I know it sounds ridiculous, in fact years early I would have liked to deck a person who made such a claim, but the situation is- I don’t know what to do with all this bonus time.
Stay with me here.. as it gets deeper than you’d think.
One thing I’ve learnt about myself over the years is that I am a task-focused high-achiever, which often feeds into my obsessive-compulsive tendencies and multi-tasking super powers. I’ve never sat back in cruise control.
Since I was a child I was encouraged to apply myself: read, play, create, explore, imagine, study, train, do chores -Always striving, always active.
Throughout university I studied a double-degree, played sports, then filled whatever remaining time I had with several casual jobs, saving for my gap-year backpacking euro-adventure after graduation. Where again I crammed 23 countries into one year’s travel.
As a graduate professional I worked long hours and filled in the time outside of that attending social networking events to get ahead, playing sports, attending art and dance classes, swim teaching, and renovating a property.
As I progressed I worked even harder and longer, networked further, whilst doing a full-time Masters degree, continuing my sports, boot-camp, yoga, triathlon, concurrently deciding I was going to be an artist an upcoming festival which required travelling to factories after work to work on my sculpture till midnight.
Even the concept of “holidays” as a working professional was always to maximise the limited vacation time I’d worked my butt off for. So a three week quick trip somewhere exotic always comprised of a packed schedule, early morning starts, jam-packed with activities, as I had to see and do as much as I could for fear of never revisiting the location given so many other places in the world to see and explore.
I’d prided myself on being a multi-tasker – I’d been programmed to fill in every increment of time with “productivity”, working overtime or making up for lost-time, rushing to play catch-up in commute, chores, and activities outside of work to numb the thoughts of feeling that the majority of my life was spent serving in the corporate army, then collapsing into small spouts of sleep, awakening in a caffeine-fixed zombie-like trance.
So when I determined that lifestyle was not for me due to its time-consuming lack of depth and purpose, I quit my corporate job and fled to an exotic continent with ideas conjured from my childhood imagination. Where again I filled my time with exploration, activities, and adventures whilst learning to let go of career plans and ride the cosmic wave of the universe ..which, funny enough, seemed to guide me along the right course.
By undoing the safety belt, and letting go of the steering wheel, I was no longer rattled by the bumps and thumps endured by life’s course. Energy was no longer wasted fighting against the flow. Instead, I floated, seamlessly along with the highs and lows of my intended tidal current.
Yet after that fruitful voyage, the “preset” button was somehow triggered. I reverted to my former programming. See, I returned to my society and needed to “make a living”. Thinking I’d grown and learnt to outsmart the system, I worked for a humanitarian start-up “Great! A purpose worth investing my passion into!” And while the value and purpose of the organisation was nobel, what I didn’t factor in was that the lack of structure, process, and direction actually meant the work became my world, from the moment I’d wake I’d be working, every thought, conversation, and every action was for work. There was no “off” switch. All other aspects of my life, from relationships and health, to personal interests, starting to slip out of focus with a plummeting tilt of the scales. -Though working at the other end of the spectrum, the issue of imbalance was mirrored.
Yet again the universe intervened and steered me back on course.
Now, for the first time in my life, I have a job that brings balance – I get to apply myself creatively to make positive change and inspire future generations to go out there and be something awesome. There is enough structure to create direction and boundaries, and enough flexibility to shape it.
But even more so, there is a set precedent of work-life-balance.
Within this structure I get to do my exercise in my lunch breaks, clock-off at 4pm, relax by the beach, cook, play sports, read, watch tv, still with ample time to spare. On weekends I can shop from the fresh farmer’s markets, do rainforest hikes, beach walks, cook-ups, catch-ups, bike rides. I am even entitled to a flex-day off work once a month!
For once in my life I have balance, free of anxiety, with an abundance of time to do as I please. I’m happy. I’m healthy. I feel light. …Don’t I?
Time-complaints have always been “If only I had more time”. Now slapped in the face with that wish granted, the overachiever within grapples with feelings of under-performing, simply because there’s more time to make use of.
I don’t know what to apply this bonus time towards – volunteering, arts, PHD, freelancing, meditation?
More than a question of what, it’s a question of why.
I don’t want to fill my time for the sake of it, but similarly I want to squeeze the most juice I can out of life!
And therein lies the difference – From childhood through to career, we are indoctrinated to fill-in our time to keep busy. The more we do, the less time we have to question. The difficulty comes in taking a different course, as then you must: breakdown, unlearn, then relearn ALL you think you know. There is no established methodology or guidelines, nor mentors to assist in this recalibration. We have no one to inform us on whether we have it right or wrong. This is because un-indoctrinated, we are individuals, each with our own unique story to live out – an opportunity for a life that has not yet been lived by any other.
No matter how many times I’ve felt I successfully stepped off the production line, it was my programming that kept me on it with this sense of “productivity” and “achievement” filling in time.
So today I sit here exploring my options, whilst simultaneously contemplating the situation and how to avoid triggering the “preset” switch.
Is the problem “what to do with my time?” Or… do I still need to reprogram my philosophies, relax, and go with the flow?
Is this an issue of idle time?.. Or is it simply ideal time?
…I guess, as always, that answer is up to me.