Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Paralyzed by Free Time?

Like most working parents, I keep a running to-do list, in addition to a full day-planner-type calendar (plus a large desk calendar and my Outlook calendar at work). Most tasks on the lists (I split them by "work" and "home" down the two sides of a steno pad) are immediate or near-immediate need, and are often one-and-done tasks: order labels for QAS shipment, reschedule hair appointment, etc. I also have some constant tasks on these lists: update weekly status reports, fold laundry.

Would you also believe I have "free time" (quick definition – for purposes of this post, “free time” means not at work and not at ball games) activities on my to-do list? Yep, I do. I have things like: sewing, shopping (for non-groceries, of course), writing. I write all these things down for a number of reasons: first and foremost, so I don't forget them. I also write them down as a sort of "brain dump;" a way to get them out of my head so that I can then (theoretically) focus more completely on whatever task is at hand at that moment.

But I have a confession to make. I also write them down because when I have free time (and with baseball season ratcheting up and select basketball coming up quickly, there will be precious little truly "free" time), I'm sometimes paralyzed by it. I have so many options of things I want or need (or think I need) to do, that sometimes having them all written down helps me actually sort out and get started on them, instead of plopping down in front of the tv and/or taking a nap.

Do I still tv plop/nap more often than I'd like to admit? Sure. And I often feel guilty about it later, because other things didn't get done. But if I write down things I want to do in "free" time, I've found I'm more likely (not guaranteed) to at least get started on them. Now, don't misread me - I'm not superMom (HAH! Not even close!) and there are many, many things on my list that haven't/aren't/might never be done. And I do occasionally (one of the things I'm working on for *me*) take time to just be (case in point: Saturday's manicure while Sam was napping, Daddy was working at home, and the big boys were playing at a friend's house).

What about you, Moms? What tricks do you use to make the most of your "free" time? Anyone else ever feel paralyzed when faced with truly unstructured free time?

Julie Daneman is wife to Bryan, Stepmom to Jacob and Caleb, and Mommy to Sam. They are a boisterous, loving, happy interfaith family.

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