Idle Hands

The Simple Dollar had an interesting post a few days ago about idle time vs. leisure time. The distinction is an interesting one – leisure time is a choice. Idle time is something that just develops during down time because you don’t want to do anything else.

I have a hard time coming to terms with the two, and because of that, idle time tends to engulf leisure time so that the two are indistinguishable. I’m always on the verge of getting something done… you know, just 5 more minutes, and I’ll start grading those quizzes. Or do the dishes. Or practice bassoon.

This makes my down time incredibly stressful, as stupid as that sounds. I can’t totally relax, because I’m always on the verge of doing something. Instead of doing something engrossing that I’d really enjoy (blogging, video games, cooking), I end up skimming the surface of things I enjoy. I flip through websites, watch reruns of crappy television shows, and play 5 second flash games.

You know, because I’m about to start working. Can’t get too involved in anything.

I’ve already covered my issues with perfectionism. I’ve started dealing with the reason of why I don’t work. This, though, is dealing with the times when I don’t want to work. I have no boundaries between my work and play. One bleeds into the other, until it’s a giant mosh of work. I don’t get a break, because I don’t make time for a break. I always have something to do, and I should always be doing those things.

The linked post makes many good points. If I’m tired, I should just go to sleep. If I’m not tired, I should be doing something to make Future Jordan more prepared for what he’s doing. I could give myself a hand by either getting real rest or doing something to help myself out in the future.

The author writes:

There was a time, early in my career, where if I came home from work and felt tired, I’d flop on the couch and channel surf for an hour or so until my wife came home. At that point, I’d get up and lethargically start making dinner with her. After dinner, I’d often still feel beat, so I’d just play a video game or something else that didn’t require a ton of effort from me.

Today, I got home at 4pm. I get home at about the same time on every Tuesday and Thursday. My wife gets home at 6pm. That gives me two hours of leisure time, time to do something that I either enjoy that isn’t work, or to get a few little things done around the house to make my life a little easier. What do I usually do? Plop down, read blogs, watch TV. Sometimes I watch TV I’ve seen a million times. Sometimes I click refresh on the same websites over and over just to see what’s popped up.

From where I’m sitting at the moment, I can see three soup bowls that could be scrubbed. I know there’s some dishes to be put up. I know that there’s some writing I could do for my classes, or grading that I need to finish before the end of the weekend. I’m in that limbo – not quite working, not quite relaxed. I always tell myself that I should be working through those two hours before Lovely Wife gets home, or I should be completely relaxing. I’m doing neither.

I have a stack of papers on my coffee table, just waiting to be graded. Unfortunately, I’m just idling. I’m wasting this time by being idle, instead of either enjoying a leisure activity or actually getting stuff done.

I have a crystal ball, and I can see what Sunday looks like. Would you like a peek? It’s Sunday at 8pm. I haven’t done the grading. I haven’t practiced. I haven’t really made reeds. I haven’t made dinner yet, and because I have so much to do, I feel like cooking would be a waste of time. I enjoy cooking, but it’s now a chore, because the other things that have to get done before Monday haven’t happened.

This falls under the category of mental work in my 100 Days Till 2 7, so here’s a task for me in the coming days – I want to limit my idle time. If I’m going to relax and disengage, I’m going to do it with purpose and time. I’ll do things I truly enjoy, even if that is just zoning out for a bit. When I’m bored, though, I will do my best to do other things with that time.

If I’m mentally dead, I’ll do dishes or laundry. If my brain is a little more active, I can do some simple research. If I want to do something I enjoy, I’ll be purposeful about that choice.

Sure, it’s a vague goal, but right now, watching this episode of Law & Order: SVU for the 20th time, it seems like a good idea.

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