Whatever happened to unstructured time? I remember my afternoons as a kid were typically unstructured. There may have been a weekly practice or two for a sport, but other than that, when I got home from school my time was my own. It seems like nowadays kids have schedules that are as busy, or busier, than adults. And then parents complain that they don’t have any free time of their own because they’re driving the kids to all of these planned activities.
The funny thing about this situation is that the lack of freedom is self-inflicted. You can always say no. Do your kids need to have that many after-school activities? Do you need to be involved in all of those committees/groups/organizations that you don’t really care much about anyway? As Tim Ferriss states in The 4-Hour Workweek, “Lack of time is actually lack of priorities.”
Don’t get me wrong, kids definitely need structure (and discipline; there’s nothing wrong with discipline), but they also need time to be kids. They need to be able to make mistakes, get dirty, tear holes in the knees of their pants, break bones, get stitches, invent games, have imaginary friends, enjoy their childhood. Otherwise, what’s the point? If you made it out of your formative years without any physical scars, you were doing it wrong. Without those things we might as well box the kids up, shove them in a cubicle now, and wait for The Nothing to take us all away.
As adults we lose sight of unstructured time. We see it as goofing off. Not working hard enough. Being lazy. But the truth is you need it. And just because you’ve lost that unstructured time due to circumstances in life you feel are beyond your control, that doesn’t mean you can’t, at any moment, reclaim that unstructured time.
Creativity is born out of unstructured time. Mental sanity lives in unstructured time. Want to de-stress from your day? Schedule in some unstructured time. I realize it’s a bit of an oxymoron, but you need to schedule in unstructured time on a daily basis, or at the very least a few times per week. This isn’t a luxury reserved only for the idly rich. This is something everyone can and should have every day.
Where do YOU fit in to your day? Make it a point each day to goof off, zone out, have a cup of coffee (or two), write, sing, laugh, sit in your car and scream at the top of your lungs until your face turns purple. Do whatever you actually want to do instead of what you feel like you have to do. It’s in that time that you’ll find innovation, creativity, sanity and meaning.