I have to say that I'm a little hyperactive at times, and get kind of guilty when I do things that don't achieve much. That said, social media has kind of made that worse. When faced with distracting noise or tasks I don't want to do, Facebook becomes filled with bright shiny things to take my attention off what I'm doing.
That said, productive time is not just time spent making stuff, marking stuff, doing stuff with a result. These things are part and parcel of anyone involved in productive vocations; outcomes are important. But how do we get better outcomes and personal flourishing? We need to invest in being unproductive.
I've decided that in many ways this year is about me: my professional development, my enjoyment, my interests. With an eye on work, of course there should be and is an alignment with my interests and development and my job role. More than that, I'm interested in flourishing rather than floundering at work. Thankfully my job as an educator means this is more than possible, even if there is the usual drudgery (think marking) to go through.
Developing oneself means taking time out of the grind, the usual rhythms of work to spend time not doing stuff (though see below). Having been to iMoot, an online conference on the Moodle LMS and related issues, I stopped marking, lecturing and reading content matter, and focused on pedagogy, tools, and other aspects of learning in an electronic environment (note nod to Moodleman, no elearning). Not every session I listened to gave me immediate takehomes, but so what? I've also done some MOOCs, and to be fair at times the link with any specific task I do may have been a bit tenuous.
My point is twofold. Firstly, to invest in what we do (and hopefully love), we need to stop focusing on it at times to learn new things. That's a simply pragmatic thing. Lifelong learning sometimes means stepping out of regular life for a bit. Conferences are not jollies then but necessary escapes (virtual or f2f). Secondly, not everything you experience will be either immediately or ever relevant to what you do. Why doesn't that matter?
Well firstly, somethings need time to peculate, to interact with other ideas and experiences until something emerges in a self-organizing sense as a new idea. Secondly, inspiration for what I do may come from something totally unrelated. Maybe it is the presenter or bloggers passion, inventiveness, or we simply get a random thought unrelated to what they've said (seemingly), but you simply had to be exposed to it in the first place, and reflect upon it later. Thirdly, unless you are God or Laplace's intelligence, how do you know ahead of time what will prove useful. The curse of being so output focused is that we forget that trial and error, and non-linear, wavy paths are what characterize real life, real progress. So enjoy wasting time, just be selective about how you plan to waste it.