Free Time? What’s that? and What do I do with it?

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In the fall of 2013, my youngest daughter went off to college in another state. My son was working out west, and my older daughter was still in college about an hour away. Suddenly, my schedule was my own. When Saturday rolled around, I wasn’t dependent on someone else’s activities or errands. The first few weeks, honestly, I just sort of wandered about. Pretty soon, however, I realized that I wasn’t ever going to get to do the things I claimed to like doing if I didn’t plan to do them.

I know that planning free time seems counter-intuitive, but for me, it’s the only way I can rotate through all of the things I really like to do. A few years earlier, I had made a list of things I wanted to do everyday (read, scrapbook, play the piano, exercise, practice lettering or art, photography and editing) Guess what? Not enough hours in the day to do it all. That was so demoralizing for me. It made me sad, and I thought that meant I couldn’t do anything. Actually, it just meant I needed to plan a little more.

So, I approached the new free time I had a little differently. Instead of thinking I had to do everything every weekend, I decided I could pick certain Saturdays to do certain things. I’ll admit, I’ve fallen out of my schedule with Alex living at home right now, but that’s only because I have someone else to do things with, and my solitary activities are taking a back seat right now. Which is great, because I know the time I have with her is limited, so I don’t mind at all.

photographersilhouetteTrying to realize that slow and steady would win the race, I made a loose schedule for myself. One weekend, I scrapbooked a little or maybe worked on photography, another weekend, I might practice the piano, or go for a hike with my husband, and almost every weekend, I would read. Having hours of unclaimed time allowed me to get into books faster, and I read a lot more. My husband and I also spent more time together, working on projects around the house (his favorite project is throwing things away, mine is trying Pinterest projects and fixing up rooms in the house.)

The key is not to get overwhelmed by either how much or how little time you have. You have some time, somewhere in your day. Gretchen Rubin, author of Happier at Home, talks about using one hour a week on a nagging project of yours. One hour a week on photo organization, for example, really makes a difference after a couple of months. The same would be true for a pleasurable hobby. One hour a week on reading, or one hour a week on knitting would really add up. The key is not to fret over how little you have, but to use what you have for you. Replenished and happy mamas make for happier kids. (if you need more justification than being replenished and happy)

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