Judicious Time Wasting

I had a literature professor in college (we say “college” and not “university” in the U.S., for you staunch Canadians) named Barbara Johnson, who for the most part talked way over my head. Very sophisticated thinker, and pretty much worshipped in her field for her insight and wit. But there’s one thing I do remember from her lectures, because it was just so easy and interesting…

She started a lecture one day by describing how she had spent the entire morning just driving aimlessly along Massachusetts Avenue by the Charles River between Cambridge and Boston, just looking at billboards. For no reason. Just because. And in doing so, she gained an insight into how the human mind takes in symbols and verbal signs and interprets them. This led to her developing the idea for her next genius book.

What struck me about her story was how she encouraged us to engage in “judicious time wasting.” She used this phrase at least three times in her lecture. (I was an easily distracted student, so it’s significant that I remember anything at all from a college lecture.) What she meant was that we should take time out of our busy and frenetic schedules, to disassociate from responsibilities and tasks, and spend some time just letting our minds and bodies wander for a bit, with an observant eye. Taking a bit of time each day to take in the world around you, make observations, glean insights, formulate new questions, develop crazy ideas – instead of just being drones or mere managers of life.

As people who work in advertising, we have the privilege – and responsibility – to think and create. And we cannot think new thoughts unless we occasionally… or frequently – waste a bit of time.