Don't Kill Time, Use It

I wrote a piece a couple months ago about cramming good habits into an already busy schedule. Sometimes we have the opposite problem, however. We've got enough time in the day to perform all our habits, and then some. You woke up early, meditated, exercised, prepared some healthy meals, showered, planned your day, took care of your most important task, did your daily writing, de-cluttered your desk, and even did a couple modules on Code Academy.

And it's 11:00 AM.

You've got over nine hours until screens-off time and no work to do. All your irons are in the fire and you're just waiting for them to be ready for the next step. Maybe you're waiting on others for all your projects. Maybe you kept your schedule clear so you could spend the day researching at the library, only to realize it's closed today because of budget cuts. All your efforts to regulate your sleep, diet, exercise, and will power have paid off - you're feeling energized and ready to buckle down...but you've got nothing to do. You're all revved up with no place to go.

Sometimes this happens for days on end, during vacations (if you're on an education schedule) or between jobs.

When Life Doesn't Give You Lemons or Anything Else

You don't realize how big a blessing this is. Whatever you do, don't spend the day surfing the internet, watching TV, or playing video games. Don't even spend it running errands or doing small chores. When you have a big block of time and the energy to use it properly, take advantage of that. Decide right now that you're going to use the time for a major project, one that will take all day. Do something you weren't planning on and that isn't connected to any of your major priorities in life, but which would make you feel amazing at the end of the day and bring you joy for months. Here are some ideas:
  • Home improvement: create a garden, repair a broken fence, install new furniture, paint a room that needs it.
  • Creative: create a short film, plan out a novel and write the first twenty pages, make a painting, make an abstract sculpture out of everyday refuse.
  • Organizing and simplifying: clean up the most cluttered room in your house, purging it of anything you haven't used in the last year.
  • Go from 0 to 60 on a longer term project: for example, if you're about to start a new diet, spend the day eliminating anything not on the diet from your kitchen, planning a month worth of meals (that you can eat on repeat), taking before pictures and measuring weight/body fat, and talking it up to your friends so they'll hold you accountable.
  • Personal finance: put together an investment plan and get all the paperwork over with today. Put a plan together to save up for retirement, a car, a house, and a major vacation.
  • Adventure: plan a fun-packed day trip for you and three of your friends in the nearest city or wilderness area. Or go on an adventure. Choose a nearby 10 mile hike, pack some water/snacks/sunscreen/hat and go do it that day.
We can accomplish things in 9 hours straight that it will take us years to do if we only do a little at time. Use it to hit the ground running on something awesome.

Dealing with Restrictions

Sometimes you're required to be at your desk for your job, but you don't have anything to do. Or maybe you're stranded at some airport between layovers. It happens a lot that you have the time to do a whole project, but you don't have the space or resources to do it.

So don't think about what you can't do. There are always infinitely more things that you can't do than that you can. Don't let that stop you. Be creative within your restrictions.

If you're really stumped for all-day projects that you can do where you are, try this divergent thinking exercise:
  1. Make a list of what you do have. How much time? What tools (computer, cell phone, office supplies, books, etc.)? 
  2. Set a timer for exactly two minutes.
  3. With a paper and pen, write down as many ideas as you can think of that can be accomplished with the time and resources you listed. You should be able to come up with 15-20 in that time if you write quickly.
  4. Eliminate any options that conflict with your restrictions.
  5. Follow through. Go do it. Spend the next few hours accomplishing greatness.
Enjoy the project you chose! You're about to have a very memorable day.