The usual problem with time is not having enough of it. Between work, my own projects, home life, social life and various necessities, it feels as if I barely get to exercise my true passion of absolutely wasting my time. (This comedy sketch describes it perhaps a little too perfectly…) Joking aside, there’s lots of advice about how to best manage a lack of time.
Occasionally, though, we suffer the opposite problem: too much time on our hands. Usually, this is temporary—perhaps a summer break from university or a period between jobs. Sometimes the circumstances of life, including health and family situations, leave us with time to spare and no idea how to use it.
When we find ourselves with an unstructured block of time and, crucially, the freedom to use it how we choose…what should we do?
Start with the obvious
Clearly, you can do whatever you want with your time. You can take it as an opportunity to be generative or to be relaxed + playful. You can be as disciplined or lax as you like. But in order to know what you want (and to avoid the painful ennui of watching the days drip by, with nothing engaging to do) it’s necessary to think through your options. Here are a few thoughts to get you started, along with my pick for myself if I were lucky enough to have this summer free:
1. Learn something new
Gaining new skills and knowledge is an evergreen favorite for multipotentialites: languages, botany, musical instruments, crafts, philosophy, dance… Or perhaps you’ve always enjoyed ancient mythology? Now is the time to pile up a stack of books and get reading.
Whatever you’re dying to learn, if you put your mind to it, you could get 80% of the way there pretty fast.
Maybe I would: Take up the accordion. (Yes, really!)
2. Get creative
Make something—anything, really! Sometimes we don’t bother starting a project because we imagine the best possible version of it, and realize we’ll never get there.
Focus on what you can create during the time you have, and remember that the creative process is also its own end.
You might not have time for a novel, but what about a novella? Or a short story? It’s unlikely you’ll make a sculpted replica of Michelangelo’s David, but maybe you can take up pottery and make a new dinner set.
Maybe I would: Decorate my office; research some creative wall-painting and give it a go. (With the phone number of a professional painter on hand, just in case…)
3. Volunteer in your community
Right now, you’re not too busy to give back. Local organizations are always desperate for help. If you find yourself surprisingly time-rich, consider donating some of that time.
Volunteering can be a great way to learn new skills, build connections and get out of your own head. Come up with a cause you’re passionate about and see who in your area is doing great work on the topic.
Maybe I would: Help out at a local food bank.
4. Improve yourself
A gap in activities is a great excuse to change your routine. We are defined by our habits, which are tricky to alter once they get ingrained. This block of empty time could be the key to trying something new.
Try picking just one new habit—daily meditation, exercise, journaling, cutting out sugar, yoga…whatever you’ve been thinking about adding or subtracting from your life but haven’t gotten around to.
Tell yourself it’s ‘just for the summer’ (or for a few weeks). This makes it much easier to start. And to continue… Before you know it, you’ll have a healthy new habit to take into your next chapter.
Maybe I would: Last summer, I did exactly this with daily workouts. I’d definitely benefit from reviving this old habit.
5. Connect + reconnect
When we’re busy, our relationships are often the first thing to suffer. Seize this opportunity to consciously invest in friends, family, lapsed friendships or meeting new people.
Maybe I would: Sign up for a bunch of meetups and classes. Hopefully, without totally overdoing it… 🙂
6. Do absolutely nothing!
Doing nothing is a legitimate choice. As long as we’re genuinely choosing to do nothing, and not just lazily drifting into it. It’s worthwhile taking time to just be, to exist without pressure, and to enjoy our family, friends or own company. Even being bored can be a good thing, if we use it right!
Maybe I would: I struggle with doing nothing. Even a day is difficult—a whole summer sounds terrifying! Maybe I’d schedule a day per week, specifically for rest and recharge.
Intention is key
Of course, these ideas are neither exhaustive nor exclusive. You probably have dozens more.
The only truly important consideration is to reflect and act with intention. What results would you like to see when this block of time is over? How do you get from where you are now to those results? And how can you have fun along the way?
And remember: you may be very lucky to have this big block of free time, but that doesn’t mean you need to pressure yourself. If at the end of it you haven’t written the Next Great Novel, or transformed yourself, or climbed Everest…that’s fine too. Just as long as you can look back and be sure that you chose what you wanted to do, and that you tried your best to do it.
What would you do with a block of unstructured time? Any ideas you could share with your fellow multipods? Let the community know in the comments!