Don’t hate me when I say this, but, there are days I wake up and have absolutely nothing on my agenda. Nothing urgent, nothing needing to be done “right now,” no impending deadline, just f r e e t i m e.
What a blessing, right? What a beautiful thing to have an entire 18 hours of completely unhindered moments to myself! Then, why does it feel so stressful sometimes? Like getting a windfall of a million dollars and then being extremely pressured to spend it all in one day, and to spend it WISELY (scouring and judgmental look inserted here).
Free time is precious, and I feel an obligation to put it to the best use possible. Should I declutter that cabinet I’ve been meaning to get to? Go for that day-long hike I’ve been thinking about? Write those letters I’ve had on my to-do list? Clean the house from roof to baseboard? Whatever I do, God forbid it’s “not productive.” God forbid I just enjoy some free time. That would be too delectable, too delicious, too divine.
Even when there’s no physical to-do list, there’s a constant and relentless mental to-do list being created. It’s made up of all the things I wish I would get to and just never. Seem. Able. To do. (Sigh.) I want to propose something to you, rather unconventional, to try the next time you have free time.
Use your free time intuitively.
Just this once, try not scheduling even one minute of your day. Want to sleep in till 9:00 AM, have breakfast in your jammies, then sit out on the back porch reading for two hours? Do that. Don’t think about what comes next, just feel it. Guess what? You’ll naturally end up doing some of those to-dos, but instead of feeling stress-full, you’ll feel stress free. You’ll move through your day with grace, instead of like your hair is on fire.
Because you didn’t plan to do anything, everything you do is a bonus. This creates a real winning feeling in your mind. You’re now ahead of the game, instead of always feeling like you’re playing catch-up.
The secret is: you don’t need a to-to list to be productive. For one day – or, start with one hour – practice trusting yourself to get things done without a to-do list. I would guess you’ve been “on task” every day of your life for as long as you can remember (yes, even on that vacation you took, where you booked up every last minute with things to do and see…). So, for a few minutes, stop being so hard on yourself. Take a day off from being your own meanest critic and become your most supportive supporter.
That’s what I did today. I said, enough. I’m just going to be like that little leaf that slowly bobs down the river, floating on the surface of the water, and see what happens. So far, my “intuitive day” has gone like this:
4:00 AM – Wake up (On your day off, you say! Yikes, I know. I admit to being an early riser, but my dear husband was getting up early for work, so this morning started even earlier.)
5:00 – 8:00 AM – Read; journal; brush the cat; make and enjoy an eggs-n-toast breakfast, a proper meal, enjoyed in relaxation while seated at the dining table with an actual cloth placemat. How fancy.
8:00 – 9:00 AM – Wipe down the outside of the dusty front door and exterior windowsills using a wet rag; wipe down rocking chairs on front porch (yes, we live in the country; we have porch rockers); sweep porch and wipe bird poop off the porch columns. Pure glamour.
9:00 – 11:00 AM – Mixed bag of working on business stuff, like client emails, and diving deeper into my online calendar program to familiarize myself with all the features; fold two baskets of laundry; collect clothes to donate to thrift store. Catch up with the news on talk radio.
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM – Since all the previous tasks were done in mah pajamahs, officially get ready for leaving the house by showering and dressing. While in the bathroom, clean out and organize the clutter from that super-tall counter cabinet that’s been bugging me for dayzzzzzz.
12:00 – 12:30 PM – Enjoy a quiet lunch at home. Today it’s homemade Chinese chicken salad, and iced tea form one of my favorite tea stores, Plum Deluxe. Start writing this blog post. (I was just going to write down the title and start it as an idea draft but here I am, writing the whole thing! And, it wasn’t even on my to-do list! GASP.)
Now that I’ve written all that down, I’m thinking, wow – I’ve already been super productive today! And, I wasn’t even planning to do any of it. I’ve just been moving from one thing to the next. As one task feels like it’s coming to a close, I look for the next thing I feel like getting into. When I’m hungry, I eat. When I feel sleepy, I nap. When I feel overloaded from doing proper productive things, I take a break and watch hilarious cat videos…
I encourage you to practice loosening your death grip on your to-dos, a little at a time. Start with five free minutes where nothing is scheduled, and just be present in the moment. Work up to half a day, then a full day of completely intuitively moving through time. Give yourself the chance to go off-script, to trust yourself and see where the day takes you. Give yourself back the gift of time.