I had huge success today on a leisure day wherein I would usually about now be moping amidst unfinished tasks and frenetic internet browsing. Both scenarios were almost identical; got up early, showered, exercised, at breakfast, contemplated my to do list. Usually composed of daily skill building and chores.
There was one difference. Today I gave myself a time for every task.
From 8 to 9, I would study Arabic. At 10:30 I would organize my ipod metadata. Meditation would be at 1 and I would read from 2 to 4pm.
This idea was so last-minute that the list was a barely comprehensible mess of dry-erase squiggles. But I followed it, nearly to the letter. Why?
I did not realize just how (excuse the irony) freeing a tight schedule could be. Of course obsessive scheduling can be nightmarishly restrictive, to the point that some people can’t bear anything but an empty calendar ahead. I agree with this a lot, but perhaps a block of open time can be restrictive too. You are restricted to keeping in your head all the things you want to accomplish, or at the very least, keep them in order and continually compute the time and labor they will cost.
When I put my meditation at 1pm (which is VERY late in the day from usual), I didn’t stress about it (or perhaps my brain didn’t stress about it) I just went about my day. I thought: hey, I got 45 minutes between these two things, i’m gonna play some videogames! And it was great! No fretting. No anxiously looking at the clock as the hours rolled by. The problem with an unscheduled to do list is unfinished tasks always compound on the time and the end of the day. There is no scenario where you will finish everything in ‘zero-time’, so everything you put off or procrastinate loads the tail end of the day. Before I know it (and this has happened often), I’m feeling raw and anxious, screaming through multiple internet videos while a collection of vital and important, undone, tasks stare me in the face.
I had so much extra time, it seemed, that I managed to reposition all the furniture in my office so my desk is facing my window. This is perhaps another important lesson with scheduling your to do list, but I decided on the spot that reorganizing my office was more important than reading at that moment. I switched it out like that. I had the freedom. But that’s not to take away from how much my quality of life improved by planting a flag pole in the day and including a when, and not just a what.