Drowning in Something…We’ll Call It School Work

I’ve got two finals left and I’m done for the semester!  I couldn’t get any Summer classes this coming term, so I should have plenty of free time on my hands.  Wow, I can barely remember what free time is…

Figured I’d write a blog to refresh my memory.  If you’re like me, suddenly finding yourself with this rare, magical substance known as free-time and don’t know what to do with it, here are some Tips on How to Use Your Free-Time Creatively (and Wisely)

1) First and foremost, draw up a schedule.  You can use one of the multiplicity of scheduling programs/apps available on the internet or your handy-dandy smartphone.  I recommend Producteev, available free from the Google Chrome Store, with a phone app (if you have an Android phone) that you can synch up. Or you can just do it in your head if you’re schedule is uncomplicated like mine.  Block out the times that you have obligations, such as work, then establish how much free time you’ll have and when you’ll have it.  I’m assured Sundays and Mondays off from work, except Sundays are usually monopolized by family stuff, which really only leaves me Mondays.  A whole day though, that’s more than I’ve had in…um…yeah…I’ll also have nights free, so that’s a few hours every day to myself.

2) Make a list of the things you want to accomplish.  Because we’re just brainstorming now, this list doesn’t necessarily have to be within reason.  So if you want to write down “knit a mile long scarf” and “climb Mt. Fuji”, go right ahead.  Of course, you really don’t have to be all that specific at this point either.  My list includes (in no particular order): Painting, writing, hiking, reading, reorganizing the home space (aka; cleaning), special projects.

3) Now, parse through that list to determine which items you can accomplish given your free time.  At this point you could look seriously at those unreasonable items you listed down and maybe figure out a way to turn it into something reasonable.  For example, barring the unlikely scenario where I win a contest that gets me to Japan, climbing Mt. Fuji is not exactly in the cards (may want to just scoot that one over to the Bucket List). However, living in a valley has me surrounded on all sides by mountains, therefore, I can certainly climb a mountain.  Bear in mind, some projects can be broken up over time, but other projects may need to be done from start to finish in one sitting (ie. hiking) or need to be done at a specific time that you may not have free (ie. dance lessons).  For my list; painting, writing, and reading are all things that can be broken up, however, cleaning, hiking, and most of my “special projects” will require huge free chunks of time to accomplish at once.

4) Some of your tasks, or all of them probably, will require additional planning that you’ll want to remember to make time for.  For instance, I have several writing projects that are already underway which I intend to work on.  The preliminary planning for those projects is already done, so I know I don’t have to worry about that when I do my planning.  As for the painting, however, I have several projects in mind, but I still need to find references, sketch the art layout, and make sure I have all the necessary material (paints, canvas, etc.).  For something like reading, you may want to compile a reading list.  You’ll want to be certain to identify which projects need additional planning, and what that additional planning will be comprised of (ie. brainstorming, outlining, shopping, etc.), before you start scheduling.

5) Next, break up your large projects into mini-tasks.  Figure out which projects can be accomplished over a stretch of time.  I’ve already identified the three that I can break up: painting, writing, and reading.  Then determine how small a unit of time you can dedicate to one item and still be productive.  For writing and reading, I can accomplish a lot in as little as twenty minutes to half an hour, but for painting, I need at least an hour to get anything done (taking into account set up and break down time).  However, for writing, I like to set up daily word-count goals, as I can be a very unproductive writer in twenty minutes also, therefore I’ll want to be certain to schedule enough time to reach my word count goal (probably 500 words a day) with extra time to account for procrastination and Wandering Mind Syndrome.

6) Arrange your items according to priority.  Starting with what you need to accomplish soon and ending with what you’d like to accomplish but can go on living happily if you don’t.  For me, some of my special projects, like reorganize my home work space, are top of my priority list, not least of all, because getting it done will help to organize and make me more efficient in future endeavors.  However, it isn’t a project I really want to break-up anymore beyond “preliminary planning”, “shopping for needed items”, and “getting it done”.  I’ll need several hours set aside, with shopping and getting it done probably chunked together in a huge time slot, which will take up a good portion of one day.  Regardless, it needs to get done, so it tops my priority list and will be one of the first things I schedule in.  Hiking, on the other hand, is something I’d really like to do, but if I can’t, well, I’ll live.  Bottom of the list.

7) And now it’s time to schedule.  My biggest recommendation for this is: Be flexible on the things you can be flexible on.  What does that mean?  The big projects that I have planned which take up good chunks of time and are top priority need to be specifically scheduled and need to get done in that time slot set aside for them.  However, as any artist knows, artsy projects can be fickle and artist’s need room to breath.  I may give myself an hour to paint, and not get anything done because I’d rather be writing, or I may give myself half an hour to read and get so entrenched in the story I can’t put it down for another two hours.  Don’t make your schedule so rigid.  Set aside an hour or two to work on one of several choices, and always give yourself plenty of time between scheduled projects for overflow and, if needed, a mental rest period.  Do not schedule projects back to back.  I highly recommend using a scheduling program for this!!  

8) Last, but certainly not least, as with any schedule, stick to it!  The best way to accomplish anything, is to accomplish it.  Sounds so stupidly simple, but most people (myself included) often fail at doing this one simple thing.  The key is to schedule, schedule wisely, and follow the schedule.

Anyhow, I don’t actually have any free time yet.  Still need to study for and take those two tests, wish me luck.  I hope some of you found this helpful, maybe a bit informative, and that you guys have the free time to utilize it!  If anyone else has tips to share on using free time, or would like to share how they plan on using their free time, please leave a comment!

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