I define “downtime” as time that isn’t directed to a specific task or end but is what I do when I take a break from my work. Usually I read something, these days from some news website or the other. Oh for the days when I just read books! That type of thing seems like a distant memory. I used to gobble up murder mysteries by the ton, and when I’d be eating lunch by myself at home and reading I’d keep on eating so that I could keep on reading. (This former habit may help explain why I used to weigh more than I do now.)
Others’ downtime activities could be playing a video or computer game, or just playing a video, or watching an episode of a TV show, or flipping through a magazine, or, for dedicated knitters, doing a row or two on that latest sweater. (Knitters seem to do that in a way that, say, cross-stitchers don’t. I don’t ever say, ‘Oh, I think I’ll sit down and do a few stitches on my vegetable alphabet piece.’ Cross-stitching is something I only ever do in conjunction with something else, such as listening to a podcast or watching TV—which is probably why my progress is so slow.)
Anyway, I recently noticed the lack of downtime in a Laura Vanderkam post. I read her blog quite faithfully and am always impressed by how much she manages to cram into a week or a weekend. She has four children ranging from age two to around twelve, and they all have different activities, so her weekends are often centered around getting them places. Plus she’s a dedicated runner, and she sings in a couple of choirs, and all of that is on top of her writing and speaking engagements. And she’s just started a podcast. (Everybody’s who’s anybody has started a podcast.) I realized that there was very little spare time in her life, and that her descriptions of a typical stretch don’t include much in the way of just relaxing. She and her husband go out to dinner and to concerts, and she does a fair amount of reading, but all of this is . . . intentional. She doesn’t do much flopping on the couch.
But before I got too down on myself, I did a reality check: Wait a minute! She never talks about doing housework, or laundry, or cooking. The only mention I’ve seen about any kind of personal grooming was her mention this past weekend that she managed to color her hair in the hour or so she had free before her kids got home from school on Friday. She doesn’t mention any kind of shopping, as far as I can remember. Her life is extremely different from mine: for one thing, she has a nanny. She does do quite a bit of child care, but she has backup available for that, and I think the nanny must do at least some household chores.
On the other hand, I spent hours this weekend making two big batches of freezable items: beef stew and spaghetti sauce. It was fall and that kind of cooking felt right. Now I have the fixings for about a dozen meals in the freezer, and so that’s great. But the process took hours, from the shopping to the prep work to the portioning out of the items once they were made. I guess it was worth it; I thoroughly enjoyed working in my beautiful, efficient little kitchen. According to Toggl, my time-tracking app on my phone, I spent 7 ½ hours on this whole shebang, though, which seems like a lot, and that doesn’t include cleanup. However, if all I have to do for about two weeks’ worth of meals is thaw something out and make a salad, I should come out ahead.
Because I’ve gotten back into logging my time onto Toggl (a nifty little tool that I’ve posted about before), I’ve had a good nudge about my own time-wasting habits. I don’t tell myself that I can’t take a break from my writing, but I do say that I have to record that time. It’s amazing how much shorter my breaks are now that I’ve been doing that. I don’t want to record “break—reading” for 45 minutes! So I’ve been a lot more productive, having finally finished putting pictures into my Carmina Burana material this week. It’s basically finished, this project that’s been hanging around my neck for a couple of years. Yes, years. Slowly, and painfully, I’m actually starting to finish projects that are totally up to me. Toggl is helping a lot, as that little reminder that time is passing helps my Obliger self get busy. Now if the German publishers of the lyrics and translations will just get back to me with permission to use the material! I had assumed that Carmina was in the public domain since it was first published/performed in 1937, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I kind of wish I’d just gone on in blissful ignorance, but I ran across a copyright notice on another website and realized that I’d better do this legally. Honestly! I’ve been waiting for weeks!
Later this week I want to post pictures and descriptions of the new kitchen. It does help enormously to have a space where I enjoy working. So between inspiration from Laura, and Toggl, and this new space (where I’m sitting right now—I have to force myself to sit at my desk), work is getting done.
How about you? What does your downtime picture look like?