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          3. I watched that Ted talk…interesting with lots of great points about our human social construct.

            I’m going to check out the books you mentioned. I tend to break up my Sci-Fi reading with mystery or once in a while a romance.

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          4. I found it fascinating! Watched lots more of his stuff.

            They were the books I just read/am reading… Not on my top 10 🙂 Speaking of Series, have you heard of Feist & Wurtz Daughter of the Empire?

            Which books would you recommend to me?

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          5. Oh gosh, I don’t know which books. How about authors? Lee Child, Joshua Dazelle, Martha Grimes to name a few of my favorites.

            I have not heard of Feist and Wurtz Daughter of the Empire. I’ll look it up, thanks!

            Did you hear they’re not bringing back the Expanse!

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          6. I read that when we were watching the last season of Expanse, and I held out hope that given that they started 3 completely new story lines in the last few episodes, that they’d relent and renew it after all — did your hear this recently? 😦 Should I lose all hope?

            I’d love to hear what you think of Daughter of the Empire!

            Thank you for the recommendations: having read the Jack Reacher books, who do you think makes the best actor for the role? After reading the James Bond books (yes, I have 🙂 ), to me, it’ll always be Pierce Brosnan, that’s who I feel Fleming was describing…

            Liked by 1 person

          7. Well it isn’t Tom Cruise!! The Rock fits Reacher better than Cruise does in my mind. He’s super tall, and buffed out, and just fits that ex military MP look. Well, I think he could rock it better than Cruise did.

            I still like Sean Connery as Bond, James Bond. 😃

            I read about the Expanse ending several months back. I’m disappointed. I was hoping they would keep it going awhile longer.


  2. Oh — that Socrates quote, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” I don’t think I’ve run across that one before, EW. Those words speak to me. It’s so easy to be “busy” with endless…everything! My family knows that I will get cranky when I haven’t had a chance to shut down, find time to mull, stare out a window, pet the dog. The key for me is shutting up! 😉 I’m verbal by nature and it’s a necessity for much of my work, but I crave the shut off valve and try to find those little gaps wherever I can. At the beginning of the day? That’s good. But I find I need a midday breather to ‘reload’. Love your post — thanks so much! 💓💓💓

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was just going to comment on that same quote! I hadn’t seen it before either. Whew, it’s a doozy!

      I love EW’s questions. To me, between the questions and Socrates quote is a spirit of intentionality that we need to cultivate. Maybe it’s not so much about whether we are idle or busy – but cultivating the right things.

      And I love Vicki’s observation that she “has to shut up” to shut down. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies!

      Liked by 2 people

          1. I feel I should pull a Costanza, you know, from Seinfeld, where he leaves on a high note since how can he ever get a better response? Howling (with laughter, I hope 🙂 ) has to be one of the best responses ever! ❤

            Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh! I love that: the emphasis on deliberate intent. I once read about how important it is to have the strategic intent being clearly understood at all levels. They gave the decision of a war, where if the strategic intent is clearly understood at each level, then a sergeant in the field can make the decision of whether it’s important to fight over a hill or not. Without the strategic intent, there are so many hills and valleys to waste lives on… How do we choose which ones matter otherwise?

        Dare I ask what your strategic intent is?

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Oh please don’t – I have no idea on my strategic intent is except for to honor and be present with what I choose to do for as many moments as possible. 🙂 Thank goodness I’m not leading an army…

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    2. Thank you so much, Vicki! It’s one that really resonated with me as well! It’s so easy to be “busy” with minutiae. At the end of the day, it became an easier decision for me to stop having work-for-a-living when I felt that more of my time was spent on that “overhead” work (you know, TPS report-like…) than on actually doing good. I’d rather have time for what I love to do than for work-about-work 🙂

      I hear what you’re saying about needing to recharge: what do you do to help you do that?

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      1. Love you, EW! So glad you’re doing what you love – we all benefit. ❤️
        Hmmm recharging? I love the sweet kids baking shows. I can feel my blood pressure dropping watching fun kiddos making crazy desserts!

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  3. Bertrand Russell was one smart dude. That could totally be a bumper sticker.

    I fall somewhere in between. I love having time off – god, the thought of 10 long days in a row makes me envy the Japanese even more – but I also get bored easily. Even on lazy weekends, I find I need to get out of the house for an hour or two, even if that just means taking a walk.

    I blame it on my dad. He’s the exact same way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love his quotes which is to say I love his pithy quotes, but then I’d be repeating myself because he so often is… And, yes, you’re right, it’d make a fantastic bumper sticker!

      I think I mis-wrote when I wrote “idle.” In my head it mostly meant “not-working-8-5 job” (or 6am to 8pm… 😦 ). I didn’t mean sitting on a rocking chair on the porch waiting for Godot 🙂 I more meant the freedom to choose what to do. What word should I have used?


  4. I think it’s important to strike a balance. For instance, when I repose upon a hammock, balance is very important, to keep from rolling off onto the ground. If I take a nap from nine to noon, then I need another nap from noon to three, to balance out the clock. And any time I lose my balance, I find the best way to regain it is to sit down in my easy chair, and lean it back for awhile.

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    1. What a fantastic way to say it: YES! You hide a golden truth behind the humor — balance is critical.

      I probably should pay closer attention to the wonderful words you introduce, since I clearly chose poorly in using “idle.” I didn’t mean twiddling one’s thumbs, I meant more of a not-being-forced-to-work-at-a-formal-job? What word would you suggest I had used?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. What a spectacular observation on our culture that “I had to wonder why I thought
      being busy was badge of honor.”! Why is “busy” filled with positive connotations and “idle” with such negative ones?

      I’d pair Socrates with you and say “insidious and barren busyness”!

      Thank you for sharing: it’s excellent!


  5. Thought-provoking post, as always, Endless Weekend. I need to be busy about 90% of the time (and might become even busier deciding whether to revise that percentage. 🙂 ). But I do get a lot of ideas while taking “mindless” walks that are obviously not mindless!

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    1. Thank you, Dave, you honor me. I believe that the desire to be brief got the better of me: I didn’t mean “idle” as in sit on the porch and stare into oblivion, waiting for dinner time. I meant the bareness of busyness that Socrates was referring to. Of being afraid that without a formal job title, one has no sense of direction? Maybe no sense of worth? Have we gotten to the point that not only our last names are defined by occupations (you know, Thatcher, Baker, Abbot, Fisher, though idk the origin of Astor 🙃) but also our inner souls?

      Perhaps a better way to ask it is: since the bulk of our waking hours are spent working for a living, are we defined by our work and really end up living-for-work, so that when there’s an end to that type of work, our usefulness ends? Or are we still capable of working to live, and when we can, we can “shed” the formal work part and focus on the “living”?

      Maybe you can help me articulate the question? It’s been on my mind for a while now, but it’s still on the amorphous side…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I might not be the best person to respond to the interesting points and questions in your above comment, Endless Weekend, because when I stopped working as a full-time salaried writer I became a freelance writer spending just as many hours writing (with the disadvantage of less money but the advantage of writing only what I wanted to write). So, I’m far from “retired.” 🙂

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        1. I think that would make you an extremely good person to respond to them for two different reasons:
          1) you’re a living proof that life is not defined by having a “formal” job, and one can be merry and with a fully stomach without one. Perhaps even merrier than with one? 🙃
          2) you’re exquisitely able to express yourself!

          Our society certainly expressed its opinion of folks without a “formal” job with the myriad of negative connotations (and really, only negative connotations…) if the word “retired”?

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        2. Thank you! 🙂 Took me a while to realize that one shouldn’t feel TOO emotionally tied to a “formal” job. Loyalty is virtually always a one-way street — many employees give their all to their employers; many of those employers will treat employees badly and/or lay them off with barely a second thought.

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          1. May I ask how you reached that splendid realization? I’m not just asking, I would be extremely interested in knowing since most folks are TOO emotionally tied to a formal job.

            It certainly seems that while most companies speak mightily about a social contract they have with their employees, and ask for one back, almost all (not quite all, but almost all) seem to only to hold a financial one. And yet they get upset when the surveys about their employees’ engagement in the company seem to show that less than a third of their employees are engaged (https://www.gallup.com/workplace/391922/employee-engagement-slump-continues.aspx).

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          2. I reached that realization in various ways — including being forced to work many hours of unpaid overtime and ultimately being laid off anyway, even as top execs and middle-level execs who did little work were retained. And in some cases new execs were hired. Fun times. 🙂

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          3. In the case of my job at a magazine, things were better (albeit not perfect) when it was independently owned. Then the magazine was purchased by a media conglomerate, and cost-cutting started soon after. In general, corporate ownership tends to be hyper-focused on profit.


        3. I’m with Dave there …Also a ‘retired’ Journalist, but I love writing – so I apply my expertise as a volunteer for local charities and community groups, taking care of their publicity/media releases. I spend a lot of time writing up stories about my travels, keeping up my instagram photos, and writing to friends. Lucky to have been in a career which lent itself to keeping me occupied in my ‘retirement’, even if it doesn’t pay anymore.

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          1. I wish we had a better word than “retirement.” Retirement has nothing but negative connotations of being set apart of society, from life, from value. It was only in the last few years that I’ve come to that realization about how our language imposes that idea on us.

            And I’m with you: “retirement” doesn’t mean that. It doesn’t mean not being active, mentally or physically. It doesn’t mean not contributing. It certainly doesn’t mean not being happy…

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    1. FANTABULOUS use of caps (so good, it needed 2 words-in-one!)! Yes! That’s why I like Socrates’ “Barren busyness.” And, yes, needing to be 100% busy is a little disconcerting? Are people afraid to keep themselves company? Or, like you said, of who they are?

      I wonder if we should question the idea of “sloth” or idleness being a sin? How sad it is that without a formal job we must be bored and welcoming of little demons in our lives?

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  6. Yes, I have actually answered the “what are you going to do after you retire” question with the words “absolutely nothing” and the look of shock on faces was laughable! I’ve worked since I was 16 years old… actually 10 if you count all those early years babysitting, and I seriously loathed people insinuating that the world was going to explode if I wasn’t planning to DO something the moment I walked out the door for the last time at work. It’s a societal thing of course and boy are we conditioned thoroughly to perpetuate the concept!

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    1. I love how you said that: YES, it IS a societal thing. It’s embedded in our language: when a version is “retired” it means it’s done. Over. Sitting in a corner gathering dust, or worse… That certainly seems what society “feels” about retirement. And yet I feel the period of not being forced into employment is a period of great joy, a period of great improvement, both physically and mentally.

      If you could come up with a word to capture this most marvelous period, what would it be, Deb?

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      1. When I divorced I repeatedly used the word free and also real. The freedom was to be myself again. Both of those apply to retirement as well. I am only accountable now for myself, no longer being directed by an employer to be what they wanted an employee to be. There is great joy in that as you say. I like the word curiosity as well. There’s so much to explore. Sitting in a corner isn’t an option!

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        1. It’s very intriguing how you use “free”, “real”, and “curious”! It makes me wonder: can one be completely free and real in company? Or even freely curious? Do you think it’s possible?


  7. Since retiring, I have learned to appreciate the art of not being busy. Sometimes, people are simply being busy, being busy. There is a time to accomplish and a time to relax and ponder, read, think, whatever. Allant

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    1. What a spectacular way of saying it, Allan: “the art of not being busy”! I love it. Yes, often we’re busy and take some absurd pride in how busy we are. How would you capture this marvelous period of time to do what one feels like doing: “accomplish and a time to relax and ponder, read, think, whatever”? The word “retirement” implies … the opposite?

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      1. I always say “Retirement is the best promotion I ever worked for” and “When you are retired, their are no days off.” I think a lot of people fear losing their sense of identity or worth. Retirement is the great equalizer.

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          1. I think from an early age, we are told that laziness is a bad thing and many think retiring is being lazy…and it can be, but, so what? From 2000 to 2014, I worked an average of 10 hours a day and 66 hours a week, just to keep up with the staffing model being used for my position. I had little to no time to be lazy. And in the ensuing 8 years, my former coworkers assure me that it has not gotten any better. So, I now value my R & R time and enjoy the freedom to be “lazy”, guilt free.


  8. Our conception of idleness is predicated on our societal values which are based on our assessment of productivity. Our reward systems have been set up for competition with others and with ourselves. We live a world where success is often measured by how much we can accomplish in a day and the monetary value associated with those accomplishments. Humanity loves to learn, to discover, to achieve, so it is easy to consider idleness a concern. Perhaps the question is: do we know how to be idle? Or maybe: do we know how to be idle without feeling guilty, especially since we have been rewarded for “task” achievements.

    I like Ray Bradbury’s take on this: “Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it.”

    Another great conversation! Thank you.

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    1. That is a magnificent insight, Rebecca! On more than one level:
      1) Yes, we do seem to value the monetary value associated with an accomplishment. One wonders about how we value those things that are harder to associate a monetary value to, like a mother’s love?

      2) These are two fabulous questions you raised: do we know how to be idle? I know too many people who simply don’t. Do we know how to be idle without feeling guilty? It seems like we’ve grown in societies that encourage that guilt and label “retirement” with a word that has nothing but negative connotations?

      3) I have not read that Bradbury quote before, it’s marvelous! Do you know where it’s from?

      Thank you for such thought-provoking insights, you know I’m going to be mulling this over more and more (and more!).

      Liked by 2 people

    1. WOW!!! Please give me an example of the person and the job?

      I know of one such person: he was a very specialized customer engagement person for large accounts for his company, and his entire role was to make sure that the top reps from the companies he was supporting were happy by way of taking them to events like the Super Bowl 🙂 But even he admitted after a long dinner, that that gave him less time than he wanted to have with his family…


  9. As an Aussie, being ‘idle’ is part of life – the time to enjoy one’s existence with friends and family, experience and pursue favourite hobbies, and to widen horizons. Most Aussies get three weeks annual leave, plus public holidays, and after 7 to 10 years of employment, qualify for paid long service leave (holiday). As a shift worker, I always enjoyed six weeks holiday a year and at 23, my employer granted me a year’s leave of absence without pay to travel, believing I would return a more experienced Journalist, able to contribute much more in my career. Retired now for over a decade, being idle means more time to exercise, photograph, cook, plan, travel, enjoy the company of friends – all without the feeling of hurrying through life.

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      1. I don’t think you would ever find an Aussie forfeiting their holidays. Enjoying holidays is in our DNA. Our former Prime Minister famously declared “ Any Boss Who Sacks Anyone for Not Turning up Today Is a Bum” after Australia
        won the Ameria’s Cup (yachting) – supporting an unscheduled holiday for the nation.

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        1. What a fabulous evolutionary advancement in the Aussie DNA!!! Do bosses act on that? I know that election day is a holiday in Australia, I never heard that bit.

          What word is used in Australia for “retirement”? What is the sense in Australia about someone in their 40s who stops working in a regular job? Is it astonishment and disdain? Is it more of “I wish it was me”?


          1. ELECTION day isn’t a public holiday.. but it’s usually held on a Saturday (weekend). Our elections are a lot simpler process than your American Presidential elections. Retirement is retirement .. same word… perhaps a different attitude. We have a reasonable pension support system, compared to many countries, and most people retiring these days would have a superannuation – or a combination of a super scheme and a government pension. That is not to say everyone is well off in retirement, but generally not too bad. Most people I know regard retirement as an opportunity to travel more or to pursue an interest they haven’t been able to focus on in their working life. It would not be unusual for someone to actually develop a new ‘career’ in retirement. The first plan for many retirees is to buy a caravan or van, and take off touring around Australia – we call them grey nomads. Grey nomads are currently passing through the beachside town where I live in South West Western Australia, and around MAY they will head to northern Australia (ie: Kimberley region, Northern Territory and far North Queensland) – following the good weather. I don’t think it’s unusual for someone to change careers midstream – it is not something that would surprise me. I have many friends who changed careers during their working life. It would be more ‘ wow, that’s interesting. Good for you! What attracted you to that work .. what are your plans?’ We are a flexible mob. If either of my sons had a new passion for changing careers, I would be supportive. We are a ‘go for it’ type of society. People in Australia these days change jobs a lot anyway. It’s not like the the 40’s and ‘50’s where people stayed in the same job/career they began in their teens. Things became more flexible in the ‘70’s.

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          2. That’s fascinating! What connotations does “retirement” have in Australia? You mentioned “gray nomads”, so I’m curious!

            It makes me wonder about the old saying “youth is wasted on the young”: what better time to travel than one is young. Not only from the perspective of the mind-broadening experience, but also because more options are open (and less focus on 🚽? 🙃). Seems like a shame to wait for grayness to do that?

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          3. Many Aussies also travel when they are young. Is it something to do that we live on a ‘big island’ at the bottom of the world? It used to be a rite of passage for many young Aussies and `Kiwis to take a year or so off and travel to the UK/EUROPE. For many, they were working holidays. I was a Nanny in Greece briefly! I see a lot of young people from overseas (UK, Europe, Asia) doing the same thing in Australia now. I was fortunate enough to do so in the ‘70’s, travelling in Europe, UK, the Middle East and Asia – and met many Aussies and New Zealanders doing the same thing. You couldn’t go far without hearing the familiar Aussie drawl! Not many young Americans on the Europe trail back then though. Having travelled a lot in my 20’s, and still doing it in retirement, I can see advantages to both. Fun at both ages, but often with a different focus. I have some different travelling interests now and a greater appreciation of life’s aspects that I didn’t have when I was young. When I was travelling in my youth, I met an elderly woman staying at a youth hostel in Europe. She was from one of the ‘Iron Curtain’ countries – and because of her age, she was allowed to leave on holiday – but only with a very small amount of money. Relatives in Britain helped her out financially, but still.. she was on a tight budget, and so was staying at the youth hostel. I admired her spirit and vowed to be like her… still soaking up the joys of travel in my old age. And bingo .. here I still am LOL! In the ‘90’s, staying at a YHA hostel in NZ with my husband and sons, we met a retired Aussie university professor, who arrived on his Harley motorbike! He was widowed and living alone when his son returned from overseas travel to visit. He assessed his life and decided if his single son could travel, why shouldn’t he. So, he pursued a dream – flying to New Zealand, buying a Harley and touring both islands on his motorbike – staying at youth hostels because of his budget! (Note: YHA in Australia and NZ are not just for young people – they accept all ages)


  10. A good point you make that the mind is always working even when you are idle or asleep. Sometimes the mind digests and processes while you are idle or engaged in an unrelated activity like jogging. So I do not fear relatively idle time like playing Spider Solitaire or watching television but I personally seem to have a predisposition toward meaningful activity and physical movement, whether genetically inherited or inspired by nurturing influences.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Did I tell you how much I missed your fantastic insights (and terrific sense of humor)? I’m glad you’re back! (You’re back, right?)

      I wonder how many people are “afraid” to spend time with themselves, whether playing Spider Solitaire or another solitary activity… People seem to be proud of always being busy: is it a sign of popularity? 🙃 I once saw a meme that went something like this:

      Either way, we (modern society) do seem to suffer from being overly sedentary, so your disposition to be physically active is a great boon!

      And now you bring up yet another terrific question: is that a nature or nurture thing?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The Meeting cartoon is funny because it represents the absurd truth. I hope I can manage Blogging and commenting every two weeks. I have already failed at every day, every other day, and weekly. So I am only cautiously optimistic.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. So sad and so true? Tell me you’ve never attended a meeting whose sole goal was to decide when we should have another meeting?… That reminds me of a wonderful moment from The Office:

          And, hey, you know how they say that we need optimists to invent planes, and pessimists to invent parachutes, and Geoffs to make us smile. So here’s hoping for AT LEAST a every-other-week!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Hysterical clip. Great show. When we were in in Negotiations for weeks at a time, it was just a series of committee and subcommittee meetings all day long. I remember that every morning at the first one, we spent most of the session debating and deciding when we would break for lunch, how long we would take for the lunch break, and where different factions would eat.

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          2. Time … spent! 😁 I remember that the way to get things done was to not have more than 4-5 people in a meeting. Even 5 is iffy since one one is almost guaranteed to be checked out (fully guaranteed with 6 🙃). Ever noticed that?

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    1. I love it: balance! Yes, that’s they key. But such a difficult key to find? How do you go about achieving it?

      One of the best managers I met blocked off two mornings on his calendar (6am to noon, so that no one tries to sneak in a meeting) to “think.” He said without that time he won’t be able to lead his group, he’ll be inundated with emergencies. Sounds counterintuitive? It seemed to work!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I remember when I was working and everyone’s calendars were put online for all to see. People would stalk other calendars and set up meetings when they found “free” chunks of time. I finally had to create fake meetings just so I could have time to get work done. Meeting were the worst! I always tried to follow: Be clear, Be brief, Be gone when I set up meetings.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Love that meeting mantra! And, boy, was I in your shoes. I had to block my calendar starting 6am because meetings would pop up there because, well, it wasn’t blocked. I asked the person (who was in the same timezone as I was) why he scheduled it then, was it so urgent that it couldn’t wait? He said no, it was just available on everyone’s calendars. I pointed out that 3am was, too, and so was a 10am slot a week out. He didn’t appreciate my 3am comment, but did reschedule to 10am the following week.

          Guess what that meeting was about? Setting up time for a larger meeting… You know that meme “when one facepalm isn’t enough”? Le-sigh…

          Liked by 1 person

  11. We definitely need thinking time without distraction of pings on our phones. I prefer the term semi-retired more than retired, as it gives the sense of not having completely given up or only having one foot in the grave. Lol.
    The Japanese and Asian cultures are workaholics. Not much down time there. Makes me wonder how they cope when they do retire. I don’t thing retirement is a word in Singapore where an old age pension is unknown.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re highlighting an extremely important point: in our culture “retired” means “given up” or “1.5 feet in the grave” … It’s funny, but it points to a fixation on live-to-work. I read about laws passed in France to limit work after hours (including email!). It may seem bizarre to the workaholic cultures but maybe we’re the strange ones?

      You often read about heads of state who die or greatly deteriorate after they leave office. And I wonder: if you’re defined by your title (PM, President, etc.) and you no longer have it, how do you cope with it? What do you think? I certainly hope that the young and energetic previous PM of NZ won’t run into this issue!


    2. You’d be surprised about the downtime the Japanese have. And the mindset they have towards enjoying life. For instance, in May they have Golden Week – a week of holidays for the nation. I’ve learnt to check for the Golden week dates, so I don’t arrive in Japan at that time because everyone is travelling at that time! Then there is the massive amount of festivals they enjoy every year.


  12. I think there needs to be a balance. However, I think much depends on the quality of the busyness. I know people who seem to manufacture things to make them busier…I also hate people who use busy as an excuse (I wrote about this once and a reader got so mad at me she told me to unfollow her because she only wanted positivity in her life…but that’s a whole other thing) I think things have to get done. Personal grooming by which I mean being clean not hair styles or make up, do physical activity which doesn’t mean be a gym rat, but do something to keep moving, maintain your home to be neat…not eat off the floor clean, but wipe the counters down…you need to take personal responsibility for body and home. But too much time on your hands can lead to boredom which can lead to questionable habits. Balance.

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    1. Balance is a fantastic way of putting it: we need much more of it in our lives, physically and mentally. I’m including physically because I once saw a test for overall health that involved checking your balance. The only thing one can’t have too much of, of course, is chocolate 🤪

      I do wonder at people who see busyness as a badge of honor: the many who share their calendar with me at work to show me how busy they are with meetings that they don’t contribute to 🤷‍♀️

      I also like how you pointed out the personal responsibility: need more of that, too!

      That reader may have only wanted positivity in her life, but she certainly wasn’t spreading any positivity around… 🙃

      Liked by 1 person

          1. The thing is .. the world is made up of all sorts of personalities who find joy in all sorts of things. I have a friend who loves his job, and simply won’t retire. He is well regarded in his profession and keeps getting offered new contracts. I’m sure he’d do it even if he wasn’t paid for it. It’s his passion. Others view retirement as an opportunity to do do something they hadn’t had a chance to do previously. There is a marvellous man in Kyoto, Japan who developed early onset dementia, and was forced to ‘retire’ from his job. I heard about him on NHK Japan, and now follow his Instagram. After his diagnosis, he got a job as a carer in an elderly persons home .. and then gradually built up a career as a spokesman for dementia awareness, now travelling the country as an in demand speaker. He also turned his hobby as a photographer into a new successful career. He is busier than ever and doing wonderful work. Life doesn’t end when you have something such as dementia. Life doesn’t end when you are old. It may simply give you new opportunities that need recognising and grasping.


    1. I know that feeling too well, more so when I was in school than when at work… Maybe that’s why the Bertrand Russell quote resonated so much with me? Time we enjoy “wasting” is not wasted? That’s one of the things that I’m noticing more and more: what I remember about work is not one accomplishment or another, magnificent as they may have been, it’s time spent with people I enjoyed.

      How do you combat the guilt?


  13. I hope you are not feeling guilty about the ironing pile LOL! My father in law’s retirement motto is now my motto – Every day is a Sunday! We (hubby and I) organise the things that need doing, and enjoy our increased downtime to read, cook, garden, travel – he even builds lego, always saying that it’s for the grandson LOL!


  14. Your post got everyone thinking!
    I like to be busy. My brain needs to be thinking constantly. I couldn’t change it if I wanted to. So if I am not thinking of something, then I’m bored. I consider it a curse.

    My husband is an expert at not thinking. He can sit and spend an hour looking at the trees, the birds, and the grass growing. I try to imitate him. I am getting better at doing nothing. Maybe it’s age. I will say this, I am a huge fan of silence. That helps my brain. The sound of silence (except for nature out the window) is the best music of all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Whoa, what a wonderful compliment, Cindy, thank you!!!

      I think I chose the wrong word in “idle.” I didn’t literally mean “do nothing, have your brain be devoid of any thought” 🙂 I meant more of giving oneself time to … think. You know how when we’re busy responding to one email after another, late into the night, we feel we accomplished a lot, but did we do something … significant? Perhaps we helped someone, and then that’s great. But like Newton was “idle” under that apple tree, isn’t time of “idleness” when the greatest ideas pop into one’s head?

      So I agree, not thinking is a great curse, and even a great insult 🙂 But maybe I meant not… busywork?

      And I recently saw an enormous study called Mappiness, that mapped, well, happingess, that agrees with you: nature is good for our happiness!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. What a thought-provoking post! (as always!)

    First, I hate it when people ask: What do you do? I never ask that, probably because I don’t like being asked that question.
    I used to answer: EVERYTHING.
    Now, I say: Whatever I want!
    Maybe I need to change my moniker to Idle Suz? Although I still have loads of things keeping me busy, I am lucky to have time to myself.

    I believe Idle time is necessary for all of us, for our mindset. We need time to just linger in our thoughts. We often feel guilty about doing this because many people aren’t allowed that luxury.


    1. Whoa, thank you Suz, for such a wonderful compliment ❤

      Clearly we’re kindred spirits! It took me a while to notice it, but sometimes, even before someone asks you your name, they ask what you do. Even on Jeopardy, each person is introduced by name, location, and “what they do.”

      I love, Love, LOVE the “whatever I want.” You think I’m kidding? Look at the third and last image on:
      We are kindred spirits, I tell you!

      And, yes, I believe idle time is critical, too. And I sometimes wonder if we structured our lives, our society, our culture, to avoid that “luxury”? Maybe there’s a hidden risk in “idle”? What do you think?

      Liked by 1 person

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