I had a really great idea for a post the other day and was really looking forward to writing it. “I’m gonna hunker down and really bang this out,” I thought to myself, packing the second bowl of the evening. “Later. Not now, but later, that’s just what I’m gonna do.”
So yeah it’s gone, but you’ll be happy to know that I remembered that Charles in Charge’s best friend was named Buddy Lambeck at approximately 2:15 am this morning, when it for some reason came up. Thanks, Patty.
As of now, my brain is a bit fried. Being a freelancer is cool because I work from home, pick my hours and don’t have to deal with bullshit. But it also means there’s no such thing as down time, and I can’t just shoot the shit in my office and collect checks twice a month. For this reason I have been staring at this glowing screen for nine hours and am still about two hours from quittin’ time.
One summer during college my best friend was working as an intern the now defunct VIBE magazine. One day the Editor in Chief gave all the interns a piece of paper to keep at their desks. I’m paraphrasing but it said something like:
“The most precious thing in the world is free, unstructured, unscheduled time. Guard it with your life and do not apologize for it. This time is not wasted. Your brain needs it to filter through information and experiences in order to come up with new ideas. “
Rarely have I believed so vehemently in something that was photocopied and handed out in an office. In fact, this is the first time for sure.
That being said, I think you should make yourself a present of it every single day. We all are busy and those of you who work in offices as I once did often choke down your lunch while writing email or fielding phone calls or some other bullshit and simply don’t get a lunch break. If this is you, and if that is the case, try your very hardest to give yourself an hour after work before cramming yourself onto the crowded subway or into a crowded bar or a crowded restaurant to just do nothing. Listen to music and look out the window, walk over to the river and sit, or just get a coffee and stare at the wall. Don’t read, don’t write, don’t text. Don’t even have your phone on.
At the first you will feel tense and fidgety and your mind will be positively racing with all of things you are supposed to be doing and should be working on or people you forgot to call and whatnot. But soon your mind will begin to wander and go its own way naturally, just as it wants to. The hour will be over quickly and I promise you that you will return to your life and your tasks renewed and refreshed.
Often when stressed about how much I have to do or not knowing how to solve a particular problem, the solution seems to be to work harder, or think harder or do more. I’ve found–especially in the months since I’ve been fortunate enough to be out of a cubicle farm–that the solution in these situations is usually to do less. Take a step back and let your brain process shit before attempting it again. This isn’t an excuse to be lazy. You still need to get your shit done. But you can’t force something, especially if it’s supposed to be something good. Taking the pressure off by giving yourself some time to do nothing is like a massage for your mind.
And it’s absolutely free.