Wasting time

I’m flying to Mexico in the morning. In fact, by the time you read this I’ll already be there. I’ll be completely off the grid, camping on a small island with no cell connection, and traveling sans laptop for the first time in 4 years (since I bought said laptop). Hence, why I am writing this ahead of time, and using the power of technology to automate the delivery process. Thank you, Mailchimp.

I debated how best to spend a week’s vacation. I knew I needed some time off, some headspace, but as a chronic “maximizer” I put pressure on myself to make the most of that time. As someone with a side-business, I was tempted to take a week off solely to work on my business. Yes! I could finally check off all the things on my to-do list and stop feeling “behind” all the time. I know, not much of a vacation. I could visit people; I’m lucky to have friends that live in beautiful places, people I love and would undoubtedly have a good time with. But that leaves little “me” time; I need space to clear my head, an empty schedule. A yoga retreat seems to offer that sort of thing; I could deepen my practice, improve my teaching skills, and maybe make some new connections. You can already see the dilemma: as a yoga instructor this is automatically somewhat work-related. So finally, I considered a meditation retreat. That’s it, right? A full unplug, complete silence for seven days. I have some real thinkin’ to do - that oughtta do it. I could really use a come-to-jesus moment to propel me into the next chapter. But it’s like I’d be forcing myself into a state of bliss – which likely does not work – and expecting far too much. Plus, I might go crazy.

While these all seemed like fantastic choices at first, I realized they all come with ulterior motives; they’re all productive in some way.

And then I stumbled upon it randomly; something I typically wouldn’t even consider jumped out at me on that particular day. A link I clicked on out of curiosity, and then couldn’t stop thinking about. I wondered for a few weeks – is this the BEST way to spend my vacation? I can’t get any work done. It feels super random. And yet, something was pulling me in this direction.

And so, Mexico. There is nothing “productive” about this trip; I’m going simply for fun, a new experience, an escape. It’s time and money I might have considered “wasted” a few years back, but I've come to realize the importance of releasing the pressure to always be checking stuff off a list, of stepping outside my comfort zone, of trying something new, and definitely, just simply being in nature.

I’ve written a lot lately about unplugging; about the power of stepping outside your routine to check in and see who you really want to be, what you want your life to look like. I’ve been lucky to have space in my life to do this a bit over the past few years – and for the next week as well – but I realize it doesn’t seem realistic to everyone. I won’t even go on my rant about what “seems realistic,” let’s save that for another time. But you don’t need to fly to Mexico, or Europe, or isolate yourself in the woods somewhere to do it; it’s both possible and important to create this space in your everyday life. Maybe you can find more clarity, more fun, more adventure. Perhaps you’ll learn more about yourself and feel less like you need a vacation all the time. Maybe you’ll enjoy the day-to-day a little more, and stop waiting for that elusive “someday.” Maybe.

Here are some ways I try to be a little less plugged in, all the time:

  • Meditation is a great place to start, learn more about beginning your practice here.
  • Leave your cell phone at home next time you go out or run errands (so scary, I know).
  • Try talking to your partner or roomies or cats instead of watching TV all night.
  • Pick a day of the week (or maybe a half day to start) to not check the interwebs – no email, no social media.
  • Go for an aimless walk / hike / bike ride.
  • Take yourself out to dinner, and actually look up from the table (phones and books serve as great crutches here, try to minimize usage).
  • Read a book! And no, not a self-development or educational book, read one just for fun. I’ll do a post on my faves sometime soon, but if you’re looking for good rec’s check out Soapwalla’s book club!
  • Go sit somewhere beautiful. Find a sunny bench, a cozy spot in the park, a nice view – maybe even in your own home – and just take it in.
  • Journal. Just free write, don’t worry about it being meaningful or insightful or even cohesive; let your pen go wild.
  • Notice what you do while waiting - for a stoplight, in a line, for a friend to meet up. Put the phone down. Look up. Take a deep breath. Notice what's going on around you.
  • Stay in bed. Isn't that the ultimate feeling of leisure - that state in between sleeping and awake, pulling the covers up over your head for just a little longer?
  • Take the long way home. What's the rush? Walk a few extra blocks, swing through a new part of town, or catch the sunset from a good viewpoint. You'll still get there eventually.
  • Color! Pick up one of those trendy adult coloring books and zone out as you try to stay inside the lines.
  • Get your favorite beverage at a coffee shop and sip it slowly, mindfully, while people-watching.
  • Take a bath. I'm personally not a bath person but I hear they are very relaxing. I love them in theory because there's really very little multitasking you can do from the tub. (note: leave your phone in the other room)
  • Do the thing you always wish you had time to do. Relaxation is different for everyone – I find cooking and cleaning out my closet to be super therapeutic, but I know that sounds like work to some. Find the thing you're always saying, "I wish I had time for..."

I could go on, but I've got an early flight and this seems like a good list to start with. Apply the concepts from last week's post on meditation to your everyday: notice your breath as you walk; notice the air, the sights, the sounds around you. Feel your body as you move, or as you stay still. Try doing just one thing at a time.

Start small – choose one thing and actually schedule time into your week for it. When that time comes, commit to doing it. Show up fully. Drop whatever feels “more important,” and definitely drop any guilt that comes along with being "unproductive." You are important; make time for yourself.

What’s your favorite downtime activity? Share in the comments below!