Last fall I had too much going on. Some would call it an extremely productive season, in the sense that on any given day I was checking off lots of boxes on a long to-do list. I got a lot done.
But it wasn’t my favorite way to operate. I felt like a poorly calibrated machine, where the gears are jammed together too tightly for anything to actually move. It works, technically, but it’s a grind.
I don’t like to think of myself as a machine, especially a poorly calibrated one.
After being in a season that was too full, the past month has felt gloriously spacious in comparison. The whole experience has taught (re-taught) me the power of margin. Instead of being always in doing mode, now I feel like I can think.
And what I’m finding—as I sink into a season where I’m intentionally taking walks with no headphones, and going to the bookstore just because, is that these intentionally unproductive hours are actually opening the door to all kinds of good things.
Sometimes the most productive thing you can do doesn’t look remotely productive. Like you could maybe
- Walk the dog,
- read a book,
- flip through a cookbook,
- chat with a neighbor,
- phone a friend, preferably an old friend you haven’t talked to in way too long.
- Go for a run
- or a bike ride, and
- Make an extra cup of coffee
- or tea
- and sit
- or maybe walk, with no headphones
- and think.
- Find a park bench, or swing,
- or your most comfy sofa, and
- do nothing at all. And when you’ve had enough nothing, you might
- Go to a bookstore and look at every single blessed title on the hardcover fiction shelves.
- (or maybe the mysteries)
- or maybe the thrift shop instead, because you know what they say about one woman’s junk.
- Or Target, if that’s more your style (or you’re out of aluminum foil), but make sure you go down every aisle (or at least the fun ones).
and then, when you’re done goofing off, with your walks and your books and your friends and your lazing, you may find that the idea is there, that the next step is clear, that the problem you were puzzling over about your work or your kids or your wardrobe solved itself when you weren’t looking.
Are there days when I don’t have (or perhaps don’t make?) the time for a nice long walk with the dog? Absolutely. But too many of those days strung together and the whole thing starts to feel like a grind instead of a good thing. And if a walk or a thrift shop or just some time on the couch can keep things humming along? I’ll take it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on your unexpectedly productive hours in comments.