Work is not always about “getting things done” or always having something to show for it at that moment. Creative thinking, for example, requires alone time, solitude, and even thinking about a problem by not forcing it — that is, by not thinking about it. So yes, under a palm tree in Hawaii or while going for a ride on my mountain bike around Osaka bay is working. That time is important and necessary and is all part of the process.
I used to worry about “procrastinating” or “being lazy” because, for example, I spent the day alone on a long bike ride in the mountains thinking about the problem but while having a good time and not sitting inside my home office at my Mac. But it is my wife — a Japanese designer trained in the USA — who told me that that time away from the office and the computer when it seems like I am not “working” is all part of the creative process, it is part of the work. I needed, she said, to stop feeling guilty and worrying. It’s funny that I needed “permission” to just do what comes naturally: to play.
Yes, work requires dedication and grinding it out. It’s hard. But healthy play makes for better work in the end, it is not wasting time. So “doing nothing” while sitting in a coffee shop or strolling alone on the beach is not wasting time, it is the best use of the time at that moment. It’s all part of the process. So, sitting in a boring meeting? Yes, that is wasting time. Sitting under a palm tree with a note pad…what could be a better use of time?