Sam Radford

July 5, 2021

Wasting years by not wasting hours

Morgan Housel shared this quote in a recent blog post of his, and I couldn’t agree more:

Psychologist Amos Tversky once said “the secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours.”

Work can easily become little more than completing one task after another.

Very often, those tasks build up and can become unsustainable. We never have a moment to breathe. The back log of things to do is unending.

We end up stretched so thinly that we have no opportunity to ‘waste hours’.

Just reading those words, I can hear many of us sighing wistfully, ‘If only.’ 

But as Tversky points out, there’s a real danger to this. We waste years because we don’t have the opportunity to waste hours.

And those ‘wasted hours’ are when we have a moment to think. To pause. To reflect. To take a step back.

They are the moments we get to be strategic rather than merely tactical.

And if we never create those ‘wasted’ moments, we’ll miss so many opportunities to approach work differently, to come up with new ideas, to spot fresh opportunities. 

In short, we have to find ways to have ‘wasted hours’ in our working lives. It’s critical – for ourselves, our teammates, and our employers. Everyone wins from us having enough space in our work to ‘waste’ a few hours.


Got some thoughts on this? I’d love to hear from you – do hit reply or drop me a note.

@samradford |

About Sam Radford

Husband, father, lover of books, writer, tech geek, and pragmatic idealist exploring what it means to be human.